Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Fan Service

Film: Evil Dead Rise
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

A couple of weeks ago, I went on record as saying that the Scream franchise is the best slasher franchise running, all things being equal. As for what is the best horror franchise in general, there’s going to be some conversation. I think you can make a very strong case for the Evil Dead franchise. The remake/reboot of a decade ago was a higher-budget revamp of the original story with not a lot of changes, but it was visceral and brutal. The television show, Ash vs. Evil Dead, is a low point (my opinion), but could be argued to be not a part of the film series. Regardless, because the series has been solid so far, I went into Evil Dead Rise both with high expectations and some real fear. Eventually, there’s going to be an Evil Dead film that doesn’t measure up.

Fortunately, that’s not the case here; Evil Dead Rise manages to live up to the rest of the franchise. It doesn’t break a lot of new ground here, but it does offer a great deal of fan service, gore, and violence without overburdening the audience with things like plot. Don’t get me wrong—I’m very interested in narrative all of the time, but when a horror movie is clicking on all cylinders, there isn’t much more plot needed than “people in danger from scary thing.”

But we do need a little plot. We start with something not unlike Evil Dead--three people at a cabin, one of them sick, and then that “sick” person turns out to be possessed and mayhem—scalping and beheading—follow. We then get a “one day earlier” title card, and I was worried. Knowing what we’ll get to can often kill the suspense for the film to come. That’s not the case, though, because the actual movie is going to be about a completely different group of people.

We meet Beth (Lily Sullivan), who works as a guitar tech for a touring band and has just discovered that she is pregnant. She returns home to visit her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), a tattoo artist who has been recently left by her husband. Ellie lives with her three kids, Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), and young Kassie (Nell Fisher). The building they live in has been condemned, and they are working on moving out.

One earthquake later, and Danny gets confirmation that their building used to be a bank. In a storage vault, he finds a book and some old records. Since Danny considers himself a DJ, he plays the records, which are naturally a recording of a priest reading the book, which, in a change from the series, is called the Naturom Demonto rather than the Necronomicon. Of course, this awakens the demons, which immediately possess Ellie, and all hell (literally) breaks loose.

Really, that’s it. Ellie is possessed, she attacks her family and the other people still in the apartment building. We’re going to be on the top floor of the apartment building, and to keep everyone trapped, we’ve got an elevator that will be very sketchy and a staircase that has been destroyed by the quake. We’re going to very much focus on what is happening to these people, and specifically the violence of it. This will include things like tattoo guns and cheese graters. Yes, it’s pretty unpleasant.

One thing that Evil Dead Rise does very well is create a lot of fan service, and it does this in the right way. This happens in minor ways—Bruce Campbell is the voice on the recording as a priest named Ash Williams. But there are also a number of nods to the earlier films. Instead of a character predicting playing cards, in the opening sequence, we have our possessed character quoting book passages. There are “swallow your soul” and “dead by dawn” quotes, an eyeball fired into someone’s mouth, and more. None of these things would spoil the movie or seem out of place for someone new to the franchise, coming into this cold, but for fans who have seen these films over and over again, all of these are nods to the history and to the fanbase.

Evil Dead Rise honestly does everything right. It adds to the lore that has existed in some form since 1981, and while it doesn’t really go to a lot of new places, it builds a little on that lore, including the creepy infantilizing of the possessed people. It’s also relentless, and when it is evident early on that completely innocent people, including children, are grist for the mill of the Deadites, it’s clear that no one is safe. It’s also hyper violent. Gore hounds will find a lot to love here and bluntly, non-gore hounds are probably not lining up to see it.

I’m ready for the next one. The Evil Dead franchise is five-for-five.

Why to watch Evil Dead Rise: It’s vicious.
Why not to watch: Naturom Demonto? C’mon. It’s Necronomicon Ex-Mortis!


  1. I might check this out soon though I would much prefer it if it has some involvement from Sam Raimi.

    1. He was the executive producer, but I get what you mean.

  2. The lack of urgency from everyone involved bothered me. They could've done way more to try to escape, IMO.

    1. I think that's a fair criticism. To my mind, this is more a connection to the original films where escape was very clearly not going to happen--they were obviously cut off and unable to leave.