Thursday, April 20, 2023

Evil Dead Rise: The Deadites Return, but without Ash

The three lost Books of the Dead are a bit like the Rings of Power, but considering how rare they are, these evil volumes are perversely easy to stumble across. Usually, they turn up in cabins, where friends are trying to enjoy a weekend getaway, but this one is uncovered in the basement of a Los Angeles apartment building during an earthquake. At least the resulting carnage will not shock Angelinos. Considering how they voted in the last election, they must not mind seeing bodies piling up, which is exactly what happens in Lee Cronin’s Evil Dead Rise, opening this Friday in theaters nationwide.

This is the first
Evil Dead film with no Ash whatsoever, but we still hear Bruce Campbell’s disembodied voice—this time portraying a misguided priest, who recorded his foolish experiment with one of the Books of the Dead on an old school vinyl record. (Campbell and Sam Raimi are also still on-board as executive producers.) That LP and the evil book itself, were locked away in an underground bank vault and then forgotten. After the bank shuttered, the building was converted into rental units, which have no seen better days.

Ellie and her kids still live in the condemned property, but they have until the end of the month to move out. In the meantime, Ellie’s irresponsible younger sister Beth visits, hoping for some sibling advice regarding her surprise pregnancy. Instead, she will spend the night fighting off the reanimated corpses of her loved ones and their neighbors.

When the earthquake hit, it opened a crevice exposing the vault beneath. Ellie’s idiot son Danny, who fancies himself a DJ, scooped up the Book of the Dead and the unmarked LPs, hoping for something valuable to sell and unusual to sample. Of course, when he plays the priest’s incantations, it raises the ancient soul-consuming demons. First, the Deadites possess Ellie and then they take control of everyone else they kill.

is not a reboot or a sequel. It is a stand-alone film set in the same Deadite universe. Compared to the original trilogy, Cronin’s film falls stylistically somewhere between the straight horror of the first film and the outrageously gruesome humor of Evil Dead II. In Rise, the Deadites are as mouthy and vulgar as ever, if not more so. They make Pazuzu’s taunts in The Exorcist sound look good-natured joshing.

Without a doubt, Cronin delivers gore by the bucket-load. Yes, there is a whole lot of blood, but it is generated in a series of wild sequences that steadily escalate in their degree of utter bonkersness. A chainsaw definitely gets into the mix, as well as some heavy industrial machinery. Again, Cronin’s lunacy really harkens back to
Evil Dead II, in ways fans will appreciate.

Alyssa Sutherland must have been a heck of a good sport to endure all that make-up, practical effects, and fake blood that were applied to her. She is also pretty terrifying as the Deadite Ellie. Lily Sullivan also does solid work wielding the chainsaw as Beth. Most fans would just let the Deadites take the annoying kids, but that is hardly unusual in horror films.

Even without Ash this is an
Evil Dead film. Frankly, the entertainment press has probably over-hyped the series’ move from isolated cabins to an urban setting. Frankly, the decrepit building and the eerie vault have much the same vibe as previous Evil Dead films, which is a good thing. Recommended for fans of the franchise and gory supernatural horror in general, Evil Dead Rise opens Friday (4/21) in theaters, including the AMC Lincoln Square.