It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 40 years since the release of Sam Raimi’s iconic classic EVIL DEAD. Yet, its immeasurable contribution to the horror genre continues to influence to this day. The film (and its sequels: EVIL DEAD 2, ARMY OF DARKNESS, and the acclaimed television series that none of us really deserved) combined horrific, graphic visuals with an obscure wit, creating an element of fun that would become a definitive Raimi trademark.
In today’s horror market, one might expect another installment to bring nothing new to the table. After all, the 2013 reboot essentially rehashed the original film to mixed reviews. While that movie was a gory, blood-soaked killing spree, it carried a mean-spirited tone that felt, frankly, out of place within the world of the rest of the series. The newest contribution to the Deadite universe, EVIL DEAD RISE, remedies this, once again blending an obscene amount of blood, gore, evil demonic people, and heaps of fun and humor along the way.
Set within the EVIL DEAD universe, the film sheds all past characters, introducing a new set of hapless victims to the evil Necronomicon, or Book of the Dead. Set within the confines of a high-rise apartment building on the verge of destruction, there’s an innate sense of doom already built into the fabric of this film. There’s a certain brilliance in repurposing this property rather than redoing what we’ve already seen redone.
The cast is excellent and lots of fun to watch. Alyssa Sutherland (VIKINGS) leads the ensemble as Ellie, a fringe/punk mother of three, struggling to keep the family afloat in their doomed tenement quarters. She’s a caring (and hip) mom who loves her children in a way we don’t often see showcased: realistically. There’s no overly-saccharin dialogue or forced hugs and kisses. The relationships in this film feel genuine and grounded. Her three children, Bridget, Danny, and Kassie (played by Gabrielle Echols, Morgan Davies, and Nell Fisher, respectively), feel like actual siblings. Each with distinct personalities, yet as a whole, the family just feels real…which raises the stakes of their dangerous situation. Rounding out the dynamic is Ellie’s sister, Beth, played by Lily Sullivan, who happens to visit her family after a long absence at the worst possible time.
The film moves at break-neck speed, with all the velocity of a roller coaster on its way to the depths of hell. Once it starts, there’s no slowing down or getting off the ride. This pacing is carefully crafted and much appreciated. Written and directed by Lee Cronin (THE HOLE IN THE GROUND, GHOST TRAIN), he does a remarkable job of introducing us to a cast of characters we instantly care about right before soaking them all in blood. (Lots and lots and lots of blood.)
In a world of remakes, reboots, requels, and remixes, EVIL DEAD RISE is a prime example of how to do it right. Utilizing the recognizable and lauded elements of the property to recraft a new story works particularly well because of this franchise’s versatile premise: evil book gets opened, all hell breaks loose. That’s all you need to know. That’s all we want to see.
EVIL DEAD RISE is coming to theaters April 24th.