Evil Dead Rise: Get Out Your Cheese Grater

What comes next in the Evil Dead universe for the patient or not-so-patient fans of the franchise? Evil Dead Rise is wholly satisfying, bloody, and relentless. Irish Director Lee Cronin (Hole In The Ground) has constructed a complex and perverse apartment building of horrors that briefly visits the cabin in the woods and then lopes off to an entirely new setting.

Excellent Ensemble Cast

Evil Dead Rise is yet another film with excellent casting and ensemble. The film stars Lily Sullivan (I Met a Girl, Barkskins), Alyssa Sutherland (The Mist, Vikings), Morgan Davies (Storm Boy, The End), Gabrielle Echols (Reminiscence), and introduces Nell Fisher (Northspur).

I must also shout out the neighbors, Jayden Daniels (Whina), Tai Wano (Not Even), and Mark Mitchinson (The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies). I don’t have any qualms with any of the work within the film. Thanks to the dedicated actors and the strong direction from Cronin, the film makes you feel right in the middle of the action. Great work all around.

The synopsis is plain about the film’s intent: “Evil Dead Rise tells 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.”

Family Dynamics, Now With More Demons

There are a few horror films of late that are taking a very close look at the dynamics of the family and the consequences of family betrayal on family members, especially children. Skinamarink is one of the best-known, but Evil Dead Rise drills deeps into the subject without becoming grating. Sorry, I had to make a pun. The film manages to have it both ways.

Not only does it have the evil mother, but it also has the surrogate mother who is called upon to save the remaining siblings and herself and is more than up to the task. Alyssa Sutherland as Ellie is not only terrifying but is a symbol for the mother who has finally had it up to here with everyone, including her kids.

Day of The Mom

The directors are doing a great job of making the point cinematically in this film and others like the magnificent Huesera: The Bone Woman. There’s the myth of the saintly mother, self-sacrificing and always forgiving, and Sutherland has a ball turning that idea inside out.

Women aren’t saints. They are people who get tired, frustrated, and angry. Expecting them to deny their needs forever is asking them to blow a fuse at some point. In a way, Evil Dead Rise is an example of what happens when Mom finally decides that enough is enough. Do demons free Mother Dear? Maybe?

That’s Not A Wig!

Because everything in the film works so well together, when the ultra-violence begins, and believe me, it is ultraviolence, it’s more than just the thrill of the gore. Scalps start flying almost immediately, but when the horror takes over in the apartment complex, you feel it on a visceral and emotional level.

One of the best things that Cronin has done, through casting, the script, and direction, has made you genuinely empathize with the characters. When that cheese grater slaps onto flesh, I felt it emotionally, but I felt it physically as well. I can’t exactly describe what that means in a family publication, but let’s just say it rings my bell.

With A Chainsaw

My emotional reaction to the film was extreme. I shrieked bloody murder more than once, and at the end, I found myself crying. The strength of the film’s subtext of dealing with an emotionally unbalanced, violent, and dangerous parent or family member was incredibly unnerving. In particular, Sutherland’s ghoulishly fake smile and mockingly saccharine attempts to get her child to drop her guard will be recognized by any child from an abusive and violent home.

It will drop you right back into that nightmare. Lilly Sutherland’s Beth is that cool rescue party you always desperately wished would arrive someday but never did. She morphs from a somewhat irresponsible rock chick into a chainsaw-wielding protector.

The Eyes Have It

Even if you don’t have this experience, the film is monstrously compelling and a gore-spewing joy ride of doom. It does have a lightness, despite the ache within it, that doesn’t make you feel like you need therapy afterward. You get a burst of energy rather than feeling super bummed out.

I think that the beautiful cinematography by the director of photography Dave Garbett (Z for Zachariah, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) and the odd earworm of a score by Stephen McKeon (The Hole in the Ground, Primeval) helps a lot on that score.

I wonder if Cronin is a Lucio Fulci fan because this film has some choice eye violence. Dare I say that Evil Dead Rise would have been Lucio Fulci approved? I dare, I dare! Cronin certainly knows his horror history. You’ll see that when the elevator doors open.

While I have heard some criticism of the film not being funny, it is not true that the film lacks humor. The jokes are less on the goofy side and more entrenched in grim gallows humor. The film is slam-bang and full of demonic jocularity.

Nihilistic Crunch Time

The film has a nihilistic crunch interwoven with gore-geous fairy tale cinematography, an incredibly catchy main title composition, and liberal doses of the coolest references and updates to enjoy. Many of the franchise's touchstones are still there but look even more beautiful.

The fabled Book of the Dead (Necronomicon) seems to be illustrated by a much better artist, with diaphanous sketches that you can’t quite make out but are still disturbing. There is that recording of the chant that gets everyone in trouble each time, but the sound system is that of a DJ. Plus, we finally get out of that damn cabin.

Beloved Bloodletting

Cronin has taken a beloved property, which would be easy to fumble, and made it his own. His directorial and writer’s sense of the material is so strong and on target that I moved to talk to him when I saw the film at SXSW, which I rarely do. I just had to let him know I had enjoyed it immensely and was also profoundly moved.

The Verdict

Evil Dead Rise is sleekly modern, emotionally gripping, and absolutely brutal, gory and appalling, but still fun. Cronin goes there and goes all the way. He spares no one, even the kids. It is a spectacle of balancing many different themes and tones in an economical running time that leaves you wanting more.

I love the whole series, but Evil Dead Rise has climbed up the elevator shaft to be one of my favorites in the franchise. It’s that great. The film takes the premise and runs away with it. Tapert, Raimi, and Campbell chose well when they chose Lee Cronin.

He has the confidence to acknowledge what has gone before, use the framing of the series to embellish it, but create an entirely new story with a completely different psychological underpinning. I can’t recommend it highly enough. You’re going to love it.

Evil Dead Rise crawls into theaters on April 21, 2023.

Rating: 9.5/10 SPECS

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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Dolores Quintana is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles. She has bylines at Fangoria, Alternative Press, Nightmarish Conjurings, Grammy.com/The Recording Academy, The Advocate, Buddyhead, Pocho.com, The Theatre @ Boston Court, The Mirror Media Group, What Now Media, We Like LA, and The Shudder Blog. She has a successful YouTube channel and podcast called Burnt Orange Dreams, where she interviews actors, writers, and directors.

She works as an actor in independent film and both immersive and traditional theatre with Alone: an Existential Haunting, Screenshot Productions, and Native Voices at The Autry.