Featuring big ole buckets of human goo and overt Freudian grotesqueries, “Evil Dead Rise” is presumably someone’s cup of blood-steeped tea. I just don’t get it. Like, at all…

What is the “Evil Dead” brand? When Sam Raimi was involved, it was a wacky rumpus that split comedy and horror right between the milky, pus-covered eyes. This latest iteration has maybe a few goofy chuckles, provided you find “Mommy’s with the maggots now” to be a punchline.

So what’s the hook here? If all “Saw” movies have self-mutilation traps, and “Conjuring” movies all link through a shared nexus of Vera Farmiga, what is the identity of “Evil Dead” now? Because it appears to be “Don’t open dangerous books.” That idea is already one party’s entire political platform, so no thank you.

To be fair, the book in “Evil Dead Rise” is actually dangerous. Bans are only allowable for literature written on human skin with dried blood or anything Harlan Crow keeps behind glass. A new edition of the Necronomicon, the book of the dead, is unearthed by teenagers Danny (Morgan Davies) and Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), after an earthquake. Danny also finds some creepy record albums that feature Latin chanting and priestly confessions. He immediately spins them on his turntable, proving what we all knew to be true: The apocalypse will be initiated by an amateur DJ.

After he accidentally summons whatever the undefined spirit/evil/ookiness is at the center of the “Evil Dead” franchise, his mom, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), has a slightly worse elevator experience than riding with a guy whose food pyramid consists entirely of egg salad sandwiches. In a weird bondage sequence, Ellie is trussed up and force-fed demonic juju. She becomes a zombie thing, capable of infecting others through very ill-defined processes. It is up to Auntie Beth (Lily Sullivan) to protect pre-teen Kassie (Nell Fisher) and Ellie’s other offspring from becoming puppy chow for the undead.

“Evil Dead Rise” is a haunted house movie in which the house that is haunted is the mom. As much as it is not only acceptable but genuinely a good time to watch a horror flick that doesn’t want to meditate on some big trauma, the ultimate point of all of this here is just totally lost on me. Nothing is jangly, out of place, or poorly made. I just don’t personally grasp the “why” of what is basically a scary movie that’s not really that scary, a body horror film that only offers riffs on better mutilation movies, and a “confined space” thriller that never establishes any clear stakes or rules.

Maybe that’s the disorienting aspect of the “Evil Dead” brand? They claim to embrace “chaos” but it feels more like confusion. Things happen without rhyme or reason, which is fine when it leads to shenanigans and chaos but is frustrating when it feels like events are also trying to fit in the framework of standard fright fare. Again, everything writer/director Lee Cronin does feels purposeful and slick, but that could just be the metric ton of human juice sprayed everywhere.

“Evil Dead Rise” bills itself as the start of something, but for the life of me, I don’t know what that could be. Presumably more sequels in which unsuspecting people get possessed and then peel folks out of their skin suits? Okay, I guess? I have to assume someone out there has their itch scratched by this, but I have yet to be bitten by whatever bug that is, alive or dead.

Grade = C-

Other Critical Voices to Consider

Zaki Hasan at the San Francisco Chronicle says “The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be any intention to the homage beyond the novelty of its use. In a broader sense, one can say that’s the problem with ‘Evil Dead Rise.’ It exists within a franchise but doesn’t add anything to it, ultimately feeling as hollow as the reanimated corpses it centers on.”

Eliza Janssen at Flicks says “In terms of sadism, ‘Evil Dead Rise’ misses absolutely no opportunities. The same can’t be said of the movie’s halfhearted grabs at referring to old ‘Evil Dead’ logic, or its slightly tired central story of a final girl stepping up to realise her destiny as a caring mother.”

Kate Sánchez at But Why Tho says “It taps into the terrifying and brutal nature of how the franchise started, puts the pedal to the floor, and doesn’t stop. With near-perfect pacing, stellar performances, and an embrace of erratic violence, Lee Cronin has crafted a tremendous entry into the ‘Evil Dead’ franchise.”

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