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Friday, April 21, 2023

‘Evil Dead Rise’ Review – Gnarly Crowd Pleaser Forges Bloody New Ground for the Franchise

Bloody Disgusting’s Evil Dead Rise review is spoiler-free.

A lakeside cabin opening sequence in Evil Dead Rise, written and directed by Lee Cronin (The Hole in the Ground), operates as a declaration that the latest installment of this franchise will fit snugly within the world of Evil Dead while branching out into new terrain and ideas. That means a self-contained story that brings the gnarly gore and Deadite thrills, even when its lore isn’t quite as well defined as its visceral terror.

Touring guitar technician Beth (Lily Sullivan) takes one look at her pregnancy test while at work and decides to reunite with her estranged sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) for guidance. It’s been months since Ellie heard from Beth, and she has problems of her own to contend with. She’s now a single mother of three kids, Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), and young Kassie (Nell Fisher), and needs to move thanks to a crumbling high rise apartment in a dire state of disrepair. The reunion between sisters gets cut short when an earthquake strikes their Los Angeles neighborhood, opening up a pit in the building’s garage that unearths a Necronomicon.

It’s up to a reluctant Beth to keep this family safe, lest they all find themselves dead by dawn.

In Lee Cronin’s attempts to forge new ground, the filmmaker never loses sight of what makes an Evil Dead movie, well, Evil Dead. The filmmaker pays tribute to the features that came before through iconic camera work, quotable lines, hero shots, beloved weaponry, and an admirable commitment to spilling the most blood possible. The cheese grater might’ve instantly catapulted into the spotlight thanks to a shining trailer moment, but Cronin finds no shortage of grisly ways to dole out punishment to his characters or come up with inventive new weapons to dismember and maim. On this front, Evil Dead Rise is an absolute crowd pleaser that’s best enjoyed with a rowdy crowd of fellow fans.

Lily Sullivan and Alyssa Sutherland are also knockout performers that make for a welcome addition to this sadistic family. Beth’s initial introduction as a perpetual screwup makes her well suited to follow Ashley J. William’s footsteps, and her transition from lost and scared into determined protector makes for winsome opposition to the absolutely demented performance by Sutherland as one of the more terrifying Deadite foes. Save for the utterly adorable precociousness of Nell Fisher, no other characters come close to these Evil Dead sisters. 

Evil Dead Rise review bloody disgusting

That’s one of the more noticeable hiccups to Evil Dead Rise; a shaky first act spends a bit too long setting up the stakes for Beth and Ellie but quickly passes over most of the fodder in such a way that their fates don’t amount to much beyond a quick shock and a macabre laugh or three. The story is more self-contained than you’d expect. It’s minor comparatively; this is an Evil Dead movie, after all, and we’re here for the carnage and splatstick. But it’s exacerbated by a need for more firmly established rules and lore. We see images in the book, but what they mean never fully gets explored in a way that bridges the initial possession to the third act’s wild culmination of said possession. In terms of evil turns, nothing comes close to touching Sutherland’s performance either. Some Deadite battles can feel too easily won for this universe, even when they come with gallons of spilled blood and bodily fluids.

One hell of a second act that brings the chills, splatstick humor, and no shortage of viscera kicks up the energy levels to an unrelenting degree, and Cronin never looks back. The filmmaker fully commits to making an Evil Dead movie, pushing the boundaries and fearlessly ensuring that not even children are safe in this universe. When all is said and done, it remains unclear what exactly Necronomicon Volume Two unleashes and what it could mean for the franchise’s future, but his pursuit of delivering a gnarly new entry does enough right to keep you invested, on edge, and highly entertained. There’s a commendable thoughtfulness here when approaching certain recurring elements of the franchise.

Evil Dead Rise is nowhere near as nihilistic as the previous entry, yet it’s frequently as intense. A fantastic pair of leads in Sullivan and Sutherland- especially Sutherland- combined with an endless slew of franchise tributes and unhinged levels of viscera ensure a gruesomely great time at the movies. More importantly, it opens up the franchise’s possibilities and instills the sincerest hope that it won’t be another ten years before the next one.

Editor’s Note: This SXSW review was originally published on March 16, 2023.

Evil Dead Rise made its World Premiere at SXSW and will release in theaters on April 21, 2023.

The post ‘Evil Dead Rise’ Review – Gnarly Crowd Pleaser Forges Bloody New Ground for the Franchise appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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