The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - EVIL DEAD RISE | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - EVIL DEAD RISE

New to Netflix - EVIL DEAD RISE
Two estranged sisters unleash the Deadites upon discovering the Necronomicon.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Lee Cronin

Starring: Alyssa Sutherland, Lily Sullivan, Gabrielle Echols, Morgan Davies, Nell Fisher

Evil Dead Rise poster

Evil Dead Rise, the second attempt to reboot Sam Raimi's beloved horror franchise, opens with a visual gag that will only make sense to viewers familiar with the series. It's strange then that very little else about the movie resembles Raimi's originals. Like the 2013 Fede Alvarez directed reboot, the odd decision has been made to remove the comic elements that made the original trilogy such a unique experience. Writer/director Lee Cronin's film is nowhere near as dour as Alvarez's - which in hindsight was an early example of the recent trend of "elevated horror," i.e. not much fun - but it's certainly not a comedy. If you rebooted Airplane and removed the comedy you'd simply end up with a generic airborne disaster movie, an Airport clone. That's kind of what we get here. Shorn of Raimi's Ray Harryhausen and Three Stooges influences, Evil Dead Rise is really just an Evil Dead movie in name only. It's a generic spam in a can possession movie, albeit one that's quite well constructed.

Evil Dead Rise review

Like the 2009 Friday the 13th reboot, Evil Dead Rise opens with a sequence that distils the essence of the franchise with something resembling a standalone short. Three youngsters are vacationing at a cabin in the woods (one whose design has more in common with the location of the recent Italian horror A Classic Horror Story than that found in Raimi's film or Alvarez's reboot) when one of them displays the qualities of someone possessed by the Necronomicon, the book that sparked all that trouble back in 1982. This prologue skews far closer to Raimi's originals than the rest of the film, with Cronin pulling off some impressive "Splatstick" shocks.

We then cut to the central narrative, which sees guitar technician Beth (Lily Sullivan) discover she's pregnant while on tour with a rock group. Beth heads to her sister Ellie's (Alyssa Sutherland) apartment only to find she's in the course of moving out with her kids - teens Danny (Morgan Davies) and Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and their precocious kid sister Kassie (Nell Fisher) - after her husband walked out. When an earthquake opens a hole in the building's ground level car park, Danny ventures down and discovers a curious looking book (yep, that one) and three dusty old records. When he gives the latter a spin on his decks it awakens the Evil, which possesses Ellie, turning her into a homicidal maniac intent on killing her own family and Beth's unborn child.

Evil Dead Rise review

I've recently seen a few horror movies and thrillers that lack peril because they feature the sort of characters you know aren't going to be killed off in a mainstream American movie. Evil Dead Rise might be a mainstream American movie, but it's written and directed by an Irishman whose primary influence seems not to be the classic American horror movies of the '70s and '80s (though such an influence is certainly there, with an explicit visual reference to The Shining late on) so much as their bastard Italian step-children. There are beats that play like nods to the likes of Zombie Flesheaters (eye trauma), Demons 2 (demons on the rampage in an apartment building) and Beyond the Door (a possessed mother and her charming weirdo moppet daughter), and Cronin establishes early on that like the Italian filmmakers of that golden age, he's willing to kill anyone. It's a genuine surprise to see certain characters perish, and though Cronin walks a thin line between establishing stakes and offering shocks for shock's sake, he just about stays on the right side of that line.

Cronin's debut, 2019's The Hole in the Ground, saw him pull off some impressive slow-burning dread. Evil Dead Rise requires the exact opposite type of filmmaking with its manic narrative, but Cronin proves equally adept at constructing the sort of set-pieces that blur the line between horror and action. At a tight 97 minutes, very little time is wasted as Cronin gets into the (literal) meat of the movie from the off. There's some clever hard-wiring of objects that will come into play, Chekhov's Chainsaw style, later on.

Evil Dead Rise review

It's the writing of the characters that lets Evil Dead Rise down however. Beth's pregnancy doesn't really add anything substantial to the setup - she's tasked with saving her nieces and nephew, so why do we need a foetus thrown into the mix? As is so often the case in horror movies, the characters here make some very dumb choices. The conceit is that our heroes are stuck on their floor because the earthquake has taken out both the elevator and the stairs, but they make no effort to attract help by throwing the contents of their apartment out the window. Haven't they seen Die Hard?

Evil Dead Rise is on Netflix UK/ROI now.

2023 movie reviews