In 1981, director Sam Raimi headed out to the backwoods of Tennessee with a few buddies to make a low-budget indie pic that would change both their lives and those of horror film enthusiasts everywhere. Since then, the Evil Dead world has been thriving. There have been sequels, a remake, and a boisterous TV series (starring fan fave Bruce Campbell) that has let loose upon the Earth more Deadites, Kandarian demons, and Sumarian Books of the Dead than you can shake a chainsaw at. And now, in the year of our lord 2023, we have the new chapter in the series, Evil Dead Rise, which promises enough carnage to make previous excursions look like kiddie romps. So does it make good on that promise? And does it tell a compelling story? Yep…
Written and directed by Lee Cronin (The Hole in the Ground), Evil Dead Rise takes Raimi’s Deadites from rural cabins to an apartment building in Los Angeles where a strange yet oddly familiar book is unearthed yet again. The story follows Beth (Lily Sullivan) as she visits her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three kiddos in their dilapidated home. Newly abandoned by her husband and facing eviction, Beth isn’t doing too hot when her eldest son Danny (Morgan Davies) discovers an old bank vault in the basement of their building, but once he excavates a book bound in human skin and a few dusty recordings of incantations, things really get messy.
The family must evade Ellie’s new appetite for souls, all while the Book of the Dead is looking to increase its numbers. Evil Dead Rise’s claustrophobic atmosphere is conjured by the close quarters on screen. There’s limited space to run to once mommy starts showing her love using soldering irons, with only a few rooms and no electricity.
The cast sells the blood-soaked outing with their strong performances, particularly Sutherland as Ellie. Once evil takes hold, her jerky movements, unflinching stare, and commitment to absolutely annihilating her own offspring is the perfect combination of off-putting and entertaining. Davies, Gabrielle Echols, and Nell Fisher as her children also deserve praise for their ability to not only handle the material, but avoid the pitfalls of becoming kid cliches often seen in horror.
Evil Dead Rise offers scalpings, stabbings, serrated attacks, dismemberments, mutilations, and every type of horror imaginable with a kitchen appliance. The film gets imaginative with its kills while paying homage to its much beloved predecessors. Pulling directly from Raimi’s bag of tricks, the film follows the Evil Dead handbook faithfully, including his signature lighting fast zooms, extreme close ups galore, shaky framed shots, and enough fake blood to legitimately worry about the mental well being of the cast and crew. The end result is a film that meticulously fits within the Evil Dead mythos and aids in its evolution as well.
For casual film fans, Evil Dead Rise is an effective if over-the-top horror experience, but to Evil Dead fans and horror hounds, it’s an unadulterated joyride and a love letter to the Deadite forebears. Cronin recreates the creepy cinema experience of the first Evil Dead while fashioning his own, unique film. The callbacks, one-liners and grisy attacks we expect are blended with exciting set pieces ideas that maintain the campy tone of Raimi’s original cabin in the woodssplatterfest. The end result is an instant horror classic that fans will want to see rise again and again.
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