EVIL DEAD RISE [Film Review] – Mommy’s With The Maggots Now.

J.L. Caraballo
IG @captzaff007
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Nearly forty years after Sam Raimi unleashed his classic, splat-tacular cabin-in-the-woods horror film, The Evil Dead, to an unsuspecting audience, director Lee Cronin steps behind the camera to resurrect the deadites and bring the skin-etched Necronomicon screaming into the 2020s. With a change in setting, an inversion of sorts in characters, a few legitimate surprises, and a wildly unexpected (yet no less welcome) amount of gore, Evil Dead Rises has not only become the highest-grossing Evil Dead film in the series, but has cemented the fact that these movies have plenty of bloody mileage left in them.

The film opens in very familiar territory: a couple, Teresa and Caleb (Mirabai Pease and Richard Crouchley, respectively) and Teresa’s cousin Jessica (Anna-Marie Thomas) are in a lakeside cabin in the woods, where Teresa finds her cousin, Jessica, looking, sounding, and acting like one of our good old familiar deadites of old. A bloody encounter amongst the three ensue, the opening credits roll, and then we a thrown a day into the past, some hundred miles away at a condemned Los Angeles apartment complex. We are introduced to Beth (Lilly Sullivan), out for a visit to her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), looking for some advice and convalescence after learning that she is pregnant. Ellie has three kids of her own; Danny (Morgan Davies) aspires to be a DJ and musician; Bridget (Gabrielle Ecchols), who’s overwhelming trait is that she is very much Gen-Z…Very Online, overwhelmingly progressive, and like any other Zoomer you’re bound to meet; and then there’s Kassie (Nell Fisher), the youngest of the three, who is more than excited to have Aunt Beth visit for a few days. A low-level earthquake makes short work of the happy reunion, as it cracks open the subbasement of the family’s apartment building, revealing a forgotten bank vault underneath the building. Within this vault is where Danny stumbles upon a very familiar, yet very familiar human-skin-bound book, brings it back to their apartment and…well…you can imagine what ensues.

Unlike 2013’s rather ill-advised remake, the brutality and violence in this film is not without its sense of humor. The deadites here are not without their morbid, pitch-black sense of taunting humor, the kind that know how to get under the skins of the characters. The use of household items and props as weapons is also not without its dark sense of fun; the appearance of an industrial woodchipper in the apartment building’s parking garage, for instance, is put to obvious use. And, refreshingly, the change in scenery — from a cabin in the woods, to a condemned apartment complex — is put to good use. Air ducts, elevators, record turntables, and bathtubs are all utilized in unique ways. Director/writer Lee Cronin also thankfully allows for a clear sense of geography: at no point is there any confusion in where characters are in relation to each other. A lot of the long takes early in the film, when Beth and Ellie are reconnecting, act just as much to orient the audience spatially, and to get a layout of the apartment as it does to introduce these characters.

This movie also goes to some places that I wish more modern horror movies had the gall and nerve to go: it puts children in direct danger, and doesn’t shy away from killing off some unsuspecting characters. I’m gonna get a bit spoilery here, but Evil Dead Rises is absolutely brutal with its treatment of Danny and Bridget. Refreshingly so, as often modern mainstream horror and thrillers tend to shy away from targeting such specific types of characters (when you see it, you’ll know what I mean). And I understand that there’s perhaps an awareness that targeting such characters might leave an unpleasant taste in audiences…but in showing just how brutal the deadites are this time around, I think it’s safe to say that’s the point. The Evil Dead theatrical series is a far cry away from Ash grafting a chainsaw to his hand, and has returned to straight, brutal, blood-soaked horror.

Cinematographer Dave Garbett and director Lee Cronin together set a perfect mood of dread and danger, and many of the Raimi-isms are spot on. Cue the industrial droning sound design; cue the POV shots; cue the maniacal laughter; cue the whip-pans. An attack in a hallway against Ellie’s neighbors is so effective and damn-near goofy I was half expecting Raimi’s name to crop up in the credits as a co- or guest director. The sound design was especially gratuitous…and even more fun since it was none other than Bruce Campbell himself who did foley work.

Gritty, gross, oozing, and not without a certain panache, Evil Dead Rises is already a welcome addition to my annual Halloween movie watching playlist, despite it having the single grossest omelet ever committed to screen. Oh, and my wife and I watched this at Brooklyn’s Nitehawk Cinema, where food and drink is provided; at one point the woman sitting next to us visibly shook and was hiding her eyes behind her hands during the goriest set piece…only to turn and see me laughing my ass off and shoving tater tots into my mouth. Man, I love genre films sometimes.

4/5 creepy crawlies in my tummy

Evil Dead Rises is now available via streaming.