Evil Dead Rise - New Release Review
Director: Lee Cronin
Starring: Alyssa Sutherland, Lily Sullivan, Morgan Davies, Nell Fisher
Written by: Lee Cronin
Produced by: Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell
Cinematography by: Dave Garbett
Original Score by: Stephen McKeon
A twisted tale of two estranged sisters whose reunion is cut short by the rise of flesh-possessing demons, thrusting them into a primal battle for survival as they face the most nightmarish version of family imaginable.
It's amazing how the idea of a haunted cabin in the woods has become such a cliché in the horror world. I guess it’s a primal fear of someone (or something) intruding in your private space while you’re situated alone, away from society. Many films have attempted this (Cabin Fever, Wrong Turn) and succeeded (Friday the 13th, Eden Lake) but no film series has come close to capturing the chaos and madness of 'The Evil Dead'. Sam Raimi and company brought an energy to cinema that hadn’t been seen before. Pure rage and carnage embodied in an invisible enemy, that turns friend into foe and brings the dead back to life. 'Evil Dead II' (1987) upped the ante, sending us back on a psychedelic trip through the wood, with a boomstick spinning, chainsaw welding Bruce Campbell. We’d see Campbell return once more to the big screen with 'Army of Darkness' (1992), taking a more comedic turn but still giving us fans more of what we loved from the series. Then the evil stopped. Sure, we had more Ash adventures in comic book/video game form, but people craved for another trip back to the cabin on the big screen.
Thankfully in 2013, with Raimi producing and Fede Alvarez directing, we got 'Evil Dead'. A semi-reboot/reimagining of the original film, that wasn’t loved by everyone but definitely had its fans (*cough* me.) Now in 2023, Evil returns but not to the cabin, this time to the top floor of a soon to be demolished apartment building. Irish director Lee Cronin (The Hole in the Ground) teams up with Raimi, Campbell and OG producer Rob Tapert to scare a whole new generation of deadite fans with 'Evil Dead Rise'.
In 'Rise' we meet Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three kids Danny, Bridget and Kassie (Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols and Nell Fisher) who are having an average night in their shitty top floor apartment. When Aunt Beth (Lily Sullivan) comes to stay and an L.A earthquake unearths an ancient evil beneath the apartment, the family must fight for their lives to survive until dawn. The story device in 'Rise' can be seen as both clever and underutilised at the same time. Even though it's not set in a cabin this time around, it’s still based in one main room. The idea of evil taking over a whole apartment block could be super fun, but here it’s localised to just the main apartment and its hallway. I would have loved to have seen more of the block going through hell; we do get to see some additional characters who live on the same floor as our heroes, but they are just cannon fodder.
The main cast all do a fantastic job, especially the kids. They’re put through a lot of gruesome set pieces and are often covered head to toe in fake blood and black goo. Lily Sullivan is great as Beth, giving us another strong female led in the franchise (don’t forget Jane Levy in the 2013 film!) Sullivan carries the film well and isn’t afraid to get stuck in when things get messy. Alyssa Sutherland as Ellie is the highlight of the film, showcasing that she can play a loving mum and a psycho deadite witch. It’s easy to see why they’ve used her face to market this film, as it’s terrifying to watch Sutherland contort her face and body into something otherworldly.
The blood and carnage in 'Rise' is unlike anything else you’ll see onscreen this year. When it gets going, it’s a proper thrill ride all the way through to the bloody end. The film also doesn’t hold back with who becomes a victim of the Evil, everyone is at risk of getting killed and the film isn’t afraid of pushing its 18-age rating. There are a few things I really didn’t like about the film and most of them stem from its script. In the first 20 minutes, there’re a few story beats that just felt like drama for dramas sake and didn’t actually add to the overall plot. I don’t mind building out characters in a horror movie to raise the stakes in the story, but as soon as the bloodshed starts, I felt these beats were just dropped. There’s also a few set-piece set ups that felt way too convenient. It’s less Chekhov’s gun and more Chekhov’s Army. More subtlety would have been nice, but I know how dumb I look asking for subtlety in an 'Evil Dead' film. The opening scene of the film also didn’t sit with me. I won’t spoil it here, but I kind of wish it had been moved to the end of the film because it sort of lessens the stakes of the whole movie we are about to see.
Even though the film has some aspects I didn’t fully enjoy, doesn’t mean that 'Evil Dead Rise' didn’t have me clapping and cheering. It’s full of easter eggs to the other movies, including one that makes all of the films in the series now canon (fans will know it when they hear it.) Does it sometimes play like the Evil Dead’s Greatest Hits? Yes, and I'll have more of it please. It’s not in the same vein as 'Evil Dead II' or 'Army of Darkness', it’s more in line with the original and the 2013 film, and that’s fine with me. If you’re a newbie or a die hard fan, there’s something here for everybody and when I say something, I mean gallons of blood, dismemberments and ancient evil skinbound books. Blood drenched, bone crunching fun from beginning to end. Perfect family night in the cinema.
- Adam Neeson
'Evil Dead Rise' opens in cinemas on April 21st