So with no Bruce Campbell present is Evil Dead Rise worthy of your wonder or is it a groovy get-thee hence vehicle heading out of town? Well, fortunately, if you’re a regular blood-red horror fan, it’s thankfully not the latter.
If anything there are no previous film references left unreanimated here – and that’s largely the primal pleasure of this reboot, lifted from the sticks and replanted in the urban sprawl of a permanently nocturnal L.A.
... this is eyeball-eating excess and mayhem at its most solid.
Story-wise Evil Dead Rise is about the jagged reunion of two sisters. One, Ellie, as played by Alyssa Sutherland, is a tattoo-artist mother of three precocious kids, whereas Beth, as played by Lily Sullivan is her rock chic guitar tech sister, who is shocked by a surprise pregnancy. But before we can get too deep into who the father is or what she plans to do with her unplanned bump, the house is suddenly hit by an earthquake.
Splitting the structure apart, it reveals an old bank, inside which lies the dusty volume of the Book of The Dead. Hand-bound in human skin, it’s an irresistible draw for Ellie’s son Danny (Morgan Davies) who not only reads the book but (as a wannabe DJ) plays its three accompanying vinyl recordings, all of which reawakens the evil contained within the book’s pages.
So now the evil is out and it’s in charge of the steadicam. Flying wildly from one character to the next, any real attempts at prior character development are quickly surrendered to the gourmet-like gore coming your way. And what a smorgasbord it is. Stabbings, shibari, spider-like crawlings and vomiting like a fire hydrant are all on the menu in a knowingly-knotted checklist of nods and references – and surprisingly you won’t mind them. Compared to the subpar offerings of the Conjuring-verse, Evil Dead Rise is a movie that knows it’s a sticky red mess of flashbacks and homages and yet it’s done with such elan that you don’t begrudge any of their arrivals when they come.
So, whilst Mommy is with the maggots now and Morgan Daniel’s chief characteristic as Danny is how much he looks like Millie Bobby Brown, the acting here is pretty spot-on. As the youngest, Cass is the spit of the girl from Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, but it is really Alyssa Sutherland as Ellie who gets the best-tasting scenery to chew on. With lines like “I love you more than pizza” her dead-woman-walking easily makes off with all the best lines, leaving Lily Sullivan to fill in Bruce Campbell’s boots.
Pryed from the dead hands of some fairly lacklustre sequels, and caked head to foot in a fresh coat of blood, Evil Dead Rise is again a bonafide bloodbath and provides both a suitably enjoyable reason why every house should have a 9-inch cooking knife or even a trusty boomstick in the event of demonic possession.
With its vivid palette set to slaughter and a wood chipper available when it’s needed most, this is eyeball-eating excess and mayhem at its most solid and deserves both its Hellraiser-like violins and swirling cellos to wash down the buffet of blood on offer.
Drink it all in.