Written and directed by Lee Cronin, Evil Dead Rise is a brutal and unapologetic addition to the classic horror franchise.
The Evil Dead franchise holds a special place in the hearts of many horror fans. The excessive gore, comedic elements, and everyone’s favorite himbo, Bruce Campbell, turned a micro-budget film into a scary movie staple back in the 80s. Now over 40 years later, The Evil Dead has kept a stronghold on the genre with Fede Alvarez’s horrifying 2013 remake—simply called Evil Dead—a short-lived TV series on Starz, video games, and even a musical. It’s safe to say it’s an excellent time to be a Dead Head, and this new installment is no exception.
Written and directed by Lee Cronin, Evil Dead Rise follows Beth (Lily Sullivan), a traveling guitar technician who seeks out her sister, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), for advice after a positive pregnancy test. Her sister and her nieces and nephew welcome her with open arms even though it’s clear that Beth hasn’t been around in a while.
When an earthquake causes the parking garage floor to collapse, Ellie’s kids, Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), and Kassie (Nell Fisher), discover an underground vault filled with crosses safeguarding a mysterious book. And, of course, like any teenager in a horror movie, Danny grabs it and accidentally unleashes pure evil onto his family.
“Don’t let it take my babies.”
Evil Dead Rise switches out the remote cabin for a high-rise city apartment that might as well be isolated in the forest. Because the building is scheduled to be torn down, only a few occupants remain, making it a prime location for demonic shenanigans. The film hammers down on the claustrophobic feel, with every room and hallway feeling like it’s caving in on itself. The lack of lighting also adds to the ambience despite having its frustrating moments.
Where the Evil Dead series really thrived was its clever use of gore and kills (Alvarez’s adaptation was an especially stomach-churning time). Unfortunately, that innovation doesn’t fully come through in Rise. In fact, the kills are weirdly restrained. There isn’t any in-depth look at arms getting dismembered bit by bit or someone’s face getting cut off by a razor. There is a fun little bit with a cheese grater, but other than that, it’s pretty tame. Cronin tries to cover up the lack of creativity with buckets and buckets of blood, but you can tell something’s missing.
That said, the cast is more well-rounded here than in previous films, but that’s not saying all that much. There’s a little more meat to both Beth and Ellie’s characters, with them approaching single motherhood differently. It doesn’t go very deep, but it’s more than what previous films have given us. Sutherland is the standout of the ensemble, not only because of her dynamic with her family but also because of her portrayal as a deadite. Her body language is so unnerving, and accompanied by the stellar sound design, you’d think her bones were actually breaking.
Evil Dead Rise isn’t the best of the series or even the second or third best, but the meshing of new and familiar elements makes for a bloody good time. Cronin knows how to instill tension and keep the audience on edge. Hopefully his next feature will have even more life to it.
Evil Dead Rise is now playing in theaters. Watch the trailer here.
Images courtesy of Warner Bros.
EVIL DEAD RISE - 7/10