‘Evil Dead Rise’ Review – New Mommy Demon Look, Same Great Chainsaw Taste

ALYSSA SUTHERLAND as Ellie in New Line Cinema’s horror film “EVIL DEAD RISE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.
ALYSSA SUTHERLAND as Ellie in New Line Cinema’s horror film “EVIL DEAD RISE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

A sequel to the franchise’s 2013 continuation/soft reboot which once again sees creator Sam Raimi hand the reigns over over to a new creator – this time The Hole in the Ground director Lee Cronin – Evil Dead Rise trades in its predecessor’s horror homages for a bit of an alternative beat.

(L to r) MORGAN DAVIES as Danny and LILY SULLIVAN as Beth in New Line Cinema’s horror film “EVIL DEAD RISE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

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Our protagonist time this around is Beth (Lily Sullivan, a guitar tech who gets so wrapped up in her work that she has a reputation for being pretty much unreachable when she’s on the road.

Discovering that she has recently become pregnant, a shocked Beth turns to seek advice from her older sister, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland). However, unbeknownst to Beth, Ellie recently went through a divorce and as such is currently a single mother of three who is on the verge of being homeless in less than a month.

Amidst all this turmoil, an earthquake strikes the area around Ellie’s apartment complex, resulting in a previously unopened vault from the building’s previous usage as a bank slowly creaking open for the first time in years.

Inside, Ellie’s record-spinning-obsessed son Danny (Morgan Davies) discovers a certain flesh-bound book of the dead as well as two dusty vinyl records. Upon playing the records, Danny accidentally summons the Deadites, in turn subjecting his family to a bout of demonic possession that stands to leave their fragile lives in even further shambles.

As you might expect from an Evil Dead film, Evil Dead Rise has a fair amount of blood (over 1,700 gallons were used in the film).

This is particularly true of the film’s last 20 minutes or so, which contain pure blood-soaked mayhem that ends with everyone, whether it’s splattered on them or gushing from their own wounds, doused in blood.

And that’s all without mentioning how Ellie eventually evolves into a this nightmarish, putrid amalgamation of flesh that could easily pass as the offspring of John Carpenter’s The Thing. Its biology may not be entirely logical, but it injects a heightened level of thrill in the moments leading up to Beth finally picking up a chainsaw.

Also, the cheese grater scene isn’t as bad as its reputation makes it out to be, though it absolutely pales in comparison to the electric turkey carver scene in Evil Dead (2013).

LILY SULLIVAN as Beth in New Line Cinema’s horror film “EVIL DEAD RISE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Speaking of which, it should be noted that Fede Alvarez’s previous film in the series is far more of a gorefest compared to Evil Dead Rise.

In that film, the carnage is more shocking and actually feels like it’s attempting to be a grittier remake of the originals to the point where it’s sometimes hard to watch, whereas here the violence and blood prefers to give a subtle nod to the franchise’s campiness.

To that end, Evil Dead Rise has a ton of throwbacks to the original trilogy which either recreate iconic scenes or almost wholesale lifting certain camera perspectives directly from Raimi’s films.

These include Ellie’s slow rise from the bathtub to reveal her demented grin à la the demon in the basement in Evil Dead/Evil Dead II, her being restrained in a similar manner as previous female characters but with electrical wires instead of branches and vines, and the sequence where someone chokes on a severe eyeball, itself yet another Evil Dead II reference.

There’s also more than a handful of references to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, such as the elevator and the bottom-to-top perspective the film uses as Beth holds the door when Ellie is outside of the apartment, which are unexpected but nonetheless cool to spot.

ALYSSA SUTHERLAND as Ellie in New Line Cinema’s horror film “EVIL DEAD RISE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

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In terms of writing, Evil Dead Rise is both refreshing in its direction and somewhat flawed at the same time.

This is the first Evil Dead film to take place mostly in a city high-rise rather than a cabin in the woods, and while the dilapidated state of Ellie’s building gives the film this ‘secluded island of terror’ aspect, it’s hard to ignore how its residents soon find themselves trapped inside alongside the demons – that’d be like building an ant farm around an antlion pit.

Then there’s Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), a seemingly half-hearted feminist who spends most of her time whining about some dirty T-shirt she was going to wear to some rally. Her assumed purpose as the oldest of her three siblings is to be the whiny older teenager who talks down to the younger kids and she does have a connection to some of the gnarlier sequences of the film, but her character as a whole feels wasted since whatever development she had is dropped for generic, possession-related reasons.

ALYSSA SUTHERLAND as Ellie in New Line Cinema’s horror film “EVIL DEAD RISE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

But Ellie’s kids are where it all falls apart, and mostly because of how stupid and annoying they are.

Already annoying when he’s first introduced with a DJing habit, Danny is basically to blame for everything that goes wrong, even with his Bridget constantly warning him not to play with books made of flesh or records featuring weird chants in other languages.

Then there’s the youngest, Kassie (Nell Fisher). First introduced a sort of ‘Sid from Toy Story’ type of character, straight down to building super creepy stuff with doll heads (albeit in an attempt to ward off ghosts rather than terrorize other kids), less than half-an-hour later she’s reduced to a coward who’s afraid of water and hides at from everything at every opportunity.

Admittedly, her mom does die in front of her and she is the youngest of her siblings, but the teeter-totter effect of her characterization is still a bit frustrating. One minute she’s hiding and the next she’s suddenly or accidentally the most useful member of the household.

ALYSSA SUTHERLAND as Ellie in New Line Cinema’s horror film “EVIL DEAD RISE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It will never not be easy to swallow that, across all genres, nostalgia continues to reign over originality in film these days. There’s also an argument to be made that certain and most characters in horror movies are purposely written in annoying fashion so that their deaths are not only earned, but more enjoyable.

But as far as Evil Dead Rise goes, it’s mostly entertaining as a new entry of the Evil Dead franchise, but it’s got some hiccups that should be ironed out in any potential sequel.

The cast’s performances are all strong, with Sutherland masterfully making the most of her character with spine-tingling body language and unnerving dialogue, but as a fifth film in a well-known horror franchise, it’s disappointing to see that its most memorable moments are throwbacks to previous films.

Ultimately, Evil Dead Rise’s biggest flaw is that it simply isn’t as good as its ten-year-old predecessor. Nevertheless, the film is fun, blood splattering carnage that will hopefully take the Evil Dead franchise in a bold and exhilarating direction.

(L to R) GABRIELLE ECHOLS as Bridget, NELL FISHER as Kassie, LILY SULLIVAN as Beth, MORGAN DAVIES as Danny and ALYSSA SUTHERLAND as Ellie in New Line Cinema’s horror film “EVIL DEAD RISE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

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