Evil Dead Rise Review – A Gleefully Violent, Sickeningly Twisted and Torturous Film

The Evil Dead franchise is one that has been through a number of interesting iterations through its time in the pop culture zeitgeist. Beginning in 1981 with Sam Raimi’s impeccable trilogy of The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, audiences were treated to the groovy Ash Williams’ experience against evil, through the bloody violence of present day and middle age evil. In time, there was a soft reboot in Fede Álvarez’ Evil Dead that grossed out the audiences of 2013 through its brutal terror. From 2015 to 2018, Ash tore through hoards on the small screen in Ash vs Evil Dead, which served as a direct sequel to Raimi’s trilogy. Thrown in the mix, for good measure, were a number of video games, comic books and even a rock musical stage play through the early 2000s to late 2010s; all solidifying Ash as a cultural icon.

With such a strong IP, it was only a matter of time before audiences were once again thrown into the world of Evil Dead. Originally destined for a streaming-only release and instead making its way to the big screen, now comes Lee Cronin’s franchise entry: Evil Dead Rise.

Written and directed by Cronin; and starring Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols and Nell Fisher, Evil Dead Rise tells the story of Beth (Sullivan) as she visits her sister Ellie (Sutherland), who is struggling to raise her three children Danny (Davies), Bridget (Echols) and Kassie (Fisher) in their Los Angeles apartment. During their reunion, however, things are interrupted when a strange book is found hidden in the depths of the building, which unleashes a seemingly unstoppable evil that begins to terrorize the family.

With no clear ties to Raimi’s trilogy, or Álvarez’, Evil Dead Rise is a rather standalone film within the franchise, aside from the use of the Book of the Dead (and a cheeky cameo for good measure). Through this choice, Cronin and crew are able to take inspiration from the original films, while adding their own twist on things. First and foremost, the film is filled with plenty of gut-wrenching gore, over-the-top violence and a sadistic twist of comedy, staying true to the film’s source. Crafting some terrifying imagery in the film’s (mostly) singular location, Cronin manages to bombard the audience with deep cuts of kitchen utensil violence, followed quickly by cruel, demonic taunts that constantly catch audiences off guard in their cold-blooded hilarity.

With committed performances from the film’s cast, especially in Lily Sullivan and Alyssa Sutherland, these characteristics are all heightened and made seamless for most of the film’s rather breezy run time. While Sullivan brings a sense of instinctual care to Beth, Sutherland serves a physical performance of contorting body parts and tantalizing character interactions through the possessed Ellie. Also shining are the children, with Morgan Davies bringing a feeling of elderly sibling love to Danny, while Gabrielle Echols brings a snarky wit to middle child Bridget. Really shining, however, is first time actress Nell Fisher as Kassie, who manages to hold her own next to her co-stars, with intense moments of fear as well as stand-up moments of power as the kids navigate their way through this endless nightmare.

Carrying the tone of the film is Stephen McKeon’s head ringing score of deep drones and high strings that maintain a sense of dread throughout. Dave Garbett’s photography also lends a hand to the grimy nature of the film, with its low light apartment building and stormy LA night, which helps accentuate the brilliant, yet simple production design. Cronin’s direction really ties these aspects with his methodical attention to detail. Establishing an understanding of the film’s location, as well as crafting well thought out scares, the audience never loses their placement within the chaos of a scene. Whether in moments of pure terror or tension fueled sequences, Cronin ensures that the audience understands where they are in any given moment, which gives a sense of dread to each scene, never knowing what might be around a new corner or what may be lurking in the air vents above.

While Cronin manages to build tension well and deliver great payoffs in droves of blood and gore, made even better by the amazing makeup and visual effects work, where Evil Dead Rise unfortunately falls short is in its feel. Where previous installments of this franchise have had a sense of real anger and glee in what torturous events their characters have endured, Rise feels like it’s missing that true grit nature. Although it has a loud anger to it, it never feels inherently angry or mean towards its characters. While this doesn’t wholly take away from the film, it is definitely its biggest weakness, especially when comparing it to the films that precede it.

There is also a bit left to be desired in the story that the film is trying to set up and deliver on. Although these characters are quite strong and the actors bring their all to each and every moment, Cronin tries to build a bit more emotion and backstory to their relationships, which ultimately deters from the true nature of an Evil Dead film. And while the film isn’t without its emotional moments, it does feel as though there is a missing piece that didn’t quite click into place, which does hurt the tone of the film.

By the time the credits roll, however, Evil Dead Rise successfully delivers on what it set out to serve. It’s gleefully violent, sickeningly twisted and torturous in its own sadistic way. Paying homage to Sam Raimi’s original trilogy while also comfortably standing on its own, Lee Cronin manages to make a case for reboots done right. Filled with great performances across the board and bloody gore that is sure to scratch the itch for any horror fan, Evil Dead Rise is definitely one to add to the Halloween watch list.

Director: Lee Cronin

Cast: Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Morgan Davies

Writer: Lee Cronin

Blake Ison

My name is Blake Ison and I am a film fan based in Brisbane. I have no professional knowledge of the industry, but love discussing all things to do with the medium. I’m a nerd through and through, so I have a major soft spot for all things genre. Hope you enjoy my ramblings!

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