Groovy bits of business live on even when Bruce Campbell retires himself from the main role. Evil Dead Rise has the benefit of pooling together relevant pop culture, nostalgic hits of the horror pipeline and competent hands behind the camera. Explosively broad and feeling bigger and better than the £12 million budget it works with, Evil Dead Rise hits the ground running. LCD Soundsystem plays on through as director Lee Cronin and his cast try and dance themselves clean of any major wishes to watch the original trilogy. It may share a name, references, a minor cameo and some call-backs to the original, but Cronin has shifted what the series can do while playing host to modern horror mentalities as best he can.
Fine a blur that may be, Evil Dead Rise lives or dies on its fear factor. Smart scares and horrifying intentions are obvious draws yet still feel stifled or shallow. Gory glory in magnificent abundance that from its first seconds has that blur of reminiscence for the originals and a shift to the new style. Its demonic presence shuffling over the landscape feels routinely expectant of the series but soon tries too hard to make its campsite introduction, the throwback the ending summarises nicely, into a chilling fear factor. What becomes a nice background shot to showcase some gore and title cards is given a darker treatment only moments later in the business of addiction and graffiti-clad toilets. These are not characters but caricatures. A wannabe DJ scratching up a Record Store exclusive, a protestor hoping to find a favourite plain black t-shirt.
Rummaging through the apartment block horrors, finding the Necronomicon and following through that usual plot yet again marks one in many stumbling blocks for Evil Dead Rise. It takes just a half hour to get to the point of no return, and the only change is from how the hauntings begin. Stunning some of the work Cronin delivers here, from the eyeball-sucking gore that has the characters tilt at the time of a camera swing, much of it depends on an already tried and tested story, seemingly shoved in despite being a mismatched piece of a completely different puzzle. Its claustrophobic apartment setting and deeply moody lighting are unfortunately forgettable, with a lack of substance meaning characters chopped up and changed throughout are given little space to grow. Lily Sullivan and company are mere shells for the expectations of a simple story of ghoulish possession. It is what happens to them that matters, not them themselves.
But by its end, Evil Dead Rise shakes off the long-running franchise appeal. It may as well be a generic possession movie with the style of a filtered Sam Raimi. It works for what it is, a copy of the master tapes that build the stretch Cronin and company run through, but its new intricacies, from a cheese grater to a record player, are nothing to kick up a fuss about. Fine enough in the moment but on reflection, immediate or otherwise, the films independence is ironically laden with lines, features and expectations of the Evil Dead franchise as a whole. Gory explosions of blood and an inevitable chainsaw become toys the series is now recognised for and now must utilise. It breaks the potential for otherwise unexpected moments and, as is the case with Evil Dead Rise, takes up space where new ideas could flourish.