Evil Dead Rise: a short and psychotically sweet splatterfest
While by no means a lightweight horror movie, Evil Dead Rise strikes a careful, blood-soaked balance between spine chills and over-the-top spectacle that makes it a genuinely fun ride.
Given that its chief competition in the horror field is Beau is Afraid - a non-stop, anxiety-inducing sweat-fest - the relatively short and sweet Evil Dead Rise, by comparison, is a rapid-fire shocker in the more conventional sense.
Its sticking to certain conventions isn’t a bad thing either since the film can trace its roots back to a whole franchise of high quality horror flicks that punch well above their weight. Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell (who both also produced Evil Dead Rise) teamed up back in the 1980s for the original Evil Dead trilogy.
Evil Dead 2 was a direct remake of the first - and a great improvement on an already insane first instalment. A delirious cabin-in-the-woods tale marked by its unhinged monster design and tongue-in-cheek tone, Raimi’s camerawork also stands out in Evil Dead 2 as an active opponent to Campbell’s Ash Williams. In the third, Army of Darkness, Ash is transported back to the Middle Ages to fight a legion of undead. Again, while impressive and terribly fun, the originals were deeply unserious movies.
The year 2013 (or the period of gritty remakes no one asked for) saw the franchise rebooted with Evil Dead - a deadly serious and quite frightening ‘reimagining’ of Raimi’s cartoonish original. While certainly spooky, many lamented the franchise’s departure from whacky to straight-up ominous.
But this is a mark which Evil Dead Rise doesn’t miss. While transplanting the action from a cabin in the woods to a downtown apartment complex, it maintains a subtle tinge of madness to it that justifies the (literally) thousands of litres of blood spilled.
When an earthquake shakes Los Angeles, a family of four find themselves in possession of a strange tome of occult lore once kept in a vault under their apartment complex. The quake unearthed and opened the vault, and the family’s three kids (Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols and Nell Fisher) soon find themselves in a blood-curdling bind when their mother Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) is possessed by an evil entity.
They’re lucky that their mum’s sister, Beth (Lilly Sullivan), is visiting. A guitar technician who has just found out she’s pregnant, she suddenly finds herself to be the only one standing between her possessed sister and her children - naturally escalating to further demonic mayhem.
Evil Dead Rise isn’t one to favour atmosphere or creepy allusion over point-blank blood splatter. The remaining family (and neighbours) all fall like demonic dominos, becoming possessed one after the other. In the process, people and possessions are stabbed, bitten, burned and assaulted in various, horrible ways. And each time, blood flows by the litre.
Rhythmically, it jostles from moments of calm to sudden jumpscares followed by a brutal beatdown of demon and survivor. Like its 80s predecessors and the 2013 remake, Evil Dead Rise sits at the top of the supernatural horror movie gore scale: limbs come off with ease, the possessed are all rotten and evil-looking and the violence becomes more and more obscene.
Thankfully for Evil Dead Rise, this works out in its favour. In a particularly gross scene - and there are many - Beth’s sister’s possessed body malevolently recombines with the bodies of the two eldest siblings to form a greater mess of arms and legs and contorted faces.
The shapeless thing ends up being shot and hacked with a chainsaw. But the whole sequence, like the rest of the film, very knowingly goes overboard. It’s a self-aware splatterfest more in line with what made the originals great and what the more recent remake sorely missed.
That being said, it’s more than a bit much. Horror aficionados (and abattoir workers) will appreciate the literal deluge of blood that makes the climactic scene from Carrie look like a dress rehearsal. Those who are in on the tongue-in-cheek joke will get that an elevator filling with blood is more a conscious tipping point into the morbidly absurd than a self-serious effort to continuously raise the stakes.
Many might not though, and Evil Dead Rise suffers most from this inconsistent tone. Sometimes, serious subjects such as family bonds and trust are illustrated with buckets worth of blood. The border between the gorily ridiculous and the ridiculously gory, at all times, remains blurry at best.
But Sam Raimi’s signature wackiness shines through in all the right spots, with many allusions being made to his fervent, bloodhound-nosed camera chasing distraught characters.
Better yet, the film clocks in at just under an hour and a half - a very welcome feature in the age of the two-hour plus horror saga. Short and psychotically sweet, Evil Dead Rise is a brutally fun splatterfest for those who don’t mind sitting in the splash-zone. A rapid-fire pace and truck load of blood make it good for spooky sleepovers, but not ideal for first dates.
The Luxembourg Times has a new mobile app, download here! Get the Luxembourg Times delivered to your inbox twice a day. Sign up for your free newsletters here.