Movie Review: Evil Dead Rise

Movie-going fans of blood and gore will have a lot to savour in EVIL DEAD RISE, the fifth film in the EVIL DEAD franchise and the first in ten years. Though this installment has a new director, series creator Sam Raimi and producer Robert Tapert are both still involved and the voice of their star, Bruce Campbell, can be heard on a recording.

EVIL DEAD RISE begins at the obligatory cabin by the lake where a small group of twenty-somethings have gathered for a relaxing few days. Their vacation quickly turns ugly, though, when one of them brutally attacks the others. Back up to the previous day in a Los Angeles suburb where guitar tech Beth (Lily Sullivan) pays a long-overdue visit to her sister, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), a recently-made single woman who lives in a condemned apartment building with her three kids, teenagers Danny (Morgan Davies) and Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), and child, Kassie (Nell Fisher). Just as the kids are returning home with dinner for everyone, an earthquake knocks out the building’s power and the neighbourhood’s cell service, and opens up a hole in the building’s garage floor revealing another level that had been sealed off until now. Curious to know what’s there, Danny jumps down and finds a set of old LPs and a mysterious book. Taking his treasure upstairs to the family’s flat, he plays one of the records on his turntable. It’s the voice of a priest telling colleagues about a book that he’s found. It’s the Naturom Demonto, the Book of the Dead. As the priest recites an ancient incantation, the book flips open. When Ellie goes downstairs, she is attacked by a demon which takes over her body. Now an undead, flesh-eating parasite, she goes after her family and anyone else who stands in her way. It’s up to Beth, who never considered herself to be motherhood material, to protect the children.

On its own merits, EVIL DEAD RISE has just enough gruesomeness and jump scares to keep fans of the genre reasonably happy, although I would have preferred to have seen more of both. On the other hand, I certainly learned a lot about the dangers of using everyday kitchen items in ways that their inventors may not have envisioned. The performances by the all-Australian cast are all quite good, especially young Fisher, who more than holds her own against her more experienced cast members. Although the story is essentially one-note, writer-director Lee Cronin, in only his second feature film, keeps the action moving along at a fairly good clip. He is clearly at home working in this genre, employing camera angles and visuals that show his respect for such horror classics as CARRIE, THE SHINING, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE FLY and more.

As an EVIL DEAD film, however, RISE is less effective. The story lacks the humour and wit that the Raimi films have and, with the exception of the story’s bookends and the Naturom Demonto itself, there is little to connect it to the other films. Regardless, the film, which opened in the US just a few weeks ago, has already taken in over US$115 million at the box office, making it the most successful in the series. That being the case, there is little doubt that we’ll be seeing another EVIL DEAD film before too long, writers’ strike notwithstanding.

EVIL DEAD RISE opens in Hong Kong tomorrow (May 11th). The franchise lives on.

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