In the first three films, it was mostly for comical effect. The idea of characters covered in gallons of blood seemed so absurd, it could not help but elicit laughter from the audience.
The last two movies, however, did not bring a whole lot to laugh about. While going more for serious scares than comedic ones, this year’s “Evil Dead Rise” still manages to pay homage to the franchise’s beginnings.
A dilapidated apartment building is a prime setting for a horror film. The one in “Evil Dead Rise” looks as decrepit as they get. When Ellie’s (Alyssa Sutherland) kids return after getting pizza, a sinkhole opens in the basement after an earthquake hits. At first, I thought that this natural disaster might be caused by demons and such. Alas, it is just another reason the building will be getting knocked down in a month.
It also opens up a way into an old bank vault below the parking garage. Being a curious lad, Ellie’s oldest, Danny (Morgan Davies), climbs down and finds some old records and a creepy book. The book, of course, being the piece de resistance of the franchise, the Necronomicon.
Ellie’s concert groupie sister Beth (Lily Sullivan) shows up right before all the chaos, oblivious to her sister’s recently crumbling family life. Once the Necronomicon gets opened and the records get played, all hell literally breaks loose. Without spoiling too much, I’ll just say that Ellie would have preferred her collapsing personal life to what happens next.
Rooting for the Family
“Evil Dead” movies are full of people becoming possessed by demons known as “Deadites.” To become possessed, it takes little more than a scratch from a possessed person. A handful of the buildings’ residents are earmarked for possession the first time we see them. Yet, it is the family we root for to make it through unscathed.
Teenage Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) does her best to protect young Kassie (Nell Fisher) from the encroaching evil. Both actresses do a phenomenal job selling the terror.
Director Lee Cronin takes a familiar story and by placing it in a new setting, he creates novel frights. Having seen all the previous films in the franchise, I felt the newest one was never stale and only recycled the absolute best parts of its legacy. Fans of horror should definitely seek this one out. B+
Spring TV roundup
“The Head” (HBOMAX). What a pleasant surprise when I happened to come across this show and realized there was a Season 2. I thoroughly enjoyed the Antarctic murder mystery of the first season; going back and forth between past and present in each episode really ratcheted up the tension. Season 2 employs a different narrative technique that focuses more on character development. Poor Dr. Arthur Wilde (John Lynch) cannot catch a break. After someone murdered almost his entire crew in Season 1 to frame him, he encounters what he perceives to be another attempted frame job aboard an isolated research vessel. Hundreds of miles from nowhere, could the murderer from Antarctica really be onboard?
“Beef” (Netflix). Steven Yeun has gotten some meaty (yup, I said it) roles since he left “The Walking Dead.” Fantastic in “Burning” and “Minari,” Yeun appears right at home as sad-sack contractor Danny Cho in Netflix’s dark comedy “Beef.” Living with his Gen Z hipster brother Paul (Young Mazino), Danny cannot seem to find the right path in life. After a road rage incident with rich yuppie Amy (Ali Wong) that kicks off the show, Danny becomes determined to cause havoc in Amy’s life. Not happy with her own life, Amy gets great pleasure at knocking Danny further down the ladder of life. The show brings many laughs, particularly involving Danny’s cousin Isaac (David Choe), but it is also a somber look at how the other half lives.
One for sci-fi fans
“The Ark” (SyFy). The SyFy Channel used to have so many great shows to go with their hilariously awful original movies. I am a huge “Stargate: SG-1” and “Battlestar: Galactica” fan. Several more short-lived shows SyFy never seemed to allow to properly wrap up. Here’s hoping they actually invest time in “The Ark.” Coming from some of the showrunners of “Stargate: SG-1,” “The Ark” follows a crew of the first spaceship en route to Proxima Centauri b and its super-earth.
Life on our planet has failed and several “arks” have made their way into the stars. Ark-1 suffers a calamity when an explosion kills half its crew and wakes the other half up well before reaching their destination. People untrained for their specific roles must learn fast as they may be the human race’s last hope. Equal parts “SG-1” and “Battlestar,” “The Ark” does not break new sci-fi ground. But it develops believable characters and situations. Worth a watch for all sci-fi fans.
Read more movie and TV reviews by Jeff Mellinger.
Jeff Mellinger is a screen writer and film buff. He holds a BA in Film Studies and an MFA in film production. He lives in Concord.