Evil Dead Rise (2023) is a sadistic, blood-soaked, bloody good time

Following a 2013 reboot and a 2015 sequel series, the Evil Dead franchise has been revived with yet another reboot, Evil Dead Rise, this time leaving behind the ‘cabin in the woods’ trope and moving to the big city. It follows an estranged family whose reunion is cut short when flesh-eating deadites begin to wreak havoc, all within the confines of a small L.A. apartment.

Helmed by writer/director Lee Cronin, this new spin on an existing property is exactly what the Evil Dead franchise needed. Fede Alvarez’s terrifying 2013 reboot was still exceptional, but the fresh vibe this entry brings could be the beginning of a new batch of sequels as oppose to more one-off resets. I can say with absolute certainty that longtime fans and newcomers alike are going to love the mesmerising bloodfest that is Evil Dead Rise. It brilliantly captures the brutal body horror and lightly-cheesy comedic charm that has made the franchise the success that it is, while capitalising on the claustrophobic nature of the new setting. Much like Fede’s reboot, there’s a much greater focus on the horror over the comedy, and it pays off beautifully. There’s copious amounts of blood and gruesome violence throughout, which is exactly what people are paying to see.

The horror isn’t just limited to blood and gore – there’s a spine-chilling claustrophobic feel that stems from being trapped within the confines of an apartment. By filming in cramped spaces and utilising lots of very tight shots, Lee Cronin continuously ramps up the tension to put you on edge. The film gets exponentially more terrifying, horrifying and bloodier as the deadite presence is steadily amplified. That may not sound too impressive as horror films usually go for the crazy third act, eclipsing anything that came before it, but they usually lose a bit of that gripping tension in the process. The steady rate at which the tension in this film amplifies is damn impressive – a testament to Lee Cronin, whose filmography I’m not familiar with.

As much as I loved this movie in the end, it didn’t start off as good as I’d hoped, and that had me concerned. The cold open sequence felt more like a cheap fan film homage to the original Evil Dead or a result of studio interference. It doesn’t add anything to the film story-wise and isn’t even that memorable of a horror sequence. The decision to open this way gives me the impression someone might not have had a tonne of faith in the change of location, thus deciding to include something a little more familiar for fans. Thankfully, this opening is short lived – once the main narrative kicks into gear, it’s a non-stop ride of brutality, blood and deadite goodness.

I should note that this isn’t a hollow shell of film that’s just focused on delivering scares. There’s a solid character-focused narrative that weaves in heavy themes of motherhood from beginning to end. I found myself liking the bulk of the characters and getting increasingly weary as the story puts them in precarious situations against the deadites. Speaking of the deadites, the franchise’s trademark cheesy comedy creeps in through the sadistic nature of these soul-sucking demons. Their wildly horrific and perverted quotes are both uncomfortably funny and terrifying at the same time. These moments are very well delivered as they don’t lighten the tone or feel particularly silly, they simply play into the outrageously evil nature of the deadites.

There are two standout performances that each contribute something completely different to the film. Firstly, Lily Sullivan is awesome as the lead heroine. I haven’t seen much of her in other films, but I really hope I see more of her going forward. Not only is she capable of kicking ass when necessary, but she also brilliantly portrays the vulnerabilities of her character in a way that makes her very likeable and relatable. I love how the core theme of motherhood influences Lily’s performance, giving the character a certain tenderness to combat her hardened exterior. Then there’s Alyssa Sutherland’s truly chilling performance, playing into the wildly sadistic nature of the film and enhancing the themes of motherhood in the polar opposite way to Lily Sullivan.

In the end, Evil Dead Rise is a brilliant reboot, effectively retaining all the qualities that makes Evil Dead what it is while shifting the setting to something new and unseen. In my eyes, the only way to definitively improve the film would be to remove the cold open and focus entirely on the main narrative. Otherwise, I have no complaints – it’s a glorious bloodfest from beginning to end that doesn’t skimp on brutality, with memorable moments that’ll stick in people’s minds for years to come. It’s both refreshing and rewarding for fans, while pushing the franchise forward for new horror die-hards to enjoy.



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