Evil Dead Rise


Cineworld, Edinburgh

True confession time. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for The Evil Dead.

In 1981, Sam Raimi’s original movie, made for shirt buttons and starring his best buddy, Bruce Campbell, made a big impact on my younger movie-going self. The fact that, on its initial release, it became ensnared in the Government’s absurd ‘video-nasty’ ban only served to make it a cause célèbre and, when it finally earned itself a proper release, it made tons of money. The sequel in 1987 allowed the duo to make the film they’d always wanted to, with a much bigger budget and a welcome dose of added humour. And finally, 1992’s Army of Darkness (AKA The Medieval Dead) offered a conclusion that was so bat-shit crazy it finished off the trilogy in entertaining style.

It’s undeniably a tough act to follow – as director Fede Alvarez discovered in 2013, when he attempted a revamp, which came and went without making much of a splash – but Irish writer/director Lee Cronin’s Evil Dead Rise (what happened to the The, I wonder?) jumps headlong into a spirited reimagining without pausing to ask if it’s a good idea. The presence of an 18 certificate suggests that this isn’t going to be the kind of movie that judiciously cuts away from the gore – and so proves to be the case. Those of a nervous disposition, please be warned that this is harrowing stuff.

We open, as ever, in a remote lakeside cabin where three holiday makers are having a bad time. If this short pre-credit sequence suffers from a case of ‘seen it all before’, then the following action, which backtracks 24 hours, does feel markedly more original, transplanting the action to a scuzzy high rise apartment in Los Angeles.

It’s here that, upon finding that she’s pregnant, guitar technician, Beth (Lily Sullivan), arrives in search of her estranged sister, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), who has recently suffered a breakup with her partner. Ellie seems to be a contender for struggling parent of the year, attempting to raise her three kids, Bridgette (Gabrielle Echols), Danny (Morgan Davies) and cute but weird little ‘un Kassie (Nell Fisher) in a condemned apartment that’s due to be closed down sometime in the near future. A power cut promptly ensues. What else to do then but send the kids out to collect some takeaway pizza?

Things head in an even more dodgy direction when a sudden earthquake opens up fissures in the street, revealing an ancient underground bank vault, festooned with crucifixes. Danny can’t resist going down there for a quick recce and emerges with some old LP records and a very familiar-looking book… yep. you guessed it. That book. Don’t bring it home, Danny! Don’t… ah well. He brings it home. Of course he does.

All too soon, Ellie has become infected by the powers of evil and is happily attempting to chow down on her offspring. It falls to Beth to try and protect them. But trapped in the apartment, with stairways and elevators destroyed by the quake, how can she and her young charges ever hope to escape from the now demented Ellie, who is hellbent on their destruction?

I won’t lie to you. What follows is hard to watch – an exercise in nerve-shredding, no-holds-barred mayhem. If the aim of the exercise is to horrify, then Cronin succeeds in spades. Susan later admits to having seen only forty minutes or so of the film, spending the remainder of the running time with her hands over her eyes. For those made of sterner stuff, there are decapitations, eviscerations and the use of a cheese grater in a style you’re unlikely to see on Masterchef. Viewers in the know (and we are legion) will spot occasional nods to the original trilogy that feel more like homages than copycats – and there’s one great big reference to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, just for fun. Oh yes, Bruce Campbell – who executive produced the film along with Raimi – makes a sort of cameo in this film. See if you can spot him!

I am suitably entertained (if that’s the right word) and emerge from the screening feeling that, if filmmakers must insist on rebooting former glories rather than coming up with new ideas, then Evil Dead Rise is more successful than many revamps that have gone before. But one thing’s for certain: this isn’t a film for the faint-hearted.

3. 8 stars

Philip Caveney


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