Evil Dead Rise

Evil Dead Rise
Evil Dead Rise
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In Evil Dead Rise, the fifth film in the long-running Evil Dead franchise, events do not occur in a cabin in the woods but rather an apartment building about to be closed for good. Living there is Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), a tattoo artist with three children: Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and Kassie (Nell Fisher). They are joined by Beth (Lily Sullivan), Ellie’s sister who works as a guitar technician. But after tragedy strikes, their reunion is cut short.

The horror begins when Danny finds an evil book and a vinyl record that contains some backstory and translations of the book’s passages — he should have listened to Bridget. And plays it anyway. To his credit, Danny tries to turn it off as soon as the “demon resurrection passage” starts, but by then it’s too late. An evil force is unleashed upon the building, which begins turning its occupants into Deadites starting with Ellie.

Evil Dead Rise certainly doesn’t skimp on referencing the legendary horror franchise. When Ellie becomes demonically possessed, she ends up in an elevator where wires come alive and wrap themselves around her neck and limbs — very tree-like from past “Evil Dead” movies — but this time without sexual assault; in addition to paying homage to previous entries, it also seems symbolic. Deadite Ellie moves notably more marionette-like than when she was human.

Several characters get possessed according to illustrations from the book — which comes from the remake — but some callbacks to the original trilogy include that trademark POV dolly shot; “I’ll swallow your soul”; “dead by dawn”; and Ash Williams himself … somewhere … have fun finding him! (Also we don’t want to say where because we might be wrong.)

And as you may have gathered from trailers and promotional imagery, “Evil Dead Rise” does not completely abandon its rural setting. The movie opens at a different cabin that’s the site of a hair-raising incident, there to serve as a taste of what’s to come and a couple more nods to earlier installments, but it feels slightly pointless due to how little it has to do with anything else in the film.

During “Evil Dead Rise,” we learn the book is one of three volumes known as Naturom Demonto or Book of the Dead — something writer-director Lee Cronin has spoken about in interviews. He said this goes back to “Army of Darkness,” where there were three books in the cemetery scene. So now every Evil Dead helmer, Sam Raimi, Fede Álvarez and Cronin, have their own book.

That’s blatantly a retcon, as “Army of Darkness” implied those other two books were decoys. They also looked the same in that film but not anymore. The Book of the Dead in “Evil Dead Rise” — which one presumes bit Ash — looks more like The Monster Book of Monsters from Harry Potter. But whatever; willing suspension of disbelief and all that. Plus it’s been like over 100 years; maybe it got a new cover.

A lot of times prior to its release, Cronin talked about how violently he envisioned this one being. Some scenes are very grisly indeed. It’s a cheese grater not getting used on cheese moment, the trailer image that went viral faster than M3GAN’s dance scene. But it’s not quite the “rollercoaster of blood” that Cronin promised — though take that with a grain of salt (or grated flesh), if you’re a Terrifier 2 fan your tolerance for violent movies might be different than most people’s.

Evil Dead Rise is two different films: Evil Dead Rise and The Hole in the Ground, Cronin’s feature-length debut, are like night and day in terms of tone. The Hole in the Ground is an original story that leans more into atmosphere-building and creeping dread than anything else, though it certainly has its gruesome moments. Evil Dead Rise is an entry into an established franchise, which doesn’t skimp on mood or suspense but drips with blood. It’s like when Álvarez went from Evil Dead to Don’t Breathe — only backwards. One thing both The Hole in the Ground and Evil Dead Rise have in common though: they’re about family.

Family is also at the core of Evil Dead Rise; like any filial relationship, love and friction between siblings drive the story. Beth has grown resentful of Ellie over her flakiness; Ellie can’t help but tell people her sister’s a “groupie.” But neither can deny their concern for each other once they’re finally reunited after all this time.

In both versions of The Evil Dead — Sam Raimi’s original trilogy included — and Fede Álvarez’s remake, it’s always been the younger sibling who gets possessed by Kandarian demons. Here it’s the oldest, which does play into their dynamic: We know per stereotype that Ellie has always been responsible, reliable one everyone can count on, but now Beth’s got no choice but to take care of her.

Beth takes up the role with fervor when she finally does. She breaks up a fight after Bridget blames Danny — rightfully so — for everything that’s happened. And she forms a bond with Kassie that’s evocative of Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn as Ripley and Newt in Aliens, especially toward the end.

Up until now we’ve tried not to spoil anything you couldn’t glean from the trailers (or that wasn’t too big of a spoiler), but luckily for us, they do give away quite a bit. The rest of this section is undeniably major spoilers, but it’s also too important not to go over, so skip to the conclusion if you don’t want to know.
In her very first scene Beth learns — and thusly the audience learns — that she’s pregnant; it’s why she went to visit her sister in the first place. Her pregnancy is something the Deadites will taunt her about repeatedly throughout the movie. But then Kassie asks, “Are you going to be a mom?” And Beth says yes. Which changes both their lives — because Beth isn’t just talking about being a mother to her baby.

The movie’s last monster, Deadite Danny and Bridget do a John Carpenter’s The Thing move and merge with Deadite Ellie, keeping the family theme. Then the superfamily tries to push Beth into a woodchipper, but she turns the tables on them with a chainsaw and Kassie. Kassie doesn’t do much, but it’s better than nothing; instead of just watching from the sidelines she does what little she can when she can, which makes her a more interesting character.

Before getting sucked in herself Deadite Ellie tries to pull the “don’t kill me, it’s me” trick, even using Beth’s nickname. But Beth isn’t having any of it — responding very pointedly that only her sister is allowed to call her that. As one-liners go it’s not quite “swallow/feast on this,” but it’ll still do in a pinch.

With everyone else dead we see Kassie — eyes covered up as if crying. For a moment there I was worried they’d go for some cruel twist where Kassie gets possessed too and Beth has to kill her. That would’ve been daring. And also maybe too much of a kick in the teeth for Beth whose whole character arc is about coming to grips with motherhood Maybe that’s why they didn’t.

Evil Dead Rise may not have much of the campiness that endeared people so much to the early movies, but it’s still good stuff. The characters are actually engaging and somehow Cronin made an L.A. apartment feel as isolated as a cabin in the woods . He did good work all around – so did everybody else in front of or behind the camera who worked on this movie . After this Sutherland might well join Jamie Lee Curtis and Katharine Isabelle as great scream queens who don’t even like horror movies! There’s also some damn fine black comedy here too – even if it doesn’t reach the heights of Evil Dead II.

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