The sixth installment of the “Evil Dead” franchise fires on all cylinders
Darkness awaits those who dare to plumb the depths of the evil mother trope in horror. The famed Hereditary scene—“I am your mother!”—summarizes the inherent horror of the tense relationship and power dynamics between parent and child. Hell isn’t far from situations where spawner turns against spawn.
So it’s funny to see the Evil Dead franchise take a trope that has seen so much scholarship, and filter it through its campy-as-hell lens. Evil Dead Rise doesn’t overthink the horror mother trope, and gives us blood and guts and jump scares. It’s the horror equivalent of Mother by Meghan Trainor.
The story of Evil Dead Rising revolves around single mother Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three kids, Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echos), and Kassie (Nell Fisher), who share a contented but precarious relationship, living in a run-down apartment building facing condemnation. These tensions rise to the surface when Ellie’s sister, Beth (Lily Sullivan), visits the family after a period of radio silence, and learns about how arduous the unsung labors of motherhood can be.
After an earthquake, Danny discovers secret passages under the building’s basement parking lot and liberates a ominous-looking grimoire. Most casual horror requires at least one guileless twerp wandering where they shouldn’t, and it tickles me that the character who does this also happens to be an aspiring DJ. The grimoire also comes with phonograph records that contain recordings of a priest’s invocations of the cursed book. Those invocations are played over speakers, and the rest of the night happens. Evil Dead, baby! I quite admire the art direction that this movie took with the book, its demonic illustrations recalling the eeriness of medieval woodcuts.
Danny, Bridget and Beth do an amazing job looking terrified as hell. It is amusing that Kassie, the youngest of kids, goes through this movie being braver and more reassuring than everyone else. It is ridiculous enough to work, if only to drive the plot and keep the rest of the characters motivated and desperate to come up with creative solutions.
The gore of Evil Dead Rise is casual, entry-level and played up just enough to make newcomers wince and recoil, and hardcore enthusiasts chuckle. That seemed to be the energy in the theater in that one scene with the cheese grater.
Evil Dead Rise is popcorn horror firing on all cylinders. Evil Dead stans can still expect a romp and a half from this movie, and I encourage moviegoers who shy away from the horror genre to take this film as a sort of test ride with training wheels. Cry for mommy at your own risk.
Words Jam Pascual
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver