Evil Dead Rise is showing in cinemas nationwide from Friday, 21st April.
Since Sam Raimi’s feature directorial debut with The Evil Dead in 1981, the franchise he started has had a lasting impact on the horror genre. From the shoestring budget of its birth to its universal cult status today, audiences have waited patiently since 2013 to see where the cinematic franchise would take them next. Now they have the answer, as Lee Cronin (The Hole in the Ground) takes to the director’s chair with a gruesome, bloody and nerve-shredding new outing.
Beth (Lily Sullivan) is a musician who has just returned to Los Angeles to see her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her kids, Danny, Kassie and Bridget, in the small high-rise flat they call home. However, not long after arriving, the family reunion is shaken to its core by an earthquake that puts everyone at risk, especially the kids in the car park who have just collected take-out pizza. As the kids return to their feet following the quake, Danny is intrigued to discover a gaping hole in the parking lot, with what looks like a hidden library underneath.
Never one to turn down the opportunity for adventure, Danny climbs down into the old, dusty room, where he discovers an ancient book bound in human flesh with four vinyl records. Most of us would leave that book and those LPs right there, but curiosity gets the best of Danny as he brings them into the safety of the apartment. I am sure you know the rest; it’s an Evil Dead movie, after all!
To this day, the Evil Dead movies remain the gold standard in horror comedy; the ominous atmosphere and creepy makeup coupled with deliciously dark humour. However, Evil Dead Rise largely plays it straight. This may prove off-putting to those who like the oddity and campiness of the previous films. Yet, given just how tense and hauntingly crafted this film is, the choice to forgo comedy in favour of devilishly crafted horror was incredibly smart.
While it may not take place in the traditional cabin surrounded by woods, Evil Dead Rise cleverly replaces this with a small inner city apartment, its hallways, central lift and car park. Here Evil Dead Rise generates an incredible sense of claustrophobia as we are trapped in a modern, urban vision of a very ancient hell. Cronin’s team employs a lot of close-quarters cinematography to detail the gore and the nerve-shredding closeness of the demonic threat. It’s a choice that generates the most chilling of atmospheres, with many shots paying homage to a range of horror classics, including one on-the-nose reference to The Shining, a film Cronin also referenced in The Hole in the Ground.
Like previous entries, the film’s scares and gore are some of its strongest assets, with bags of award-winning makeup design and practical effects. But the fear factor doesn’t solely come from the squirm-worthy detail in the injuries and gore but the knowledge that these demons don’t just destroy the characters’ bodies but everything that makes them human. Combine that with superb cinematography, visceral editing and stunning sound design, and you will leave your fingernail imprints in the cinema seat if you’re not already hiding behind your hands.
Like the best horror movies, our connection to the characters intensifies the horror. Beth is a fantastic lead due to how vulnerable yet resourceful she is, while Ellie makes a great foil and eventual antagonist once the demon settles in. There is a particularly compelling theme of motherhood throughout this film and the sacrifice required of those who purposefully or accidentally take on the role. When filtered through this lens, Beth and Ellie are two sides of the same coin as they highlight the consuming and liberating nature of the film’s juxtaposing setup and themes. Here Lily Sullivan embodies Beth’s strengths and flaws in a manner worthy of Ash Williams. At the same time, Alyssa Sutherland’s expressions and terrifying vocal range make for one of the creepiest horror performances I have seen in a long time. Meanwhile, Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols, and Nell Fisher portray the utter terror and bravery of Ellie’s kids as they face the overwhelming odds of their predicament.
Evil Dead Rise may lack some of the dark comedy of its predecessors, but the tankards of blood and intensity of its horror more than make up for it. Offering us an eerily crafted movie that takes full advantage of its setting and the filmmaking opportunities its premise allows, Evil Dead Rise is spine-chilling, terrifyingly disgusting and yet utterly hypnotic. It may follow the familiar beats of its predecessors, but its urban and claustrophobic subversions are its bread and butter. The Evil Dead movies are some of the most entertaining horror films out there, and Evil Dead Rise further builds on this with a movie that feels both familiar and fresh as we collectively bite our nails down to the quick.
Evil Dead Rise | 1hr 37min | United States | 2023
Evil Dead Rise may lack some of the dark comedy of its predecessors, but the tankards of blood and intensity of its horror more than make up for it. Offering us an eerily crafted movie that takes full advantage of its setting and the filmmaking opportunities its premise allows, Evil Dead Rise is spine-chilling, terrifyingly disgusting and yet utterly hypnotic.