Lee Cronin (The Hole in the Ground) writes and directs Evil Dead Rise, the reboot of the popular horror film series, with the full sanction of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. What he creates is a respectful and terrifying horror film that delivers a surprisingly good story of family, sacrifice, and survival despite the large gore factor audiences expect from this franchise.
After discovering she's pregnant, Beth (Lily Sullivan) returns to her only refuge – her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland). When she arrives, she finds Ellie and her dysfunctionally functional family in a crisis, having to move from their dingy, high-rise dwelling within thirty days. However, this becomes the least of their worries when an earthquake strikes. The tremor opens a rift where Ellie's son Danny (Morgan Davies) discovers an underground vault containing a dangerous ancient tome and some old recordings. Not content to leave it alone despite warnings from his sister Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), Danny plays the records, unintentionally releasing a demonic force that will not be content until all innocence in the world is destroyed.
There are big shoes to fill when you're taking over from Sam Raimi, particularly when it is his signature franchise. Cronin manages to tackle the script and the directing successfully. However, in the first act, it doesn't always feel that way. There is a lot of setup for the underlying theme of family. Even though this drags a little long, the payoff is worth it once things get going. In addition to a solid story, everything audiences expect from Evil Dead is delivered, plus a few final bonuses to make your skin crawl. Cronin nods to the previous films without stomping on them, organically adding callbacks that don't come across as hokey, or at least not more so than viewers are used to. He also references other great horror films from before – most notably a particular scene from The Shining. The cast is entirely in on it and delivers mostly convincing performances as the living, especially Nell Fisher's Kassie. But none of it compares to the exceptional acting when they turn from living to whatever one would classify as the dead in these films. Sutherland is particularly notable for turning the creep volume to thirteen on a scale of one to ten.
One thing Evil Dead fans have come to expect is gore, dismemberment, and body parts that never quite die. Their thirst for the grotesque will be quenched. The effects and makeup departments worked overtime, providing massive amounts of blood, very convincing effects, and some amazingly gruesome CGI. The new setting of a crumbling bank turned apartments might initially make audiences dubious. The disturbing, low-lit, and barely livable conditions are rendered so that it completely works – and sometimes more than a remote cabin in the woods.
Evil Dead Rise definitely earns its "R" rating, and many moments in the film are too graphic for any younger eyes. That said, fans of the franchise and this type of horror are unlikely to be disappointed. As long as they keep an open mind about the reboot, they won't have any axes - or chainsaws - to grind about the film.