The latest in the series, “Evil Dead Rise,” comes from Irish writer/director Lee Cronin, whose 2019 feature debut “The Hole in the Ground” also revolves around sinkholes and mommy issues. Cronin’s grimy sensibility is much closer to that of remake director Fede Alvarez than Raimi’s live-action cartoons. But he does share one key thing with Raimi, and that’s a diabolical imagination.
Marketing for the film revolves around a key scene with a cheese grater, but “Evil Dead Rise” is packed with creative carnage. Eye trauma, hand trauma, vomit, bugs, broken glass, broken bones, decapitation, dismemberment, stab wounds, shotgun blasts, sharp objects going straight through the soft palate and out the back of someone’s head—name a form of grievous bodily harm, and this movie has it. And that’s not including all the blood, thousands and thousands of gallons of it, enough to recreate the elevator scene from “The Shining” and soak two of its leads from head to toe throughout the last 20 minutes of the movie.
This film shifts its location from a group of friends in a cabin in the woods to a family living in a run-down apartment building in downtown Los Angeles. And once single mom Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) is possessed by a Deadite early on in the film, what happens next is made even more disturbing because Ellie is psychologically and physically torturing her own children. Her youngest, Kassie (Nell Fisher), is quite young, too—not that the fates of her siblings, Danny (Morgan Davies) and Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), are made any less painful by the fact that they’re teenagers. “Evil Dead Rise” squeezes a lot of sicko juice out of violence toward kids, which combines with the extreme gore to make it the grueling experience that a good “Evil Dead” movie should be.
The downside is that more time and exposition are needed to set up the film’s deviations from the classic “cabin in the woods” formula, threatening to throw that elemental “Evil Dead” simplicity out of whack. This is mostly an issue in the first act, which also has to incorporate Ellie’s rocker sister Beth (Lily Sullivan) and an earthquake that opens up a hole in the floor of the parking garage, where Danny finds an old safety deposit box containing some mysterious records that unleash everything that follows. The building used to be a bank—one of several complicating details “Evil Dead Rise” has to roll out before it can get to the good stuff.