“Evil Dead Rise” is the kind of horror sequel that gets to have its (maggot-infested, vomit-encrusted) cake and eat it, too. By moving the action away from a cabin in the woods and to a crummy apartment building in Los Angeles, it’s free to twist out of the shackles of every entry that came before and make a clean break entirely the original trilogy’s characters (no Ash to be found here, folks). At the same time, it knows what works, breaking out familiar beats to add spice here and there, knowing that some things just work, and pretending otherwise would be foolish. “Evil Dead Rise” loves being an “Evil Dead” movie, but it’s not going to settle for just playing the greatest hits … even though it knows those notes well.
The most unnerving aspect of the film is introduced fast and furious: horny college students in a cabin are replaced by a charmingly dysfunctional family unit, whose home is invaded by demonic forces when the wrong book is opened and the wrong incantation recited (stop doing that, people). Soon, it’s mother against children, children against mother, and sibling against sibling as the flesh is torn asunder and household objects become weapons (cheese grater, anyone?). No soft edges here, no beating around the bush — Cronin goes hard fast and early. His movie means business, and he’s not above letting a family destroy itself to make that clear.