"Evil Dead Rise" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Lee Cronin's 2023 film, "Evil Dead Rise", seemed like a really interesting concept. It wasn't a reboot, but rather a continuation from what Sam Raimi created over 40 years ago; Raimi and original star, Bruce Campbell are executive producing; the visionary producers of the horror classic returned to tell this new tale of evil. On top of it all, it seems the most different of all the other movies, with the exception of "Army of Darkness". It seemed like it really had everything going for it, and thankfully, it delivered on everything that longtime fans from the franchise would want.
The plot takes place in modern-day Los Angeles, where Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) lives in a small, dingy apartment with her three kids - Danny (Morgan Davis), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), and Kassie (Nell Fisher) - after her husband and the kids' father left them. When Ellie's estranged sister Beth (Lily Sullivan) comes to visit them, the reunion is cut short when Danny accidentally plays a recording of the Book of the Dead, allowing the Deadites to infiltrate the apartment complex and possess his mother.
Now forced to team up against their loved one, Beth and the three kids must figure out a way to free Ellie from the curse upon her, or try to get out alive. When everything seems to go wrong and Ellie is there around every turn, it seems like the odds are very grim. What ensues is a terrifying, bloody good time as this film delivers everything the audience wants. Whether it is gnarly kills or blood-churning thrills, this film truly almost has it all.
I would go as far as to say this installment of the Evil Dead franchise has the best story so far in any of the film. I have mentioned in the reviews for the other films that the filmmakers seem more focused on scaring the audience and making the film as bloody as possible, rather than crafting a story and characters the audience can appreciate. For example, what other reason why would we root for Ash besides his badass-ness and his cheesy one-liners? The movie doesn't really set up his character or backstory until the third film, when even then it doesn't do much. This film, however, they set up the character so well. We can see the dynamic between the family, and see how it is affected by Beth's arrival. Because of this, it makes us appreciate and like the characters immensely, making the possession scenes much sadder and harder to watch.
When we get into the horror elements of the movie, I think it does extremely well. Sutherland does a fantastic job of playing both Ellie and the possessed Deadite, radiating a terrifying energy for over an hour. Her character is one that could be anywhere, making her zombie-like performance so much more terrifying. Besides Jane Levy's Mia in the 2013 reboot, I think Sutherland gives one of the best performances. I do also enjoy the performances from the rest of the family, as they are able to portray fear and emotion very well to the audience.
However, the film does start to lose steam between the second and third acts, trying to find its way across before reaching the climactic finale. It does drag and makes the viewer feel like the movie is not sure which way it wants to head before they deliver such a great horror conclusion that any fan of this long-running franchise will love.
In terms of gore bloodshed, this movie definitely delivers. It may not be as much as the bloodshed present in the reboot 10 years earlier, but it still contains a nice amount of gory violence, including a chainsaw-wheeling scene that would make Ash Campbell say Groovy. There's a little part of me that wishes there was a tiny bit more blood throughout the movie, but I'm still pretty pleased with what Cronin and his team were able to deliver.
Financially, this movie is the biggest success of the franchise, and I can honestly see why. It's great in terms of story and horror, and I really did like a lot of what the filmmakers did here. Due to the success of this film, I predict there will be more Evil Dead movies to come; if they're anything like what Cronin delivered here, I honestly can't wait to see what they do next.