Gore blimey!

Will Ferris
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Evil Dead Rise (18, 97 Minutes)

Few words can sum up director Lee Cronin’s brand spanking new take on the cult 80’s horror series Evil Dead successfully other than: bloody hell!

In this triumph of a sequel/reboot/reimagining – or whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t really matter – fans of the original series get the service they crave while a new audience can be shocked, terrified, even appalled by this blisteringly inventive, contemporary spin that never grates.

By the time you’ve reached its denouement, you’ll be chanting dark rites in the hope for more.

Evil Dead Rise kicks off right where you would expect – a cabin hosting a group of friends and something malevolent racing through the woods to get them. Let’s just say it’s no Teddy Bears’ Picnic.

Suddenly, we jump back by a day and we’re in a run-down L.A. apartment block of Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three children. Their dad has run off, they’re struggling to make ends meet and, to make matters worse, they’re being evicted in a month.

When guitar tech Auntie Beth (Lily Sullivan) rocks up from her latest gig, secretly pregnant, anyone would think the power of a family coming together will help this likable lot overcome their troubles and strife.

Hell no! An earthquake exposes a tomb underneath the building, where eldest child Danny (Morgan Davies) finds relics sealed away by Catholic priests for good reason – in particular, a Necronomicon Ex-Mortis (book of the dead).

Before you know it, curiosity really does kill the cat and the kid decides to open a rift of perpetual nightmares, awakening some truly rancid, creepy demons who possess the family one by one in diabolical ways.

If you’re squeamish, this is definitely not for you. Evil Dead Rise is a rip-roaring, hands shielding eyes kind of experience where the children of hell invade the family home, exploiting our vulnerabilities and, on this occasion, motherhood.

“We don’t turn on each other” shouts Auntie Beth as cracks begin to show in the family dynamic. Meanwhile, Mommy Dearest is slamming her head into the front door, cackling like a demented witch, gleefully listing off the ways in which she would like to murder her children.

Alyssa Sutherland is wickedly brilliant as the possessed Ellie. These demons, known in fan culture as ‘Deadites’, are far more evolved than previous incarnations. Through the magic of practical effects, their pupils are a shade of gold while their bloodshot eyes magnify the horror of stretched back, contorted faces and withered skin. Think Carrie after the prom and a few shots of absinthe thrown in.

No need for fangs, claws or corny catchphrases. These Deadites are somehow more human than before, in a twisted way – as if Cronin is showing us what would happen if our darkest impulses manifested and the most malignant versions of ourselves took hold of the wheel. A sort of Jekyll/Hyde effect.

Perhaps what scares us the most is the idea of our family being hurt. Dial that fear up with the concept of something dark creeping under their skin, torturing them from the inside until whatever was once left of themselves has rotted away.

The children are equally wonderful in their roles, especially little Kassie (Nell Fisher) who serves as both comic relief and emotional pull. Protagonist Beth serves as the kick-ass hero destined to save the day, but there is something deeply real about her role in the story than that of Bruce Campbell’s Ash in the Sam Raimi originals.

And remember, 40 odd years ago, the first film was dismissed as one of the first “video nasties” and actually taken off the shelves of video rental outlets for a while – a quite ridiculous thing to do with a film that had its tongue firmly in its cheek.

This works better, looks better, feels better and leaves a resounding impact. A brilliant example of taking a classic and creating something original, fun and horrifying all at once.

RATING: 9/10