Evil Dead Rise Review: Deadites Return for More Bloody Mayhem
By Daniel Rester
It’s been forty years since Sam Raimi unleashed The Evil Dead (1981) onto the world. He has gone on to create projects in a variety of genres, but he still returns to his beloved horror franchise from time to time. Most recently audiences got Ash vs Evil Dead (2015-2018) on TV, but it’s been ten years since the last film entry. A new feature has finally arrived though with Evil Dead Rise, which is produced by Raimi and others (including Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert) and written and directed by Lee Cronin.
Evil Dead Rise has a handful of scenes that take place in the familiar forest settings of the other pictures, but for the most part it moves the action to an apartment building in Los Angeles. Guitar technician Beth (Lily Sullivan) arrives in the city and visits her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three kids. The family is set to move out of the place in a month due to its dilapidated condition. An earthquake doesn’t help the building’s stability.
After the shaking stops, Ellie’s kids Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), and Kassie (Nell Fisher) discover a hole in the ground with hidden items. Among them is a “Book of the Dead,” which Danny stupidly reads from. Things go downhill fast as Ellie becomes possessed and attacks her family and neighbors.
Cronin, who made The Hole in the Ground (2019), was handpicked by Raimi to make the latest film in the series. While Cronin doesn’t quite make the impression Fede Alvarez made with Evil Dead (2013), he still shows some promise behind the camera. He certainly understood the assignment of making Deadites creepy and scenarios bloody and intense at least.
Sutherland is Cronin’s greatest asset as Ellie. The actress absolutely delivers with her physicality, facial expressions, and cadence as a Deadite. Ellie being a mother assaulting her own children adds an extra layer of menace to the role too. The other actors are fine too (Fisher is adorable as the youngest child, Kassie), but it’s Sutherland who will be the most remembered from the film.
Cronin pushes his cast and characters into some crazy situations, with Deadites doing things like crawling through vents and attacking with cheese graters, people falling out of blood-filled elevators, etc. One of the most creative scenes involves a Deadite slaughtering victims while everything is seen through a door peephole.
Evil Dead Rise is bookended by scenes at a lake that feel tacked on (though the opening scene does have a cool title reveal). Cronin never takes full advantage of the Los Angeles setting either, instead just sticking to the apartment building. Why set the plot in Los Angeles if you’re not going to have Deadites lay waste to places like LAX, Crypto Arena, or Sunset Boulevard? The motherhood theme that runs throughout the film feels half-baked as well as Beth faces pregnancy and must protect Ellie’s kids.
Those issues are more nitpicks. The biggest flaw with Evil Dead Rise is actually in the camerawork and editing. For a series known for having energetic and inventive visual flourishes, this new entry lacks such a style. Cronin and his cinematography and editing teams too often go for obvious angles and static frames. The 97-minute runtime isn’t completely lifeless with the camera and editing, but they never match the staging of the carnage and blocking of the actors.
Evil Dead Rise is the weakest of the five films in my opinion. It lacks the visual insanity and overall ingenuity of the Raimi and Alvarez entries. The film is still solid though, offering up a few intense and bloody scenes that are exciting and a terrific performance by Sutherland. Hopefully the next film in the series steps up the inventiveness though and doesn’t take ten years to arrive.
My Grade: 7.5/10 (letter grade equivalent: B)
Running Time: 1 hour and 37 minutes