Evil Dead Rise (2023) Review!!

Synopsis – 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.

My Take – It’s hard to believe that the Evil Dead franchise has been around for more than four decades. Released in 1981, the Sam Raimi (Spider-Man trilogy) directorial, starring Bruce Campbell as the iconic Ash Williams, was originally only a modest hit, but with time found more and more audience who praised the campy and gore tone of the film, raising the status of the film to a cult classic.

Even its two equally modestly successful sequels, Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992), found equal reception.

However, the franchise only came back to prominence with the release of the director Fede Álvarez‘s re-imagining titled Evil Dead (2013), which threw out the camp in favor of atmosphere and bloody good scares.

While the original series found itself continuing in the form of the acclaimed Starz series, Ash vs Evil Dead, which ran for three seasons from 2015 to 2018 and captured the same deliciously gory and darkly funny spirit that made Bruce Campbell and filmmaker Sam Raimi‘s original trilogy so unique in the genre.

Though Álvarez‘s excellent feature deserved a sequel, this latest installment sees Lee Cronin (The Hole in the Ground) take over the reins as both writer and director, who not only continue the tradition with plenty of blood and scares, but also moves the setting from the woods to an apartment building in Los Angeles, allowing the deadites to bring their usual form of terror.

Thankfully, despite the change in scenery, the film not only meets expectations, but mostly exceeds them in every way imaginable, delivering pretty much everything fans of the series have come to expect.

Personally, I found this one to be the goriest, most intense, ruthless and mean-spirited film in the franchise, with the makeup and sound department especially going above and beyond to bring fans a hell of a bloody ride. All the while maintaining the essence of the 2013 film with moments reminiscent of the 1981 film and its 1987 sequel.

Even with the absence of Ash Williams, this fifth film is an extraordinary and brutal installment that makes it clear that the Evil Dead is still a franchise with a lot of potential.

The story follows Beth (Lily Sullivan), a guitar technician, who upon discovering that she is pregnant heads over to her older sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), who lives at a Los Angeles apartment complex, which happens to be situated over the site of an old bank, to fulfill her long overdue visit. When she arrives, Beth is shocked to discover that Ellie’s husband of many years has left her alone to raise their kids – Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and Kassie (Nell Fisher).

But as the kids head out to pick up and return with pizza, so the adults can talk, an earthquake opens up a hole in the building’s garage. Discovering a tomb inside, Danny unearths the dreaded third volume of the Naturom Demonto, and brings it back to the apartment along with some recordings from 1923 that he plays and unknowingly unleashing something ancient. Forcing Beth and the family to fight for their lives against the mother of all evil.

Beginning with a thrilling opening sequence in a cabin in the woods, which is followed by the revealing of the title card, the film quickly settles into a gore fest. Here, director Lee Cronin does a truly swell job of capturing the frenzied, over-the-top brand of horror that is unique to the franchise. The pacing, with a steady buildup of tension that explodes into a frenzied climax, is just right for an Evil Dead flick.

Moving the gruesome action to a new location was a smart decision, but that’s not the only thing that sets this one apart as director Cronin wisely gives us time to get to know the characters (to some extent, at least) before the carnage begins, and their family dynamic allows us to become so much more invested than we would have been if it was another group of interchangeable teens being massacred.

The wit and humor that director Raimi and Campbell brought to past incarnations is in relatively short supply here. The film rather relies upon lots of jump scares and gruesome makeup effects, as well as the prospect of Ellie’s possessed form trying to do in her kids. That includes her very-young daughter, a semi-distasteful element even by the standards of the genre. The 97-odd minutes pass in a jiffy, with each scene building upon the last to create a terrifying and pulse-pounding experience.

In the spirit of the franchise, the film also manages to deliver some truly impressive practical effects, with a greater reliance on old-school techniques rather than CGI. Of course, it just wouldn’t be an Evil Dead film without gore, and this one has oodles of it. Slashing, cutting, and decapitating are all here, ready to be witnessed without any shying away from the camera.

Twisting bodies in ungodly ways, ripping out eyeballs, and using a cheese grater in the worst possible way, director Cronin makes an indelible mark on the horror genre. It’s not for the faint of heart, or for the squeamish. You need to know going into this film, that there is going to be a lot of blood and a lot of gore.

Performance wise, Alyssa Sutherland absolutely killed it. It is understandable that her image is used liberally in the film’s marketing. She fully embraces the role, bringing a sense of menace and otherworldly possession that is both frightening and captivating. Lily Sullivan too does an amazing job as someone trying to take down the horrid monster who is determined to murder her and the kids.

Nell Fisher infuses innocence in an otherwise dark film, while Morgan Davies and Gabrielle Echols are effective in their roles. On the whole, ‘Evil Dead Rise’ is a constantly gory and terrifying horror flick that makes for a tremendous addition to the franchise.

Directed –

Starring – Alyssa Sutherland, Lily Sullivan, Morgan Davies

Rated – R

Run Time – 97 minutes

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