The Evil Dead films have gone through a strange evolution over the years. Sam Raimi’s first film was nearly banned as a Video Nasty in the UK in the ‘80s, his follow-up was essentially a remake with a more slapstick energy and the third in the Ash trilogy was a raucous fantasy comedy, with hints of horror. By the time Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead came about in 2013 all bets were off. What we got was full on gore-porn that Lee Cronin’s Evil Dead Rise seems to take as its main inspiration.
The film opens with a slightly pointless introduction as a group of happy campers are slaughtered by one of the deadites. It’s little more than a “hey, this is what’s in store but bear with us after this as we set up some characters for you to care about.” We’re then transported to the most creepy looking tower block since the Ghostbusters dispatched Gozer. Therein lives mother Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three kids; Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), Danny (Morgan Davies) and Kassie (Nell Fisher). When Ellie’s sister Beth (Lily Sulivan) comes to visit, an earthquake hits and something sinister finds its way into Ellie. Cue all hell breaking loose.
If the plot all sounds a little circumstantial, that’s because it is. Evil Dead Rise is not really interested in telling a story, but rather finding an excuse for a series of incredibly gruesome set pieces. Horror fans will be delighted with some of the extremes the film goes to, as is the way with Evil Dead films we get to see a veritable shopping list of potential weapons prior to them being used so when they are, you really are wincing. Does it matter that a random wood-chipper is just sitting in the tower block’s underground car park? Nope, so long as we get to see it churn something up.
Many will also delight in the endless stream of horror references on offer, everything from The Shining, Jaws and even films such as Switchblade Romance get nods here. The issue is that with so little plot and fairly cardboard cutout characters on offer there isn’t much to sink your teeth into – pun intended. At a very lean 96 minutes the film still seems to drag in places.
Furthermore, the rules of the deadites seem to have gone out of the window. If there ever was a mythology around them from Raimi’s films it seems to have been dispatched with. What it means is that any clear idea of jeopardy is quickly removed as it’s not clear who or why someone can become possessed.
If you’re here for a gripping plot then you’ve clearly never seen an Evil Dead film, if you’re here for eye-popping, blood-spewing, cheese-grating atrocities then Evil Dead Rise is going to delight, even if you might be left remembering little about it other than that queasy feeling in your stomach.