In “Evil Dead Rise,” director Lee Cronin introduces demonic possession to new and returning fans of the iconic franchise. In succession to “The Evil Dead,”“Evil Dead 2,”“Army of Darkness,”“Evil Dead (2013)” and the television series “Ash vs Evil Dead,” Cronin cleans the blood-stained slate with the second reboot in the series.
Taking place over a horrifying evening, estranged sisters Ellie and Beth, played by Alyssa Sutherland and Lily Sullivan respectively, are reunited at Ellie’s apartment before the ensuing nightmare.
After a massive earthquake creates a hole in the parking garage, Danny, Ellie’s oldest child, enters inside to find and retrieve the Necronomicon, or book of the dead. A vinyl record is found inside which Danny plays over a speaker, unleashing a demonic force within the high-rise building.
Unbeknownst to Danny, his mother is attacked while inside the building’s elevator, becoming possessed by the invisible entity and transforming her into an undead murderer.
Sutherland brilliantly portrays Ellies evolution as a wholesome mother of three and a walking corpse with an insatiable human appetite by her convulsing mannerisms and smiling facial expressions.
Both she and Sullivan provide excellent performances throughout the film, elevating every scene they’re in.
Ellie’s children, Danny, Bridget and Kassie are by far the weakest characters on display, due to underdeveloped writing and weak characterization. I really could’ve done without the inclusion of Danny and Bridget, who make irrational decisions that lead to irreperable damage in the film.
As the demonic infection gets transferred from host to host, their once prominent roles in the story dwindle down into thankless appearances, realigning the narrative focus onto Beth and Kassie.
This bizarre shift in focus felt rushed and downright contrived, begging the question of why the two were a part of the film in the first place.
However, it wouldn’t be an Evil Dead film without a chain reaction of deaths from the supporting cast. There is usually only a single, surviving member from every group by the end ofthe gruesome affair.
The Evil Dead franchise is known for its notorious gore factor, as director Sam Raimi’s 1983 “Evil Dead” opened the floodgates to two sequels, a television series and two reboots.
Raimi’s work on the first two films were admittedly cheesy, campy films that utilized practical, stop-motion effects.
Though there are comedic elements littered throughout “Rise,” they don’t come near the tone-defying and witty writing of the first two films in the series.
“Evil Dead Rise” admittedly stands out from the pack, besting the 2013 reboot “Evil Dead,” a direct remake of the original and providing nothing new to the series.
From a technical perspective, the cinematography isn’t the strongest and many shots appear to be slightly out of focus. The lighting is also inconsistent between bright and dark environments, that led me to squint my eyes to see many sequences.
However, the writing, directing and staging of scenes between actors were standout features of the film, allowing for fluid dialogue and believable fight scenes between characters. The set pieces involving the woodchipper wood chipper and chainsaw were the main events of the third act and brought screams from people in the theater.
Ascene in the elevator where Ellie became possessed pays homage to Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” in its reimagining of a tidal wave of blood spilling through a narrow corridor.
The most compelling and terrifying shot in the film, comes from Ellie staring at the camera from behind the peephole of a door, asking Kassie to open the apartment’s door. I genuinely believed Sutherland had been possessed by a demon, based on her subtle facial expressions while casually threatening to kill her children.
There are a myriad of scenes that make one turn their face away from the screen, out of disgust toward the subject matter on screen. I don’t think the portrayal of violence heightens the film in any way, in fact I think it hinders the story at certain points.
But “Evil Dead Rise” is a horror thrill ride, relying on shock value and absurd writing in the place of efficient storytelling. I hope to see the series reprise the humor and camp that once solidified “Evil Dead’s” place in the hearts of horror fans everywhere.