Discover more from Everything Is Horrible
Evil Dead Rise Resurrects the Franchise...Briefly
It was fun while it lasted.
Lee Cronin's Evil Dead Rise starts with a callback to the original Sam Rami film—a camera racing over the wooded landscape impossibly fast, as if it's mounted on some massive terrifying creature searching for prey. Then there's a cut...and you realize you've been looking through a drone camera, manipulated by some himbo dope scaring some girl on a pier. It's a wonderful meta moment which calls back to the way Evil Dead always centered its director–the films were giddy romps in which Rami was always the mischievous demon behind the curtain, inhabiting his actors and his special effects like some gibbering puppeteer.
And then that's followed up by a completely over-the-top meta scene in which the horrific Deadite quotes the page of Wuthering Heights her cousin is reading. "Let me in! Let me in!" Again, it's like the director is narrating the character's doom. I laughed out loud.
And then...the fun ends, we jump away from those characters and the drone and the Wuthering Heights, and we're dropped into a very competent, very conventional horror film, which gets you from a, to death, to death, to gore, to death, to z without any of the stylish flourishes or chuckles of that intro—or of the classic Evil Dead films.
Ten great minutes followed by an hour and a half of moderate thrills doesn't exactly a must-see film make. Still, it's interesting to see the franchise's magic so perfectly encapsulated, and then immediately pissed away.
The Cronin of the first set-piece understands that Evil Dead films aren't about careful character development, or even emotional attachment. We don't really care about the two estranged sisters, or about the adorable children, or about the pregnancy drama. We just want laughing deadites and set pieces where our hero fights his hand like he's in a Warner Bros cartoon. In that vein, early Cronin also also understands that gore is a lot more fun when there's some wit and goofiness and originality to it. Pulling off someone's hair so they're running around with a bloody exposed scalp is more inventive than late Cronin restaging the elevator of blood riff from the Shining or revving up yet another chainsaw.
People do remakes because people have some affection for the franchise and that's a powerful marketing tool; I watched this film because I'm an Evil Dead fan, right? But recapturing the demonic magic is not easy. The last Texas Chainsaw Massacre film had none of the original's grungy brutality; the latest abanoned the original's single-minded, dreamlike monomania. And the new Evil Dead abandons the fiendish manic cartoon glee that made people love those great deadite romps.
Except in that opening scene, which summoned Rami's spirit for one last, belching, spewing, distorted chuckle. Sometimes you can raise the dead—though they don't hang around long before you discover they don't have the same personality, alas.
Everything Is Horrible is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.