As for the plot, who cares? As with every “Evil Dead,” a creepy book is found and demonic hell breaks loose. That’s all that matters. This time, the characters are not a group of friends but a family, including a tattoo-artist mother, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), her kids (Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols, Nell Fisher) and their chain saw-wielding aunt (Lily Sullivan). But this shift also doesn’t make that much of a difference. There are so many horror movies these days that dig deeper into the anxieties and fears of family and motherhood; though still, bravo to whoever came up with the tagline: “Mommy loves you to death.”
Character and story are secondary to an atmosphere of industrial gloom, clanking heaters, ambient neighbor noise and the clutter of families cramped together. There is a spectacular new monster at the end, and the most disturbing set pieces involve ordinary household objects like (gulp) a cheese grater.
The previous “Evil Dead” movie from a decade ago was a more direct reboot, while this one pays homage to the past, but not too much. It opens with the signature shot of the franchise, a racing camera, low to the ground, but this sets up a not a scare, but a joke — one I won’t ruin, but that pokes fun at the original, breaks the fourth wall and announces a new day. And yet, with a few exceptions, largely from the performance of Sutherland, who captures some of the borscht belt swagger of Freddy Krueger, it’s the last moment of arch comedy.
With the original “Evil Dead” and particularly its sequel, Raimi didn’t just make splatter beautiful. He proved it could be hilarious. The two recent movies are far more grim. Even though there is an inherent absurdity to the excess on display, they seem less interested in the humor of horror. The absence of Bruce Campbell, the hammy protagonist of the original trilogy, is felt. Scary villains are a dime a dozen, but a funny hero? They’re hard to come by.
Evil Dead Rise
Rated R for elevators of blood and sharp objects near eyeballs. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. In theaters.