I’ve long been a fan of the Evil Dead series of movies, which started in about 1981 as a college film project (I read somewhere) by Sam Raimi—who both wrote and directed—and starred his friend Bruce Campbell. I didn’t see the original until after I saw the second film, Evil Dead II—Dead by Dawn (1987), which also starred Bruce (“The Chin” Campbell. (In fact, until the remake/reboot in 2013 directed by Fede Álvarez, who co-wrote the screenplay with Rodo Sayagues, Campbell was in all the Evil Dead films and the TV series Ash vs. Evil Dead.) In my opinion, though not as popular, the second film—as I said, the first I saw—was superior to the others because it set the series tone as horror/comedy with superior physical comedy by Bruce, whose character, Ash, proceeded to get bashed, smashed, possessed, lose a hand, and gain a shotgun and chainsaw in its place.
Figure 2 – Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams
The following film, Army of Darkness (1992), while still maintaining its comedy/horror facade, lost some of the character of Ash Williams (though you seldom hear his last name) that had been created in the second movie, in my opinion. He became, rather than a hapless victim who managed to take charge of his own destiny—as much as he could—to a wisecracking would-be hero who displayed mostly ego. I thought it was a step back for the series and the character, but audiences seemed to like it. But we watched it.
And we watched the 2013 one, but before that, we went to a local theatre and saw Evil Dead The Musical. Borrowing from the films’ tendency for gore, the front-row audience was warned—then given plastic raincoats, because there was a lot of fake blood. Fun, you bet. And we still have the T-shirts!
And now, in 2023, we have Evil Dead Rise, which is a bit of a pun—the film takes place in a building (not quite a high-rise, but the pun works anyway—the title also refers to the reawakening of the Deadites). Bruce is NOT in this film, but he and Sam Raimi serve as the executive producers for the movie, which was produced by (as were most of the previous movies) Rob Tapert, another of Raimi’s friends (who co-created the TV series Xena, Warrior Princess, and who is married to its star, Lucy Lawless)—and it all begins to sound a bit incestuous, doesn’t it? (I just found out that Bruce has an uncredited voice bit in the movie, thanks to Raimi.)
Evil Dead Rise begins with a scene reminiscent of all the previous films, where it appears “the evil”—which we never see, but most of the victims do, because the camera P.O.V. is the “evil’s” P.O.V. After the intro, which seems to not have anything at all to do with the film itself, we end up in an old highrise (something like 15 stories—I didn’t pay that much attention to its height) which has been condemned. Most of the occupants have already moved out—there’s about a month left before the building is razed—but our protagonists are a single mom, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her two teenage children Danny (Morgan Davies) and Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) plus her pre-teen daughter Kassie (Neil Fisher). Ellie works as a guitar technician; her estranged sister Beth (Lily Sullivan), a tattoo artist, is visiting. At least one neighbour, Mr. Fonda, is still there as well, and a young man whose name I didn’t get.
The first thing I noticed about this movie is that they make no attempt that I saw to make any of the main characters likeable. Seriously? The Ellie and her sister Beth (who’s newly pregnant) aren’t particularly, and the teenagers are typical annoying brats. For me, that’s a problem, because we the audience are supposed to care what happens to the protagonists, aren’t we? But I persevered.
One night the teenagers and Kassie go out to bring home pizzas, and when they return the building is shaken by an earthquake, which opens a crack in the basement parkade’s floor, revealing the interior of an old bank vault. There’s no money in the vault, and all the safe-deposit boxes are empty, but Danny finds a box with some papers, a book wrapped in a cloth, and two home-made (single-sided) LP records. He brings it all up to his room and, because he’s a wanna-be DJ, he plays the first record—which is a priest telling about this book they found. It’s one of three (it’s called either Liber Ex Mortis or Necronomicon Ex Mortis; the Book of the Dead) created, bound with human skin, and all the writing and ghastly illustrations are written in human blood. (Just like in Evil Dead and Evil Dead II.) His turntable doesn’t go to 78, so Danny has to speed it up by turning it with his finger. (The voice on the record is apparently Bruce Campbell’s.) It tells about some priests who are working to translate the book and are warned not to, but they go ahead anyhow and record the translation.
If you’ve seen any Evil Dead movie you know what happens next. So I won’t spoil any more of it for you. There’s no humour in this one; it’s straight gore and monster makeup. Okay, there’s a bit of an in-joke late in the movie when one of the protagonists has to use a chainsaw and a double-barrelled shotgun—shades of Ash! A bunch of people become deadites, some are possessed, many die. But some live.
I miss the comedy/horror that made the series fun. I didn’t find this one particularly fun, and screen gore no longer disturbs me; there are a couple of clever gory bits and some good gory makeup, but I’m no longer a 14-year-old boy; I just take that in my stride. It doesn’t scare me or excite me. It’s just there. So for me the movie was so-so. It’s apparently the highest-grossing movie so far, so maybe it’s just me.
You can comment here or on Facebook, if you have anything to say, or even by email (stevefah at hotmail dot com). All comments are welcome! (Just be polite, please.) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!