By Keith Walther | Rose Law Group Reporter
What do you get when you have a demon, a chainsaw, and fountains of blood? An “Evil Dead” movie of course. “Evil Dead Rise” is the fifth horror film of the franchise that began back in 1981, and this latest installment is a worthy entry, but be sure to wear a poncho when viewing this movie. So much blood is spilled, you would swear it’s coming through the screen.
Set in a dilapidated, soon-to-be condemned apartment building in Los Angeles resides a struggling, single mother of three. Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) has her hands full making ends meet while raising Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), Danny (Morgan Davies), and Kassie (Nell Fisher). Ellie’s sister Beth (Lily Sullivan), who has been incommunicado for months, drops in for a surprise visit after learning she has become pregnant.
What starts as an innocent little family drama quickly devolves when an earthquake rattles an opening in the building’s foundation, revealing a strange vault underneath. Thinking there may be forgotten treasures in the secret, underground room that could help their family, Danny makes the ill-advised decision to explore. When he uncovers a book of the dead along with creepy vinyl records, he inadvertently unleashes a dormant evil that attaches itself to Ellie and threatens the survival of the family and everyone else living in the apartments.
A lot of credit for this movie’s success is due to Alyssa Sutherland, whose performance could best be described as humorously horrifying. She seamlessly transitions from the likable and relatable single mother to the demonically possessed, murderously enraged undead beast she becomes. The sadistic lines in her exaggerated motherly delivery are well-timed and executed in a way that makes the audience laugh at the same time their skin is crawling. Ironically, Sutherland credits Jim Carrey’s performance in “The Mask” as her source of inspiration for this role.
The other notable performance belongs to Lily Sullivan, who beautifully executes her own character transition from self-centered loner to protector of the kids from their own deranged mother. She successfully channels the Ash character made famous in the original Evil Dead movies to be the chainsaw wielding protagonist in this film. The rest of the cast remains in a state of mediocrity but represent sufficient cannon fodder to drive up the kill count.
This is only the second feature film from writer/director Lee Cronin, who received praise for his first film that premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2019, “The Hole in the Ground.” He comes across as a seasoned horror filmmaker, however, implementing tried and true genre conventions to heighten tension and fear. The cinematography he employs is wonderfully creative, using different viewpoints and angles for certain scenes. For example, there’s a scene where the possessed mother character is trapped outside the apartment, and Cronin cleverly uses a peep hole viewpoint as the character goes on a murderous rampage up and down the hallway.
Cronin does a masterful job of capturing the energy and essence of Sam Raimi’s prior creations, paying homage to those films through subtle and not so subtle references. Excessive gore was a trademark of the Sam Raimi movies, but Cronin was up to the task, using over 1,700 gallons of fake blood for this film. In fact, there’s a scene reminiscent of “The Shining,” when an elevator fills with blood and then tidal waves the hallway as it opens. The over-the-top carnage does diminish the fright, but it also adds to the humor.
Detracting from the film are various moments that make Cronin’s lack of attention to detail apparent. Things like the lights being on even though the power is out or the chainsaw audibly going yet the business end of it is not moving. This doesn’t ruin the movie, but they are minor annoyances that add up over the course of the film.
“Evil Dead Rise” is a horror film that seeks to entertain as much as it tries to terrify. Chaotic violence and disregard for the main characters keeps the audience on their toes not knowing who, if anyone, will make it out alive until the very end. While the many references to the original movies will make fans of the franchise happy, this is a stand-alone picture that doesn’t require audiences to see the prior films.
This movie earns: