Evil Dead Rise

Evil Dead Rise is the bloodiest, goriest horror movie I've seen since Terrifier 2. So bloody and gory, in fact, that I can't believe a major studio bankrolled it. They often won't go full-bore because they either want a PG-13 or don't want to dilute business by potentially making a few audience members sick. Indie horror is where you usually find carnage on this scale. Made for HBO Max but given a theatrical release, the film is creepy, shocking, mess-you-up fun.

Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) is a single mom raising three kids, teen daughter Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), son Danny (Morgan Davies), and young Kassie (Nell Fisher). Their apartment building is about to be closed down, meaning they have only a month to find a new place to live. This will not be a problem for very long, given what's coming. They receive a visit from Ellie's sister Beth (Lily Sullivan), an irresponsible sound technician who travels the world with rock bands. She's come with news of a pregnancy.

An earthquake hits, opening a hole in the floor of the parking garage. Danny climbs down into it, where he finds a few mysterious old records and a strange book that Evil Dead fans will immediately recognize as the Necronomicon, or "book of the dead." After playing the records backward and finding a hidden message, he unleashes the evil inside the book, which promptly possesses Ellie. She begins terrorizing her own family. Beth vows to protect them.

It's a thin premise, and the entire story unfolds within the building, presumably to keep the budget low. Nevertheless, Evil Dead Rise does a lot with those limitations, delivering a series of increasingly demented moments designed to startle you and gross you out. Director Lee Cronin keeps the pace tight and the visuals darkly atmospheric to accentuate the graphic mayhem that unfolds throughout the second half. There are none of the slapstick undercurrents Sam Raimi brought to Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. This is unadulterated hardcore horror.

What should you expect to see? There's a clever sequence in which a character watches a vicious event from a peephole in the door. We view it as she does - through a fisheye lens with limited visibility that makes what can’t be seen to the sides unbearably eerie. It's no spoiler to say there's another scene involving a bloody elevator because you could never begin to predict the insane sequence of events it contains. And I don't know what's more gruesome, the "Deadite" creature that appears at the end or the borderline NC-17 fate it meets.

Perhaps because it was originally intended for streaming, Evil Dead Rise doesn’t feel the need to be anything more than a 90-minute burst of ridiculously violent mayhem. Character development and plotting are minimal. At the same time, the series has always been about the rush of terror, so this installment is perfectly in line with tradition. The movie is freaky in the best, most entertaining way possible.

out of four

Evil Dead Rise is rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, and some language. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.