Movie Review: “Evil Dead Rise” is the horror movie we’ve been waiting for so far in 2023. It’s daring, gory, mean, and funny in a way only the “Evil Dead” movies can be. Sam Raimi has to be pleased with how Lee Cronin pays homage to a handful of the classics while still carving his own path.
There aren’t many horror franchises able to reinvent themselves as often as “Evil Dead” does while still maintaining relevancy and quality. Maybe it’s because Sam Raimi holds his creation so close to his heart that only a select few are able to take on the premise, or maybe it’s because the premise seems simple and malleable enough to make nearly anything work. It can shoot for the downright zany and ludicrous with “Evil Dead II” or “Army of Darkness,” or it can strive to be like Lee Cronin’s newest spin “Evil Dead Rise” – a movie so sick and twisted that you can’t help but give it its dues by the time the credits roll.
“Evil Dead Rise” may not be the most talked about horror release coming in 2023, but it sure is the most unique and will surely garner a strong word-of-mouth from hardcore fans of the genre. Not just because it manages to pay some subtle (and not-so-subtle) homages to the old-school pillars of the genre, but because it also comes up with some of the most inventive scenes of body horror and spine-tingling chills that I’ve seen in a nightmarish flick in quite some time.
The story follows a pretty straightforward narrative, as do all “Evil Dead” entities. Instead of taking place in an isolated cabin, “Evil Dead Rise” sets its sights on an apartment complex close to shuttering for good. Because of poor infrastructure, little maintenance, and a heavy earthquake that rattles through in the first leg of the film, single mother Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three children are trapped floors above the lobby with no way to make it down except a flickering elevator.
Unfortunately for the family, the earthquake releases a powerful book into the environment that spells doom for many of those living in the apartment building. What follows is an audacious and increasingly sinister takeover by the forces let out by the opening of the Necronomicon (the same book that unleashes hell in past “Evil Dead” films).
It’s hard to pick where to set my sights first in a review of “Evil Dead Rise” because it’s such an assaultive movie on your senses. It combines gothic voiceovers for those possessed with brutally nasty kills to create one of the meaner and gnarlier movies in the franchise. I was truly gobsmacked by what director Lee Cronin got away with doing in this film – especially considering how frequently it’s being advertised across live television and social media. I have a feeling many cineplexes are going to have walkouts due to how gruesome and overwhelming it can be at times.
“Evil Dead Rise” also has some thoughtful ideas about broken families and those living on the margins (two themes that I routinely find fascinating and engaging in movies, horror or otherwise). Ellie and Beth are two sisters both struggling with the relationships they’ve made up to this point in their lives, and how they can be caretakers for others given their circumstances. Ellie has three children that all seem like the antithesis of each other, even if they get along relative to standard relationships between siblings.
The movie shifts in the second half to become more about Beth, who reveals her pregnancy and struggles with the idea of trying to raise a child when she’s unsure of her own life choices. Lily Sullivan gives a powerful and vulnerable performance as a lost soul reconnecting with past relationships before all hell breaks loose. She cares heavily for Ellie’s youngest daughter Kassie. The young girl is played by Nell Fisher, and although I can’t speak much about parenting or subjecting your kids to certain experiences at specific ages – but bold move by Nell’s parents to allow her to be in a film where she nearly drowns in blood! Gotta start them at a young age!
There are some great odes to previous horror titans like “The Shining,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Fargo” (although obviously not horror), and many others. It wears its influences on its sleeves quite heavily, but not to a point where it is distracting. It carves out enough ideas and images to make “Evil Dead Rise” still feel shockingly original and refreshing. These images may or may not include an edible wine glass, a cheese grater, a pair of scissors, and one single eyeball.
I’m not sure where “Evil Dead Rise” will sit for me in terms of horror in 2023. I thought quite a bit about “Barbarian” during my screening for just how surprised I was that nearly everything was clicking for me. The movie has a great sense of pacing and confinement – nearly the entirety of “Evil Dead Rise” takes place in one apartment and in one night.
Everything about “Evil Dead Rise” feels perfectly crafted and fits snuggly with previous “Evil Dead” installments. Beth becomes a great successor to Bruce Campbell’s Ash, and the franchise seems to be in good hands with the creatives behind this new reimagining. If they do decide to move along with another movie, this is the type of reintroduction that gets me excited to see more.
“Evil Dead Rise” is now available to see in theaters
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“Evil Dead Rise” Cast and Credits
Lily Sullivan as Beth
Alyssa Sutherland as Ellie
Morgan Davies as Danny
Nell Fisher as Kassie
Gabrielle Echols as Bridget
Director: Lee Cronin
Writer: Lee Cronin
Cinematography: Dave Garbett
Editor: Bryan Shaw
Composer: Stephen McKeon
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