Nothing prepares you for motherhood like possession by a Deadite.
Or so ‘Evil Dead Rise’ would have you believe. Written and directed by Lee Cronin (‘The Hole in the Ground’), the latest film in the ‘Evil Dead’ franchise — unconnected to the previous storylines except in its focus on parasitic demons known as Deadites — is set primarily in a soon-to-be-condemned high-rise. Flaky guitar technician Beth (Lily Sullivan) has just learned that she’s pregnant and flies to visit her more stable sister, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), to figure out her next steps.
When Beth arrives, she’s shocked to learn that her seemingly put-together sibling’s life is actually falling apart. Ellie’s husband has walked out on her and their kids, leaving her with nowhere to go and a sparse collection of concerned neighbours. After an earthquake hits, Ellie’s three kids discover a hole that has opened up in the parking garage. Ignoring the pleading of his sisters (Gabrielle Echols and Nell Fisher), son Danny (Morgan Davies) investigates, finding a copy of the Book of the Dead and several recordings, circa 1923, containing readings from the enchanted text by a priest.
Then everything goes to hell. A demon is unleashed, inhabiting Ellie and turning her into a monster who demands that “everybody dies by dawn” - but not before the kids witness their mother wreak enough havoc to inspire several lifetimes of therapy.
In other words, it’s a formulaic Evil Dead film: Combine said book with some dummy to read it aloud, a handful of Deadites armed with instruments of torture and almost comically copious buckets of blood. This one follows the recipe but doesn’t quite live up to expectations.
Horror movies certainly don’t need to be funny. And this one - though strewn with jokes that either don’t land or feel out place - certainly isn’t. One exception: the Deadites, who embody both the film’s comedy and its gore.
It’s an eyeball-eating, leg-grating, nausea-inducing spectacle, with visceral sound effects. But all the expertly executed violence accounts for more than jump scares and shock value. When the Deadite possessing Ellie realises that causing her pain hurts the ones who love her almost as if she had hurt them directly, it beefs up the element of psychological horror.
Physically, Sutherland is superb, jerking herself around like a marionette — a Deadite in a human meat suit — with disgusting accuracy and attention to bone-breaking detail, in stark contrast to her prior graceful and soft human form. As Beth, Sullivan delivers depth as the problem sister unready for the responsibilities thrust upon her and blanching at the destruction unfolding around her. By contrast, the supporting cast feels stiff.
An extravaganza of gore — expertly using both practical and digital effects — ‘Evil Dead Rise’ nevertheless fails to capture the ingenuity and bizarre inspiration that made the original films unique. In short, it’s a well-done studio horror movie stepping into the oversize shoes of its indie predecessors. It’s not a perfect fit, but by following in the footsteps of the earlier films, it gets the job done.
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‘Evil Dead Rise’ is running in UAE cinemas.