A couple of weeks ago, I went to a screening of Evil Dead 2. I of course had a blast, seeing this original gateway drug for me into this franchise. Ever since I immersed myself in this world back in the early 90s, I have been a fan of every iteration. I went back and saw the original film, I have practically memorized “Army of Darkness“, and frankly, I loved the reboot from 2012, which is apparently not a popular opinion among the deadites around the world. Too bad, I stand by my opinion that “Evil Dead 2013” was a terrific horror film. So I was not too worried about this film, even though I was not overly impressed by the trailer.
My hopes were frankly buoyed by the fact that the screenings on Friday were largely sold out. This bodes well for the box office and future visits with the deadites. I can safely say the film is not a disaster, and there is much horror to enjoy here, but I will caution that it does feel a bit lesser than the movies that came before it. There is no humor in the film, so it will not compare to “ED2” or “Army”. “Evil Dead Rise” fits in the pocket with the original film and the reboot. Pretty much this is a straight horror film. The main conceit of the story is to take the film to an urban environment rather than keeping us in the woods. I don’t think that is a spoiler, in spite of the fake out we are given at the start of this movie.
As it is a horror film, we must concede that there will be some well worn tropes trotted out to make the movie work. The first of these is the location. The apartment complex shown is supposed to be in Southern California, but it is not one that was built in the last 90 years. There is no sunny open air courtyard, the stairs are located inside of the building’s walls rather than in the open. The garage is enclosed rather than being a carport style with ventilation to the out of doors. It feels like a building from NYC or Chicago, that has been planted in SoCal for no particular reason. It is 13 stories high, and oh yea, it is condemned to be taken down in a month. This dilapidated structure is also serviced by an elevator that most of us would not get into on a bet. You can expect a lot of mysterious horror in an elevator like that, and it shows up.
The second trope is that an innocent will launch the threat of the Dead, by ignoring every warning, becoming fascinated by the “Book of the Dead”. Somehow, a recording will be played and the forbidden words will release the evil contained within. That’s right, someone in a horror film behaves stupidly as a way to get the plot going. If you are a fan of these films, you will also be expecting chainsaws and shotguns. Do not despair, they will show up and they will be used. There is also a lot of blood, a lot. Most of it appears to be a practical effect rather than CGI, but there are shots in the film where in spite of Director Lee Cronin’s word, CGI does take over. The make up effects are sound for the most part, but the eyes have to have been done with CGI and that may remind you of too many episodes of “Supernatural”.
The cast is game, and I liked the testy relationship of the family members before all hell breaks loose. They are played by Australian actors doing good American accents for the most part. The opening sequence consists of call backs to the original Evil Dead, and then when we get to the climax, there are a whole bunch of references to “ED2: Dead by Dawn” (and a pretty obvious one to “the Shining”.). There is a clever moment of name dropping when you see the pizza joint label on the boxes of pizza the kids bring home, but I’m not sure that it will make up for the absence of the Delta 88.
“Evil Dead Rise” deserves to be seen in a theater, the sound mix is awesome, some of the set pieces just need the space, and it is a wham bang momentum builder that slowly revs up and then launches into fast mode. The idea that this would be a streamer was a terrible one, and with it’s success with moviegoers as opposed to movie watchers, there is a good chance we will get to be frightened again down the road.