dir: Lee Cronin
Irish director, with a bunch of Australians, making the flick in New Zealand, setting it in Los Angeles… What could go wrong?
Not much, it seems, because this flick works much better than I thought it could.
It only really doesn’t work if Bruce Campbell is all you care about when it comes to these flicks. And honestly, I love Bruce Campbell, and his character of Ash, and I consider Evil Dead 2 and Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness to be absolute classics, for different reasons.
And I’m aware of the tv series Ash versus Evil Dead.
But we don’t want Bruce Campbell, at his age (though I have no doubt he could physically do everything required of him) being attacked by the forces of evil still. Let him rest. He’s at retirement age now. Let him play golf, drink pina coladas and relax by a pool. He’s earned it.
So they have to torment a new generation. Of Australians, apparently.
The flick, which mostly works, has strange bookends, strange in the sense that I’m not sure why we needed them in order to allow mentally for the possibility of sequels. We already know that anything that gets made, from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to Titanic is going to have sequels and prequels and remakes and reboots anyway, we know that going in. Ideas are Intellectual Property that have to have every potential dollar squeezed out of them, so why not. Late stage capitalism isn’t going to milk itself.
Three people at a cabin in the woods. One of them starts tearing the other two apart, while harming herself. What complex set of circumstances could have led to her being in such a place mentally where such things… holy shit she’s floating above the water holding someone’s head, and the very scary looking words EVIL DEAD RISE are floating above her! It must be a cheesy, cheeky horror movie, then.
Cut to… a woman in a dank club taking a pregnancy test before looking quite unpleased at the result before doing some roadie techie stuff during the gig. It’s the kind of club I am quite familiar with, with bathrooms that fill you with more horror than anything they serve up here, and that includes after the demons turn up.
She, being Beth (Lily Sullivan) is possessed by a parasite that will probably make her life hell for a while, if not forever, but that’s just a very negative way of looking at an unwanted pregnancy. Down on her luck and out of choices, she visits big sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her family, in order to stay somewhere until she figures out what to do about…the evil growing inside her.
Wouldn’t you know it, though, Ellie and her three kids, androgynous Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), androgynous Danny (Morgan Davies) and little Kassie (Nell Fisher), live in a shitty apartment building that has evil baked into its walls. Something as harmless as an earthquake unleashes, um, access to somewhere where people should not go. But Danny does.
Don’t Do What Danny Does, could be the subtitle or the moral of the story. But someone had to unleash the evil, didn’t they? We are all pawns for some monstrous intelligence. Danny sees a cool looking book, by which I mean something clearly made of human skin, and some creepy vinyl records.
Who knew playing the scary metal records backwards would unleash unholy hell?
Turns out, instead of being a place that caused untold human misery, the apartment building was somehow a place that was stopping that evil from spilling out into the world.
Until it just couldn’t do it anymore.
The evil, um, spirit? Demon? Deadite? finds the nicest person thus far that we’ve seen, being the single mum, and takes her over in a scene that is part-homage, part-update and all-horrifying, with limbs going in all sorts of directions that they were never intended to go.
When she returns to her family, no-one knows what’s going on for the longest time. They have clearly not seen any Evil Dead movies.
And yet, towards the end, they’re all spouting lines from Evil Dead 2.
What ensues is horror, abject body horror, where anything that can be used as a weapon is used as a weapon, and every horrible thing you could imagine being done by a demonic mum to the kids she refers to as “titty-sucking parasites”, happens. This flick definitely doesn’t abide by the “nothing bad happens to the kids” rule.
And, oh, so much sisterly hate, so much sibling rivalry. The demonic force that takes Ellie over also has a penchant for hitting people at their weakest points in order to make them feel bad before she bites their eyes out or stabs their faces. That goes beyond great murderous evil, and ends up being quite mean.
Of course it’s gruesome as fuck, what would you expect from a goddamn Evil Dead movie! It’s right there in the title. They’re not, to quote something else, Justified or Ancient: They’re Dead, and They’re Evil! They’re here to kill and mutilate people, and chew bubble gum, and they’re all out of bubble gum.
Eyeballs are extracted and spat into other people’s mouths! People, or possessed monsters, are impaled horribly through the mouth or the back of the head! There are Olympic-sized swimming pools of Blood! Blood! Blood! So much blood. Broken glass is eaten, people are stabbed in the face or have their guys ripped out, and worst of all a demonic mother figure wants to destroy her own kids and / or eat them, with relish.
If you like that kind of gory viciousness in your horror flicks, this could be right up some particular alley you might possess. If you’re getting the vapours just from reading the description, I’m sure there’s an episode of Antiques Roadshow or Grand Designs or Property Brothers you could be masturbating to instead.
The fact that it’s essentially the mum who’s the main antagonist gives it an extra degree of gleeful awfulness. And that’s the thing, that’s the (somewhat) delicate balancing act that a flick like this tries and achieves: it’s unrepentant in its nastiness, but it’s not an endless sadistic trawl, and even its deranged gore is kind of inventive.
There’s no magic solution, there’s no Russell Crowe exorcist riding on a Vespa to the rescue: these are Evil Dead movies. The solution is always dismemberment, fountains of gore, and carefully calibrated shotgun blasts and one-liner quips.
And they’re all done fairly well. Alyssa Sutherland is especially good as the main monster, in a deranged go for broke way, but the actor playing her sister, when she eventually steps up as the Ash-life Deadite killing machine, is glorious, whether wielding a chainsaw, a shotgun or the skills of a roadie / guitar techie. She could be Bruce Campbell’s spiritual offspring for all I know.
Director Lee Cronin clearly studied the classics, and instead of repeating those scenes he’s elected to build on them and develop them in new ways. The kids? Well, the requirement for kid actors is to sob and scream until they’re ready to step up to the plate and start killing their demonically possessed siblings. They all do fine with the materials and the expectations they’re given.
I enjoyed the fuck out of this, but I guess I was just in the right mood, whatever the hell mood that is.
Well made, well played.
7 times the family that slays together doesn’t necessarily get to stay together out of 10
“Ellie waits in Hell for you and your unborn bastard baby!” – harsh and unfair - Evil Dead Rise