Evil Dead Rises (2023)
Updated: May 16
Evil Dead Sinks.
Like many sequels, Evil Dead Rise is stuck between trying to stay true to its original and attempting something different. And like many of them, it does neither successfully.
The change in location becomes one of its biggest problems. The Sam Raimi original exploited its location expertly. Despite it's expanse, it evoked a sense of dread, even in broad daylight. Here, the condemned building that the action takes place in, a more potentially claustrophobic setting does not evoke anything. At its worst, it looks like a dimly lit set and at its best it recalls other, better pictures of the one-location genre. One of them, Kubrick's classic The Shining, gets bluntly referenced towards the end.
The film's biggest crime, however, is its tone that is way too serious for the proceedings. Note to the Hollywood filmmakers: No one believes that this actually happened. Relax.
I mean, the original was blood and guts galore, yes, but at the same time realised that it is a genre exercise and had great fun with it. No wonder that the film, sometimes even referenced as a comedy, has become a staple of parties and late night movie watching binges with friends.
Talking about friends, Sam Raimi's classic did not focus much on the lives of the characters other than the fates that they were suffering. Even then, the actors got across a genuine sense of loss as they lost their friends one by one. The family dynamics are heavily etched in this new film, but they lack any resonance.
Upon finding that she is pregnant, Beth (Lily Sulivan) visits her sister, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) to find that she has been left by her husband and is now bringing up her three kids alone. Living in a building that is scheduled to be brought down in a month's time, Ellie trying her best. At the night of Beth's visit an earthquake occurs and opens up a hole in the ground that reveals the bank that this building had been built on. Ellie's teenage son, Danny (Morgan Davies) goes to explore, finds a vault and inside it - no prize for guessing - Necronomicon. The tagline of the film Mommy loves you to death promises to take the audience in uncomfortable territories a la The Babadook and the director Lee Cronin's own The Hole in the Ground. No such luck here. The horror of a child whose only parent is trying to kill them is totally lost on Cronin. The film's supporting cast of two characters that stay in the building, look promising, but are unceremoniously dispatched without exploring them at all. The modus operandi of all characters is to stare at the demon(s) agape until it starts to run for them.
The presence of others in the building brings us to the film's strongest section - the prologue.
Fitting awkwardly in the film's circular structure, the setting at the beginning is similar to the location in the first film. In the woods, near a lake we find some friends already in the grip of a demonic possession. Much more inventive and gripping than the rest of the film, it is a promising opening that announces the film with fanfare, only to get lost in ineffective, if competent, storytelling and unscary CGI the original film's latex masks win over hands down.