EVIL DEAD RISE (REVIEW)
Dir. Lee Corin
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
10 years after Fede Alvarez proved that remakes don't have to be terrible and a further 35 years since THE EVIL DEAD II redefined sequels and remakes the first time round, comes another attempt to reboot the EVIL DEAD franchise and Lee Corin puts his own stamp on a series that has 2 very distinct elements - full on gory horror (THE EVIL DEAD, EVIL DEAD) and tongue in cheek comedy (THE EVIL DEAD II, ARMY OF DARKNESS, ASH VS THE EVIL DEAD), both elements handled with love and passion from their respective directors but giving the franchise it's fanbase that will be hard to impress with any new entry.
Firstly, Corin manages to please. His take on the franchise becomes something of a glue between the series loose bricks and ties together some loose threads to create a canon theory being that there are at least three versions of the Necronomicon making the events of any previous entry somewhat linked in a merged universe despite their varying landscapes.
This time round, the series is taken into a vastly new direction, the first of it's kind since 1981, by relocating the Deadite chaos into a high rise apartment block that has more dated décor than any cabin previously hosting the events. When two estranged sisters, Beth (Alyssa Sutherland) and Ellie (Lily Sullivan), reunite for the first time in years, their reunion is cut short by the rise of the infamous incantations of the Necronomicon and the Deadites that possess it. Bringing along Ellie's three children, there's a deeper connection with the cast that creates a really engrossing entry for the series.
Changes to the tone and setting instantly take away from what instantly invites hardcore fans back for more and the opening scene is a really infuriating, and jarring, experience that introduces the film as a remake with a throwback that is so infamous, changing it takes away from the love and lore that keeps people coming back. Fortunately, those watching again and those who know how it all ties up will have a much better experience but rest assured, for newcomers the which takes aways a little of what THE EVIL DEAD franchise is about but at the same time is quintessentially a great entry in an altogether brilliant series (unlike the Freddy films as nicely mentioned by one of the cast).
Unlike previous entries we're given a central cast we really feel for, the family dynamic has an emotional weight not seen before in the series and as a result makes watching them succumb to the Deadites a much more horrifying experience especially as we learn that Lee Corin has no limits.
For the first half, this is a very straight laced possession movie, one that sets the scene and plays the straightness long enough to make you consider whether this is actually an Evil Dead film or just a generic possession take over but when comfort hits, then Corin manages to pull out all the stops to excel even the levels of blood shown in Alvarez' 2013 remake.
Alyssia Sutherland is a wonder and gives the terrifying performance of Mia a run for her money as the possessed, here completely consumed in a countdown of death that really does grab at the heartstrings. With a youthful cast including Richard Crouchley, Gabrielle Echols and Nell Fisher all giving top tier performances as some of the best kids in horror, especially given the material they have pushing far beyond the boundaries of anything a child should see.
Somehow, everything about moving the setting makes the horror more dirty and broken in a sense that this is more wild and a darker entry point. There's no warmth about the delapodated building and even the family set up (while somewhat inviting) is a broken one. EVIL DEAD RISE manages to give us something previous entires have escaped and thats a connection to it's protagonists. The family dynamic is fractured but it's there, it's far away from the group of teens heading on vacation, somewhat annoying and pending a domino effect of them being knocked off one by one in the most gruesome way possible, here there's a real connection to the cast that makes the thought of possession a real horror and something to truly be afraid of because of the effect it will have on the survivors. This dynamic takes away a little of the fun we get with the Evil Dead franchise but at the same time gives us an effectively terrifying horror film above and beyond anything we've seen before.
Fans of THE THING, THE SHINING and plenty of nods to previous EVIL DEAD entries, EVIL DEAD RISE shows Corin's love for the genre and puts himself firmly in the midst of the greats bringing something truly fresh to a series that has remained strong for over 40 years. Despite it's setting and cast changes, there's plenty of familiarity once the Deadites awake with chainsaws, shotguns, blood and series pillar, sound as every bone snapping, kitchen utensil and earthquake is felt as well as heard.
Overall, EVIL DEAD RISE adds a new layer to the franchise taking it away from remake territory to delve a little deeper in connecting the films and while the series is chronologically flawed, even between the first two entries, there's plenty to enjoy for fans new and old.