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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Evil Dead Rise (2023)

I was both excited to and dreading checking out this latest attempt at an Evil Dead movie. The original trilogy are some of my favorite horror flicks so that bar is a high one to clear. I didn’t like the first attempt, the remake of the original, though I should probably give it another look. Folks keep telling me that it has aged well. But I’m getting ahead of myself and need to focus on the task at hand. 

Evil Dead Rise kicks off the action as any proper Evil Dead movie should with a camera whipping thru the woods and across a pond towards a woman standing on the pier. Though in an unexpected and clever twist it turns out to be a drone piloted by the annoying boyfriend. The woman, the friend of annoying boyfriend’s lady, stomps off to the cabin where she is laying in bed sick. She hasn’t been feeling well since they arrived. Of course it is clear to deadite fans like myself what is going on. Sure enough she is possessed, and the mayhem starts off with a it of scalping and drone to the face action. Okay movie you have my attention. 

The story then switches to an apartment building in what I think is Los Angeles if the bumper sticker is supposed to be a hint. Here we meet Beth and her sister Ellie as well as Ellie’s three children. There are some other folks living on the same floor as them that basically serve to up the body count but aren’t terribly important to the actual plot. After an earthquake, the parking garage floor collapses into a hidden vault. Danny, one of Ellie’s kids, climbs down to check it out and finds some records as well as a very familiar book. He plays the record and reads the book. Some very familiar words echo from the speaker and the evil is unleashed. Ellie gets possessed and it is up to her sister Beth to protect the kids. Unfortunately, she is a bit of a screw up so that doesn’t go so well. 

I could say more about the plot, but I don’t want to spoil anything. This is a solid movie that is well written and while using some familiar props and themes from the existing franchise goes out of it’s way to tell a unique story. Well, I mean sort of unique. You have the ever shrinking group of survivors doing battle with an unspeakable evil that not only murders family and friends but also possesses them to return and torture the living. You know… deadite stuff. But the family dynamic between the sisters is a different take as is the mothering instincts of Beth kicking in. The urban setting was also a nice touch. They manage to create the sense of isolation that the original cabin in the woods setting had but in a completely different way. This is a clever script that someone with real talent put together. As someone who watches a lot of bad movies, I appreciate this level of effort. 

I know that a lot of fans complain about female lead horror or at least gender swapping characters, but this is how you do it. First of all our “final girl” Beth is flawed and in some ways fails miserably. Though in the end she sucks it up and does her best. That is what we call a character arc or hero’s journey. By the end of the movie, I was rooting for her and if Evil Dead Rise is the beginning of a new trilogy I’d be happy to see what happens to her next. Seriously guys if you do continue to make Evil Dead movies you need to include Beth. Don’t blow it! 

This is an Evil Dead movie, so we have to talk about the gore and special effects work. While it lacks the low budget practical effects charm of the original trilogy, they do a good job of leaning into genuinely scary effects. The deadite makeup on Ellie is creepy as hell and the actress does a wonderful job of selling it by moving unnaturally and twisting her limbs at odd angles. We get some decent kills with a head getting torn off, an eye is sucked out, the previously mentioned drone to the face, and a neat gag with a spear thru the mouth and out the back of the head. Though my favorite gag has to be the girl getting grabbed by the ponytail and getting scalped. Maybe not the most graphic but it got under my skin. Speaking of skin… the damn cheese grater to the calf was gruesome. The movie doesn’t skimp on the blood and I enjoyed every minute of it. 

Evil Dead Rise also has a much different tone then the earlier movies. They pull no punches putting kids in danger and then… honest to God… killing the shit out of them! This lets you know early on that no one is safe. There is a psychological nastiness to the dialogue as well with the mother speaking to her children in the most horrifying way. This feels like a much meaner flick, and I appreciated that the filmmakers decided to go their own way. 

I don’t want to give the impression that there isn’t any fan service. We do get some solid callbacks to the classics. All the characters are named after actors from the earlier movies. There is a point of view shot of an eyeball going down a throat. Of course our hero does eventually end up with a chainsaw in her hands. There are also some lines of dialogue like “come get some” and “dead by dawn” that fans will recognize. They do a good job of acknowledging what came before while doing something new.

I’m glad that I watched this and have to agree with all the other fans that have been recommending it. This is a fun movie that I think is worthy of the name Evil Dead. I do hope it was successful enough to spawn some sequels because I’d be down for them. If you get the chance, I highly recommend you check it out. 

© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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