Evil Dead Rise (aka Evil Dead Now) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Ten years ago, an Evil Dead remake arrived as the first return to the cabin of horrors with the Book of the Dead but without the character of Ash (Bruce Campbell). At a convention panel, one fan asked Bruce if this new film would be good. He brought up how the new film was being made by people with a bigger budget and more competency than the original low-budget picture. Although the remake did little to embody the goofiness of the gore, it still tried to hit a more straight-faced horror of recovery amid the demonic.
Evil Dead Rises is more refreshing as it switches up the setting. Instead of a rural cabin, the new location is a decaying urban apartment building. A struggling family torn apart by life problems stumbles upon the Deadite curse lurking underneath the complex. It’s a hell of a time for Beth (Lily Sullivan) to return to her poor pack amid her life of drugs and being a groupie. Her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) despises her nomad lifestyle while she’s still raising her three kids in a grungy apartment soon to be torn down. Their lives are about to get a whole lot worse when Deadites start ripping their flesh and souls apart in a building with no escape.
The plot pretty much proceeds down the familiar route of terror, blood, guts, and compelling camera moves. This includes everything from the following shot of a demon to the decapitated dead speaking evil to the deadly vines being replaced with cables. It’d be easy to mark this film down as just being Evil Dead with a city glaze. Thankfully, there’s just enough to be invested in with the setting and the characters, so this feels like more of a new Evil Dead iteration than yet another remake. It also has some clever stagings, as with the records of the Deadites being deciphered with a record player.
The fears of never living up to a legacy and having the world crumble around you make for solid themes in this picture, going beyond the good-but-not-great trauma of the previous picture. It’s also easier to be invested in a family struggling to keep things together when everything seems to be going wrong. Life is already cruel for the ensemble and only worsens when it leads to torn faces, contorted limbs, and glass chewing. Considering one of the kids is young, it’s even easier to care that at least she makes it out alive.
Director Lee Cronin makes an astounding jump his previous horror film, The Hole in the Ground. As his second film, there’s a drive to the horror so that there’s some thematic meat behind the actual meat. The dark style works well for this dimly lit apartment, fitting the brooding atmosphere perfectly. It also has enough uniqueness to the familiar elements that it rarely feels like it’s trying to recapture the same magic as Evil Dead or Evil Dead 2. Let’s face it; nothing could top Ash with a chainsaw hand and spouting one-liners while carving up Deadites. Watching Beth chuck them in a woodchipper is fun in its own special way.
Evil Dead Rise probably won’t impress Evil Dead fans who can’t let go of the original trilogy, but it should give a solid thrill to those willing to give it a chance. It doesn’t harp on the same settings or even the same logic. It offers more Deadite gore and grit in a refreshing change of location, with characters worth caring about more than any other entry. Not a bad film for returning the franchise about the dead that can’t stay dead.