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Film Review: ‘Evil Dead Rise’ is a Lean and Mean New Installment in the Horror Franchise

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

There are two types of Evil Dead projects. There are the serious ones and there are the ones with their tongues planted in their bloody cheeks. Now, the serious gore outweighs the silly gore, but there’s an interesting middle ground to be found with Evil Dead Rise. It’s not meant to be funny, but there’s a sense of fun and play, as well as elevated stakes, on display that make it one of the better installments in the franchise to date. Lean, mean, and ruthlessly efficient, this film has teeth.

Evil Dead Rise is a cut above due to the acting, the practical effects, and the impactful story that is far more than just an excuse for viscera. Now, if it had just been that, few would have been upset. However, the reason this flick is getting such a strong reception is that it aims higher. Without ever ignoring what’s been locked into the DNA of the franchise, the creativity here goes in a new and exciting direction.

Warner Bros.

After a gnarly little opening, we flash back 24 hours to meet sisters Beth (Lily Sullivan) and Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland). The former is a weary roadie, estranged from her sibling, who is a single mother raising three children in a condemned apartment building. When Beth shows up unannounced at Ellie’s door, she’s greeted with a bit of a cold shoulder. Her nieces and nephew, however, are eager to see their aunt. Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), Danny (Morgan Davies), and Kassie (Nell Fisher) are working through their dad leaving, but are looking forward to this visit. Then, an earthquake hits, opening up a hole in the parking garage that reveals none other than the Necronomicon. Kids being kids, Danny takes it home and opens it up, bringing up the rise of flesh-possessing demons, who begin by taking over Ellie.

Prowling the building during a rainstorm and and hunting her children. Ellie is ready to bring chaos. It’s up to Beth, thrust into the role of maternal protector, to save the day. Of course, that will require lots of bloodshed for all involved. In this confined space, getting away from Ellie is going to prove near impossible, especially as she continues to play mind-games with her children.

Warner Bros.

There’s some solid acting on display here, with the family at the core of the story being well-developed characters. The trio of kids are very effective, with each of Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols, and Nell Fisher showing no signs of being coddled. Lily Sullivan and Alyssa Sutherland are the highlights, however, displaying both maternal love and world-weariness. Plus, when the deadite situation begins, Sutherland becomes incredibly creepy. Supporting players in this small cast include Jayden Daniels, Mirabai Pease, Anna-Maree Thomas, and Mark Mitchinson, plus a few others.

Filmmaker Lee Cronin makes this a real calling card. Cronin has a truly effective sense of tension, how to use gore, and how to ratchet up the terror. It’s not just his direction, which uses plenty of old-fashioned blood and guts, but his writing as well, which invests you in the family dynamics. Evil Dead Rise works way better than you’d expect, with Cronin a bit reason why. I can’t wait to see what he does next in the genre.

Evil Dead Rise should please fans of the series in a major way, while potentially bring in a whole new crowd. By taking it seriously and making it more of a film than just an excuse to print money, the quality is a cut above. Horror fans, prepare for a bloody good time!

SCORE: ★★★


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Written by Joey Magidson

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