Evil Dead Rise (2023)

Rating: C+

Dir: Lee Cronin
Star: Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Morgan Davies, Nell Fisher

This is very much going to be an “old man yells at cloud” review. You have been warned. For I liked my Evil Dead movies, back when you could actually see what was going on in them. It feels like 80% of this takes place in an environment where possessing sonar skills would help you figure out who was doing what, and to whom. I suspect the lighting style (or lack thereof) might have worked better in a theatrical environment. At home, however, I was peering at a selection of dark blobs, which might have been people, demons or demon-possessed people, moving around an apartment building lit like a two-dollar whore’s bedroom.

It’s all the more of a shame, since there was quite a lot potentially to like here. The first few minutes are flat-out excellent, with a excellent twist on RaimiCam, heading into a possession, scalp-ripping and drone splatter. This film had our attention. I would have loved to have seen (and as above, “seen” is definitely the operative word) that movie. Instead, we get the “one day earlier” caption, and only are provided a connection to the main movie in a tacked-on sequence at the end. Instead, we relocate to an LA apartment, where an earthquake cracks open a long-abandoned bank vault in the basement. In there are some gramophone records, found by aspiring teenage DJ Danny (Davies). What could possibly go wrong if he plays them?

Mom (Sutherland) gets possessed. He gets possessed. It’s up to his aunt, rocker chick Beth (Sullivan), to strap on her big girl boots and try to defend the un-possessed members of the family from the demons crawling the building. Which, through a series of rather implausible incidents, is now cut off from the rest of the city. This does render the whole purpose of relocating events from a cabin in the woods, somewhat questionable. In previous installments, you understood that the demons had to possess the cabin residents, them being the only one around. Here, you’ve got a city of millions, just on the other side of a stairwell. It’s a demonic buffet, f’heaven’s sake. Why are they limiting themselves to a single whiny family?

That said, there are still some moments. Much credit to the actors, particularly Sullivan and final little girl Fisher, for spending what must surely have been entire weeks drenched in red Karo syrup. What you can see of the gore is well-handled and mostly done with practical effects. I will be very careful around our cheese grater, put it that way. However, what both this and its predecessor lack, is someone for whom the audience can truly root. Bruce Campbell’s Ash is the fulcrum around which the original trilogy rotated. This can offer only a number of meat puppets, who might as well be playing Stickman Dismount. While appropriate buttons were pushed for an hour and a half, I can’t see myself actively seeking it out again.