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‘Evil Dead Rise’ (review)

One inevitably questions what would possess anyone to read from a demonic book written in blood and bound in human skin, but it is nonetheless this very questionable life choice that has led to some of the wildest, goriest, and most hilarious horror moments in cinema history.

With Sam Raimi laying the foundation for the splatstick genre more than four decades ago, it is impressive how widely the franchise spans in style and tone without ever losing sight of ensuring a diabolically good time for horror fans who do not take themselves too seriously.

Having purposefully taken the evil out of the cabin in the woods and placed it in a run-down high-rise in L.A., Evil Dead Rise is in some aspects very different to what we have previously seen, and it is of course a concern whether this switch of setting and the addition of a family being at the mercy of the Deadites this time around is actually utilized in a satisfactory manner.

Thankfully, it is utilized very well indeed, and the result is a film that is grim, gross and the best kind of messed up.

None of the characters ever feel truly safe from the demonic forces, and while the tone is closer to Fede Alvarez’ Evil Dead from 2013 than any of the Bruce Campbell fare, Evil Dead Rise competently showcases the sort of unhinged, gory mayhem that is after all synonymous with the franchise.

Speaking of Alvarez’ 2013 effort, writer/director Lee Cronin certainly takes a page out of Uruguayan filmmaker’s book and makes the franchise his own, successfully summoning new intrigue and terror into the tale of the latest victims of the Book of the Dead.

While some may argue that the film takes a while to get started, once it gets going, the situation escalates at a breakneck pace that ensures no punches are pulled in this well-paced and darkly humorous new addition.

The gore, of course, is also of specific interest with this particular horror movie universe, and a plethora of memorable, blood-curdling moments awaits in Evil Dead Rise, some of which will leave the audience with new-found levels of anxiety associated with certain household objects.

That being said, there are undoubtedly some Evil Dead fans who will find Evil Dead Rise too far removed from those early shenanigans of Raimi & Co., but it is evident that Cronin’s investment in this project is sincere, as the film works as both an engaging horror story inhabited by compelling characters in general as well as a darker, more subtly humorous Evil Dead film specifically.

With the altered setting and the addition of a family dynamic, Cronin crafts a film that creates a different level of emotional investment without becoming sappy, just as the filmmaker has ensured that the blood-soaked, grotesque body horror synonymous with the franchise is every bit as over-the-top and unsettling as it should be.

All in all, while everyone of course misses Bruce Campbell since his retirement after the third season of Ash vs Evil Dead, Evil Dead Rise goes for something that is more nasty than silly without betraying the essence of what came before it, and most horror fans are likely to consider Evil Dead Rise a groovy addition to one of the greatest film franchises – horror or otherwise – of all time.

Verdict: 8 out of 10.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Rob Tapert
Based on Characters Created by Sam Raimi
Written and Directed by Lee Cronin
Starring Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland,
Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols, Nell Fisher

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