“Evil Dead Rise” is not your average horror film
In 1981, Sam Raimi, a Michigan State University student quit college to make a film for $350,000. That movie was “Evil Dead.” It ended up grossing millions, jumpstarting both his career and the careers of Bruce Campbell and his brothers. The sequel, “Evil Dead II,” would become a cult hit and a tremendous box office success. Together, they elicited a moral panic in both the United States and Great Britain over both the violence and goriness of the films. Those debates faded as the films grew more popular. And ever since, the Necronomicon and its Deadite creations have plagued the silver screen. Traditional horror comedies, the “Evil Dead” films — and television show for that matter — have spawned a large cult following that is probably larger than any other horror fanbase. Today, our standards for horror and gore are much lower. This film is by far the most intense and disgusting “Evil Dead” movie. There are stabbings, “cheese gratings,” eyeball eating, decapitations, and definitely more similarly gruesome things that I cannot recall. Yet, I enjoyed it, but probably only because I have become nearly completely desensitized at this point, having seen as many horror films as I have. Directed by Lee Cronin, creator of the critically acclaimed film “The Hole in the Ground,” “Evil Dead Rise” is a gruesomely entertaining horror flick that will inevitably scar people that wander into this film expecting anything similar to its comedic predecessors. Yet, for those that have a strong stomach and are not dissuaded by a bit of violent gore, this film will be a fun ride.
As with “Evil Dead”, this cast is primarily unknown to most audiences. Alyssa Sutherland, playing the mother figure, Ellie, gives the strongest performance of the film. Her role as the main Deadite, the flesh possessing demon raised by the Necronomicon, is physically fantastic. If you have seen any of the “Evil Dead” films so far, you will not be surprised to see some of the physical acrobatics that the Deadite Ellie has to perform. She jumps, leaps, climbs, and contorts herself in a desperate grab to kill and torture. The other characters-turned-Deadite were also great, but none gave as a convincing performance as Sutherland, probably because they had to play the somewhat more mundane non-villain roles. Nell Fisher, the young actress who played the little girl, did a good job. Although I would have liked her to turn Deadite at some point. Often the best Deadite performances are from either kids or similarly innocent characters. From a camera and editing perspective, the film is equally as physically active. The camerawork takes on a life of its own in a weird sense. Even before the action begins each scene is edited and shot like a horror scene. The camera moves quickly and erratically, creating a sort of palpable unease. It reminds me of Cronin’s work in “The Hole in the Ground.” Make no mistake, “Evil Dead Rise” is not elevated horror. There are no commentaries on society or human behavior. Honestly, that is sort of refreshing. Not every horror film needs to be a philosophical treatise. Cronin and Raimi understand that. Sometimes people do not want to think about these things. There is always a place for elevated horror; some of the best horror of the last decade falls into that category. However, “Evil Dead Rise” is just a scary movie, and there is nothing wrong with that.
In the “Evil Dead” rankings, I would put this one solidly third, between “Evil Dead” (1981) and “Army of Darkness” (1992). It is difficult to really compare this one or the 2013 movie for that matter, with the originals because they are essentially different genres. “Evil Dead Rise” is straight horror. There is a bit of the hallmark deadpan humor sprinkled throughout, but the movie is at its most potent when it is a gorefest. Cronin’s creation is, in that sense, a shock and awe campaign with each sequence of the film scaling up in intensity. As both a horror fan and “Evil Dead” supporter, I came out of the film satisfied and exhilarated. But for those with a more queasy attitude when it comes to gore, they might have an uncomfortable time. If you are the latter type of film-goer, watch it at your peril. I hope you do end up seeing it — it is worth it. Exposing oneself to different forms of art outside of the comfort zone is always a valuable exercise. “Evil Dead Rise” is a good way to start.