The latest instalment in the original lo-fi horror film series, which turbocharged the careers of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell with its gore and thrills 42 years ago, enters a new realm. Following the splatstick of Evil Dead 2 and the apocalyptic madness of Army Of Darkness, the franchise seemed to be, well, dead – then came Fede Alavarez’s 2013 reboot, plus the shortlived TV series Ash vs The Evil Dead. Now Lee Cronin has got his hands on the Book Of The Dead, with horrifying, wince-inducing and entertaining results.
Evil Dead Rise starts at a traditional cabin in the woods, although this one is more Airbnb than shack, but after a gory scalping goes back in time and changes location: The Dead are going to the city. Beth, played by Lily Sullivan, discovers she is pregnant and turns to big sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) for advice. Ellie has recently been dumped, and has children of her own: teenagers Danny (Morgan Davies), wannabe tattooist Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and the much younger Kassie (Nell Fisher), who enjoys cutting heads off dolls.
An earthquake reveals a Book Of The Dead, found by Danny, which summons some swirly camerawork and evil spirits to their apartment building. Then the nastiness really kicks into gear, as the well-drawn, believable family are set against each other via demonic possession. Sutherland gets attacked in a lift and proves a very disturbing Deadite – all terrifying smiles and spiderwalks –psychologically torturing her sister who has to combat the terror and protect the family as best she can.
Combining the kineticism of the originals, visceral camerawork and general viscera, along with the requisite chainsaw-wielding, writer/director Lee Cronin seems to have captured the energy of his predecessors, the horror really hitting home thanks to the likeable characters. There are flies on eyeballs, tattoo guns on eyeballs, references to The Shining with lifts full of blood, contorted bodies and demonic one-liners. It may not be as much fun as Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s reign (the pair are credited here as executive producers), but is a rollercoaster of a thrill ride, packed with jump scares and invention; Evil Dead Rise takes the franchise forward with its claustrophobic location and well-drawn characterisation. Gory, scary and, yes, groovy.
Evil Dead Rise is released on DVD/Blu-Ray on Mon 17 July
Dir: Lee Cronin (18, 97 mins)
words KEIRON SELF