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Evil Dead Rise

Year: 2023
Production Co: Department of Post
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Lee Cronin
Writer: Lee Cronin
Cast: Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Gabrielle Echols, Morgan Davies, Nell Fisher

The remake of the original Evil Dead this is a sequel to was a much better movie that it had any right to be – scary, handmade, and with a narrative backbone that (dare I say it) gave the story something Sam Raimi's beloved original never had.

I'd never have thought transposing the idea to another location would work – it seemed to belong nowhere else except for a cabin in dark, smoky and forbidding woods cut off from the rest of the world. But aside from everything else this movie gets right, making it feel just as urgent and scary in an apartment building in the middle of a city with this much lightness of step is very clever.

It also takes an essential element of the mythology and manages the very well-executed trick of spinning it out to a 90 minute movie. We all know how someone basically gets possessed by the roaring presence racing through the woods (parking lot, in this case) to reach them, turning them into zombie/monster things who's only objective is to maim and kill everyone else. Where else can a feature movie possibly go once that happens?

Plenty, it turns out. Beth (Lily Sullivan) has been on the road for years working with musicians, and when she comes home to visit the sister she barely sees anymore, there's plenty of bad blood despite how friendly the pair appear.

Her sister, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland, who has the best horror movie look since Bonnie Arans, who played the demon/nun monster Valak in the Conjuring universe) has two teenage kids, Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and Danny (Morgan Davies) as well as preteen Kassie (Nell Fisher).

They live in a crumbling apartment building in Los Angeles that's due to be demolished, giving them only weeks to get out and find somewhere to live, and with no work and no prospects, Ellie is at her wits end.

They send the kids out for pizza so they can clear the air a little, but as they're returning an earthquake splits the ground in the underground carpark in two, revealing the vault below that used to service the bank the building was once home to.

The adults are frazzled and worried, but Danny wants to go and look, and when he digs up a leatherbound book full of an ancient language and terrifying pictures as well as three recordings on vinyl records, you know there's trouble.

The kids go back upstairs and when Danny starts to play the records (chronicling the attempts of a trio of priests who fall foul of the book back in the 1920s) and leaf through the book, it unleashes the evil dead we know so well.

Ellie is the first to fall victim, and after her sister lays her to rest, wondering how she's going to tell the little girl her mother's dead, the power goes out. The elevator is broken, the earthquake has damaged the stairs and the family are trapped along with a smattering of other residents up and down the hallway.

But Ellie isn't dead at all, coming back as the hissing, ghoulish creature you've seen on the poster, determined to use any means necessary to dismember her sister and her children limb from limb.

They manage to lock her outside where she bangs her head repeatedly against the door demanding to come in, soon realising she can turn on the other residents to satisfy her bloodlust. And while they try to figure out how to get out of the situation, other members of the family start to succumb to the demonic spirit infecting them all.

It has a very effective sense of geography considering it all takes place in a single apartment, corridor and carpark, and the script does a great job keeping the various elements away from each other to keep everything tense while you wait for the bloodshed and violence to explode.

It culminates in a carpark-set battle against a horrible foe, and even while the rest of the film has been appropriately bloody and gross, you wonder how the climax will top it (it does – and yes, there's a chainsaw).

Between the elevator filling up with blood, 'Mommy's with the maggots now' and plenty of other set pieces and horror ideas it's great fun, very well staged, doesn't forget to be gory, doesn't forget to be scary and in the most bizarre trivia about it, was all shot in Auckland, New Zealand.

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