Evil Dead Rise, 2023.
Written and Directed by Lee Cronin.
Starring Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols, and Nell Fisher.
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.
Much like the Deadites, the Evil Dead franchise lay dormant (but not dead) for 21 years before Fede Álvarez’s visceral, propulsive 2013 soft reboot. Simply titled Evil Dead, it was a jolt to Sam Raimi’s iconic franchise that reinvigorated fans’ love for it after those two decades. Lee Cronin, then, has the task of living up to not just Raimi’s high bar, but Álvarez’s too, and whilst he might not reach the same heady heights as either director, his second feature film, Evil Dead Rise, remains a downright depraved, groovily gory fifth entry in this horror series.
Evil Dead Rise ties into the previous entries only by lore; after an earthquake cuts off an apartment block from the outside world, three children find a strange book and vinyl hidden in the car park basement. Older sibling Danny (Morgan Davies) belies his age, foolishly opening the book and playing the record, thus unleashing flesh-possessing demons. Cronin, who is also on writing duties, wastes no time in getting to the bloody thrills. The set-up is simple and effective, although the lore suffers slightly from a lack of depth. When the kids’ mother Ellie (a terrific Alyssa Sutherland) becomes possessed, it falls to her sister and their aunt, Beth (Lily Sullivan), to protect them. It is as difficult and dangerous as you’d expect facing multiple rabid, hellish, relentless demons.
Evil Dead Rise will please longtime fans with its intense gore (the film reportedly uses over 6,500 litres of fake blood), absurd hamminess, and terrific one-liners, but it will also seduce newcomers with its startling dynamism and unrelenting energy. Furthermore, Evil Dead Rise is wholly more scary than any previous entry in the series, finding a decent balance between absurdity and creepiness. There is a wonderful moment involving a leg and a cheesegrater, which is indicative of this fine tonal line Evil Dead Rise successfully treads.
Whereas the other films in the series are set in a single remote cabin setting – apart from Army of Darkness (1992) – Evil Dead Rise is situated in the aforementioned apartment block, somewhere so tantalisingly close to civilisation but just as cut off as an isolated woodland retreat. Like found footage classic Rec (2007), Cronin utilises this single, urban setting to great effect, drawing out possibilities from every nook and cranny of the flat and, in the film’s latter stages, the surrounding corridors, lift shaft, and car park. He even adds in throwbacks to classic horrors like The Shining, with a creepy bathtub moment and a particularly fantastic scene involving a glorious river of blood.
The Evil Dead series has never been overly concerned with complex plotting, but in the fifth entry, this mild issue inevitably becomes more noticeable. Evil Dead Rise too often feels like a procession of gruesome kills loosely strung together, which is entertaining but lacking in a defined structure. There is a slight predictability that really highlights its status as another entry in an ongoing franchise.
However, whilst Evil Dead Rise might not reinvent the demonic wheel, it will keep viewers satisfied with its consistently entertaining set pieces. Strong sound design – moments such as the clacking of teeth or munching of glass are wince-inducing – and a terrific physical performance from Sutherland are the yucky, spine-chilling icing on this harrowing, deranged cake.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
William Stottor – Follow me on Twitter