‘Evil Dead Rise’: Film Review- DC’s Take

If there was another horror franchise that could compare to Scream in terms of consistency, look no further than Evil Dead. Since back in 1981, who would’ve imagined a supernatural horror movie with a low budget directed by a young Sam Raimi would turn itself into a celebration of camp and scares? With four movies and a three-season television series to its name beforehand, there’s always one critical lesson to follow: If you ever see a creepy book hidden somewhere in a basement, don’t read it. All of them are equally entertaining, with 1987’s Evil Dead II considered the best by many, including me, and I watched that first before anything else in my late teen years. And just ten years ago this month, Fede Álvarez put his name on the map with his remake of Evil Dead. But even though that took itself more seriously than the original, I still throw it in the pile of the better horror remakes of the 2010s. The fifth and most recent entry, Evil Dead Rise, will continue in their footsteps by bringing the horror and camp for nostalgia’s sake. Fortunately, while not flawless, getting this series back is unquestionably a creepy experience.  

What’s the Story: Beth (Lily Sullivan) is a guitar tech who found out she’s pregnant. She visits to see her estranged older sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three children Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), and Kassie (Nell Fisher) at their high-rise apartment in Los Angeles, whom they’ll soon be kicked out of. In their attempt to make up for lost time and deal with how Ellie’s separated from her husband, their reunion is cut short when an earthquake hits the building, which creates a massive hole in the parking garage. Danny stumbles to see what’s underneath this vault, only to discover not a few vinyl records but the ancient Necronomicon Ex-Mortis (The Book of the Dead). After reading it and using his turntable to play these records backward, little does he know a voice unleashes a demonic being latches onto Ellie turning her into a possessed demon and threatening to kill those in her sight.

Following his directorial debut, The Hole in the Ground, writer/director Lee Cornin knows his way around the genre when tasked to continue an existing franchise like Evil Dead in a tight 97-minute runtime. In changing things from what we usually expected, the events aren’t taking place in a cabin in the woods but rather in an apartment building where it’s easy to assume their safety. But what happens when there’s nowhere to escape with the elevator not working and the stairwell nowhere to be found? This could only mean surviving by dawn. That alone is one of the few things Corin does a great job at keeping things separate from what the others have done prior, a similar darker atmosphere out, throwing in a few touches of dark humor for effect without the inclusion of Ash Williams to save the day.

There are a few callbacks and homages to those who’ll likely spot them and I caught on after, and that also includes other movies in the genre, but it still managed to be its own thing. However, this opens with a cabin sequence that sets the tone upfront and gives us one of my favorite title cards in a while that locked me in instantly. But what makes this more messed up than the others is that instead of having the characters be friends hanging around, this is focusing on a family dynamic with the mother turning evil, trying to kill her flesh and blood, which is the ultimate nightmare for any of them. It’s a case that made me feel terrible for this family who did nothing wrong and has to fear knowing a loved one wants their souls. A weird way of exploring motherhood, but I went along when it was creating chaos.

The acting from everybody might be the best out of all five. Do the characters make the most intelligent decisions? You already know the answer. Sutherland was awesome and fully committed to everything her character goes through when she eventually becomes a Deadite, more like a deadlier Jack Torrance in The Shining. She stays that way after about 20 minutes with an unreal transformation, thanks to the makeup work, with this version of her. When forced to care for her sister’s children, Lily Sullivan’s Beth excels as a mother figure and comes dangerously close to emulating the remake’s lead character, played by Jane Levy. Even the children are likable, which is uncommon in contemporary horror movies. Davies, Echols, and Fisher recognized the terror in front of them and comprehended the mission. The fact that this is Fisher’s first role makes it even more impressive.

It’ll be too say to call this a brutal film, but what Evil Dead installment isn’t? This shows off the blood and gore with the practical effects and creativity put into them, letting you know these Deadites are ruthless bastards. Bottom line: Skip bringing the kids unless you want to scar them for life. Nearly every vital moment keeps you glued to your seat, sensing that fear without resorting to predictable jump scares. After sitting through this, you won’t be able to look at a pair of scissors or a cheese grater the same way. Compared to the remake, it had more disturbing imagery that had me looking away from the screen. Evil Dead Rise is like that, but after rewatching the remake a few days prior, I squirmed more than here. 

This may hold a few surprises, and there could’ve explained why the Necronomicon was underneath a vault in the apartment building. But besides those flaws, I can see Evil Dead Rise as a worthy entry that’ll appeal to the traits of the original trilogy and the remake. Having this be released in theaters after they originally planned it to stream on HBO Max is one of the brightest calls Warner Bros. made that didn’t receive backlash because this one must be shown in a packed theater (only seven were in attendance). 

Evil Dead Rise is a thrilling, stand-alone entry that seamlessly fits into the well-known horror franchise in a bloody fashion. Lee Cronin delivers the goods through great suspense, claustrophobia, and unexpected connection for the characters, making me happy to be a fan still. If you’re one of those who’s never gotten into any of these or don’t have the stomach for tons of gore, going into this won’t persuade you in any way. To see what the future holds. Will this keep me up all night? Probably not, but I can rest knowing this will strike fans once more and have this hopeful feeling of another one coming our way. 

Where would I rank this with the rest of the franchise?

  • Evil Dead II
  • The Evil Dead
  • Evil Dead Rise
  • Evil Dead (2013)
  • Army of Darkness

Grade: [B]

Evil Dead Rise is now playing in theaters nationwide| Runtime: 97 Minutes| Rated R for strong bloody horror violence and gore, and some language| Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures/ New Line Cinema

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