Evil Dead Rise
A still from Evil Dead Rise

‘Evil Dead Rise’: Movie Review

  • Release Date: – 21/04/2023
  • Cast: – Alyssa Sutherland, Lily Sullivan, Gabrielle Echols, Morgan Davies
  • Director: – Lee Cronin   

I went into Evil Dead Rise with a lot of expectations since its previous instalment was so very good and the trailers for this film sent shivers down my spine. The producers for this film are the ones who made the originals and they evidently cared a lot for the franchise and the sensibility that was handed down from the original films and what made those films so popular. The Evil Dead films were known more for the gore and macabre that they brought to the screen than the more nuanced and cerebral horror elements that made films like Conjuring, Insidious, and Exorcist as terrifying as they were.

So, when the initial reviews for Evil Dead Rise came out and most people were calling it the best “HORROR” film to have come out in years, I was even more excited to watch the film and understand if it had taken a different approach to the tried and tested formulae of the franchise that has been working for the audiences since the first film hit theatres in the 1980s after watching this film in a nearly packed local theatre, I can safely say that it is indeed a rehash of everything that we have loved and appreciated about the previous Evil Dead films but it is all executed with a snazzy confidence and updated personality. The sensibility, horror elements, gore and the setting are upgraded to appeal to the new generation even though everything about it still remains faithful to the original films.

The story revolves around a single mother, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) living in a dilapidating apartment with her three children. Her sister Beth (Lily Sullivan) comes to visit her for emotional support after she learns that she is pregnant but is confused about her future course of action. Apparently, Beth also expects some much-needed advice from her sister on the matter. However, things take a brutal turn for the family when a sudden earthquake exposes the apartment to a structure that holds the Necronomicon. Ellie’s son finds the book and unleashes the flesh-possessing demon that then goes on a rampage across the building letting loose such horror that even a strong-willed woman like Beth finds hard to digest. What happens next is what the film is all about.

Evil Dead Rise is a treat for the fans of the Evil Dead franchise as it is laced with every troupe that made the original films a raging hit with the audiences. All other films of the franchise unfolded inside deserted, creepy forests terrifying audiences with the idea that there was no one to come to the aid of the characters. Evil Dead Rise unfolds in the middle of the city on a high rise that evidently has more people who could have come to the rescue of the characters. Interestingly, the director Lee Cronin builds his story and the screenplay in such an effective and believable manner that the characters in the film feel lonelier than the victims of the previous films felt inside a forest. While the characters here are stuck inside a floor of a building with a raging demon wreaking havoc, they are nowhere near any help. The electricity is out, the telephone is not working, the other occupants on the same floor are brutally killed off and there are no means for the characters to escape from the floor.

One of the iconic scenes in all previous Evil Dead films was where the characters try to make it out of the forest but find the only bridge leading up to it is broken or washed away by a flood resulting from rain. The same is replaced here with the breaking down of stairs and the malfunctioning of the lift. Another memorable aspect of the previous films was how the first possession happened and how an evil tree used its branches and vines to rape a major character and possess her in the process. This is replaced here with the suggested rape inside a lift with the electric wires replacing the branches and vines but serving the same purpose. It must be added that the possession here feels no less haunting and I was absolutely terrified by it.

A large chunk of the credit for any horror film’s success must be given to the actors because they are tasked to sell complex emotions even when they are covered by grotesque makeup. These performances may look superficial but they are incredibly difficult to pull off convincingly. One also needs to keep in mind the subtility of it. Then there is also the thing about underplaying the part which is infinitely worse and destroys the horror elements of any film. It is really hard to hit the right balance between the perfect pitch for a role in horror films. This is where the actors of Evil Dead Rise excel and elevate the film to a different level.

Alyssa Sutherland was absolutely brilliant in the film. Not only was her possession breathtakingly brought to life but her manner of transformation from a beautiful, intelligent and sweet mother to this raging demon was horrifyingly brought out on the screen by one of the most heartfelt renditions of a character that I have seen in a horror film in a long time. I was particularly impressed by the little lulls in between all the mayhem when she is able to convey the true horrors of demoniac possession through her interactions with different characters. The scene where she peeks through the keyhole and convinces her little daughter to open the door for her to come in was one scene that I will remember for a long time. Overall, this film wouldn’t have been the same had it not been for Sutherland’s sensational performance.

Lily Sullivan as the protagonist of the film was wonderful. She too maintains the perfect balance between fear, anger, horror and also the sad realization of the fact that she has been made to do such horrific things to her near and dear ones when she would not do them to her worst enemies. Sullivan is able to sell this aspect of the horror through her expressions when she is shown killing members of the family who are possessed over the course of the film. This was one of the most important aspects of the film that her character was able to bring out and this instantaneously enhanced the impact and effectivity of the film.

Evil Dead Rise is a little less horrific and violent than its predecessor from 2013. Having said that it still has enough bloodshed and horrific violence to satisfy the most ardent fans of Evil Dead fans. There is a lot of blood on display and most of it is done with conviction and horrifying impact. There is a hybrid creature that is created out of all the characters that are possessed at the end of the film. While this character was not captured in a way that would reveal its entire form but it was shown intelligently enough to send shivers down my spine. I felt that this instalment of the franchise was looking to somehow tie in more classical horror elements into its storytelling and take a slight departure from its original gore and macabre beginnings. As the franchise develops this might just prove to be a great idea and can in many ways bring audiences the best of both worlds. I cannot help but add the fact that this film has one of the best title reveals of all time.

It might sound odd but Evil Dead Rise is beautiful to look at. While beautiful cinematography isn’t something that we associate with gorefests but this film has gorgeous cinematography throughout. The cinematography also does a lot to amplify the mood of the film and plays an important role in making the audiences feel a certain way. The editing is pitch-perfect. I just loved the portion where the surviving characters see through the keyhole the devastation that the demon unleashes on the people in the building. In this scene, the director shows exactly as much was necessary to show and he does so with such visual flair that it would be a vision that will come back to haunt me from time to time.   

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Evil Dead Rise is not the kind of horror film that will scare you out of your wits. There aren’t any jump scares. The story takes an expected path. You can see the horror elements coming from a mile away but still, it is so well executed and the story moves at such a breakneck speed that you will be constantly engaged with the narrative. The characters are fleshed out just enough and the acting is so good that the actors are able to envelop our senses with their performances and make us care for them. The violence and gore are plentiful and it will be enough to satisfy the die-hard Evil Dead fans. However, as was the case with previous Evil Dead Films, there isn’t any depth, character development or temperamental horror here. What we get here is a self-aware and smart gorefest that knows what it is and plays to its strengths. I had a ball with this film and will always appreciate it for what it was.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)  

The views expressed in this article are that of the reviewer and do not reflect EastMojo’s position.

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