Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Evil Dead Rise

Title: Evil Dead Rise

Describe This Movie In One The Crow Quote:
ERIC DRAVEN: Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Mankind will apparently never learn not to mess with creepy old books.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film:  4.5 Delta 88s out of 5.
Tagline: "Mother loves you to death."

Better Tagline: "Hey, what's that you got on your face?"

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Beth (Lily Sullivan) has picked an inopportune time to visit her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), whose husband's left her in a rundown high-rise set for demolition. Then an earthquake opens a hole in the parking garage where Ellie's kids Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), and Kassie (Nell Fisher) discover a hidden vault containing a weird-looking book and several LPs. Why, Beth barely has time to tell her sister she's pregnant before the book (Of the Dead) unleashes a demonic force that possesses Ellie.
"Critical" Analysis: Believe it or not, the first Evil Dead landed in theaters 40 years ago this month, becoming a sleeper hit thanks to word of mouth and accolades from the likes of Stephen King. Still, if you'd told me and my friends as we were watching that grainy Thorn EMI videotape that not only would the franchise continue into the 21st century, but it'd actually be thriving, we'd have pelted you with Cool Ranch Doritos.

Yet here we are. Lee Cronin's Evil Dead Rise links up with the rest of the franchise thanks to the Book of the Dead (can't remember if the word "Neconomicon" is actually uttered). There's no overt connection to Ash or the 2013 Fede Alvarez remake, but enough Easter eggs are sprinkled throughout to reward the observant.

One thing not exclusive to the Evil Dead series is the ill-advised attempt to learn more about this tome that is clearly Bad News. The voice of reason (Bridget) being conveniently ignored by the lethally curious (Danny), who's another of those cinematic paradoxes: a horror movie character who has never seen a horror movie. That said, the record albums (recorded in 1923 by a priest whose voice you may recognize) are also a nice way to "Klaatu barada nikto" things into action.

The callbacks are subtle, until they aren't: a few quick cuts as Beth and the other characters are trying to secure the apartment, certain familiar household implements. And then a certain catchphrase makes its return, and — if your audience is anything like the one I saw it with — pandemonium ensues.

Depending on  how you feel about such things, that moment will either be a welcome catharsis from the unceasing horror, or an annoying tonal break. Maybe both.
click to enlarge
"Hey sis, you're looking ... focused this evening."
Luckily, it works. Rise may be a horror movie, but it's also a continuation of a franchise that, like it or not, is almost as venerable as any other genre series. Cronin ups the ante in terms of gore, and also provides (or exceeds) the requisite amount of blood for an Evil Dead movie. The primary difference? As with Fede Alvarez's effort, there's only gallows humor to offset the tension.

Similarly, there's an Ashley Joanna Williams-sized hole in both Rise and the 2013 remake, but Cronin successfully decouples the movie from Ash while maintaining the linkage to the Evil Dead universe. And if multiple Necronomicons are canon (and they are, recall Army of Darkness), then there's really no limit to the stories he and whoever else comes along can tell.

To that end, Cronin employs the Evil Dead template to provide competing perspectives on parenting. On one hand, there's Ellie, whose traditional role as protector is upended in the most grotesque way imaginable. On the other, Beth, who gets what can only be described as a crash course in motherhood.

Most of us just babysit our friends' kids for practice.

Warner Bros. rolled the dice by yanking Rise from a streaming-only run on HBO Max and putting it in theaters, but the gamble pays off. With enough gore and scares to satisfy hardened Dead-heads and new fans alike, Evil Dead Rise is a hell of a gut punch, and a fittingly disquieting and sanguinary entry in the Deadite-verse. One might even say it's ... groovy.

Ask A 13-Year Old:
RFTED: Do I even want to know if you liked it?
13YO: It was good. Too much puke.

Evil Dead Rise is in theaters today.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar