There are three kinds of movies in the four-decade-strong Evil Dead horror franchise: scary, silly, and medieval. Lee Cronin’s newest entry, Evil Dead Rise, opts for scary, eventually settling into a marathon of drawn-out-gore set pieces that test one’s willpower to keep their eyes on the screen. While the bloodshed is as foul as any longtime fan could hope for, something feels off this time around. The first sequel in a full decade, this should feel like getting an Evil Dead reunion, but instead it’s more akin to a so-so tribute band. We get a change of venue from run-down cabin to run-down high-rise, plenty of clever camera tricks to spice up the kills, and a whole new story about a family’s bonds being tested under duress both mundane and demonic, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.
Cronin takes his tonal cues from Fede Alvarez’s more grim 2013 reboot rather than the slapstick frenzy of Sam Raimi’s original trilogy, but it’s missing the personality and sense of cohesion of either director’s vision. Take out the wink-nudge callbacks and the iconic first-person POV shots pioneered by Raimi, and this could pass for a minor Blumhouse movie instead of a descendant of splatter film royalty. Even still, once the film is done going through the motions of half-hearted exposition and those ancient Sumerian demons finally start getting rowdy, the blood starts flowing and really, really doesn’t stop. Cronin litters the otherwise dry first half hour with lingering shots of potentially hazardous items and appliances around this family’s apartment, and all promises of horrifying violence and misused kitchen implements are kept. At my press screening, all attendees were given miniature toy cheese graters and candy pasta labeled “mom’s leguini” before the movie, a pun that clicked with me all at once when Chekhov’s cheese grater is put to use in one particularly excruciating moment mid-movie. Uneven it may be, but there’s no denying this is a movie that generously delivers on leguini. R, 97 min.