I’m not the type to look a gore strewn gift horse in the mouth and I eventually got on the same blood splattered page as EVIL DEAD RISE but it sure took a while. Maybe I was in a persnickety mood but I sure took my time buying what writer/director Lee Cronin was selling. Ya see, there’s this dilapidated apartment building that used to be a bank and one day an earthquake creates a hole in the parking lot/basement that leads to a forgotten vault. Foolishly a curious kid crawls through the opening and fortuitously comes across not only a cursed book of the dead but some jinxed vinyl recordings to boot. I guess that’s believable enough but the teens involved were also on a pizza run (to Henrietta’s Pizza Parlor, wink-wink) and they drop their pies on the ground during the quake and immediately declare them unsalvageable. Who does that? I don’t care how much a pizza is squashed, unless it’s covered in broken glass and gravel, you can still eat it! No soldier left behind! Even more awkward is that when the kids tell their mom that the pizza was destroyed during the devastating act of nature, she comforts them by telling them that they’re more important than pizza (which is not much of a compliment and somewhat debatable).
Yet, I’m willing to look past this film’s problematic view on pizza and it’s cringey use of an obligatory drone in the opening scene to establish how modern and contemporary it is. Turns out all I needed to get on board with this new take on THE EVIL DEAD was for the mother character to get possessed and literally shake me into submission. Alyssa Sutherland plays Ellie, a single mom of three (two teens and a moppet) who is the first to succumb to the diabolical evil and with her Jack o’-lantern smile (an unholy cross between The Joker and NEWHART’s Mary Frann) and eyes that could stare rust onto a can, she graciously takes command of the entire movie. Happily the monstrous mother has a worthy foe in her reluctantly heroic sibling Beth (Lily Sullivan) who smoothly grab’s Ash’s chainsaw baton and fittingly ends up redder than the devil on an Underwood ham can.
Is this the type of sequel I, an oldster, would personally envision for the beloved EVIL DEAD franchise? Nah, but that’s OK, I feel like the ASH VS EVIL DEAD series fulfilled me in that regard. I think it’s actually honorably bold to shoot off into semi- uncharted territory even if the end result seems more like a remake of DEMONS 2 (’86) than anything else. I’m a little disappointed that the infestation we endure here is limited to one single floor of the building but it does add a certain element of claustrophobia that might not exist otherwise (plus, I understand if it was simply more budget friendly). It’s possible the unhealthy family dynamics were not mined as deeply as they could have been but I have a feeling they’ll ampliphy upon repeat viewings. The important thing here is the refreshing, almost exhilarating level of gore and the two mesmerizing central performances. I do miss the utterly woebegone vibe of 2013’s installment but this newbie may delivers a more satisfying final boss battle in the end. Quibbles aside, it’s a satisfying excursion that’s sure to keep audiences floating on their toes.