Evil Dead has a strong legacy. With each installment to the franchise, fans get to see how the mythos build while also reveling in delightfully fiendish gore and effects. A decade has passed since the last Evil Dead film, a film I will defend until my dying day, and we now have Evil Dead Rise. A film that wears its love for the franchise on its sleeve, fans are in for a real treat here.
From writer/director Lee Cronin, Evil Dead Rise stars Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols, and introduces Nell Fisher. All talent onscreen and off work in tandem together to bring this gory, no holds barred installment to life. No matter how difficult it was to shoot the film, Cronin and co. put everything into the film.
The most obvious change in Evil Dead Rise is the location, but how Cronin justifies the locale change makes sense. Teasing us with a cabin in the woods in the beginning, we’re brought back to a debilitated apartment in Los Angeles. It is here we meet our victims, I mean, family.
Newly single mother Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) is going about her business whilst also trying to get her children (Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols, Nell Fisher) to listen to her. Things start to tilt when her estranged sister, Beth (Lily Sullivan), shows up at her doorstep with a secret. An unexpected natural disaster, an overly curious teen, and — you guessed it — the reveal of an oh-too-familiar book summons up our favorite nasties.
From this point in Evil Dead Rise, hold onto your socks and shoes. Things are going to get gnarly. With little pauses in action to catch our breath, Cronin puts the pedal to the metal in ensuring that audiences can be shocked, grossed out, and get a laugh out, even in the goriest bits.
That’s not to say that there isn’t an abundant amount of foreshadowing leading up to the blood, guts, and worms. Cronin reveals his storytelling hand early on. But seeing how these clues come together is delicious and, with how Cronin and co. execute the outcome, there are still plenty of surprises even if you think you know what’s coming.
Least surprising is how completely breathtaking Alyssa Sutherland is once the deadite takes over Ellie’s body. She completely engages her physicality, contorting and throwing herself into the action without any hesitation. Sutherland is dementedly gleeful as Ellie talks about killing her loved ones. Audiences will go on a journey from feeling sorry for Ellie to completely cheering on her demise by film’s end.
Lily Sullivan’s Beth steps up to the plate, reacting to the chaos around her. This all while trying to keep her sister’s children alive. Her body faces all manner of abuse, and you have to wonder whether or not Cronin compensated her fairly — outside of Happy Meal bribes — for all the pain we witness onscreen.
The children are cast well here. Older sisters will feel for Gabrielle Echols’s Bridget. Echols and Morgan Davies easily showcase the natural sibling conflict that erupts between brothers and sisters. But, as the overall innocent in Evil Dead Rise, even despite the creation of her new best friend, Nell Fisher’s Cassie is a scene stealer. Fisher has a bright future ahead.
Creative liberties are taken in how scenes are shot in Evil Dead Rise. Director of Photographer Dave Garbett and Cronin collaborated to bring some memorable shots. A notable standout is the decision to have Sullivan film herself run at one point, which naturally increases the desperation felt in the scene.
There’s also an action scene viewed through a front door peephole. This visual choice adds an element of voyeurism that keeps us from looking away. We can only witness Ellie’s wanton destruction. Paired with editor Bryan Shaw’s edit decisions, this moment feels like one smooth single shot rather than multiple.
Evil Dead Rise spares no expense in the blood department. No, I do mean literally. New Zealand ran out of fake blood during production, but it’s all worth it. Thanks in part to clever camera shots, different rigs, and the unrelenting effort of the FX and makeup teams in capturing every horrific injury we see onscreen, the blood shortage is justified. It wouldn’t be an Evil Dead movie without ridiculous amounts of blood, and Cronin delivers.
Cronin is clearly a fan of Evil Dead. There are numerous homages and references to the franchise peppered all throughout. From the dress Beth wears to where Bridget gets cut on the cheek to various lines delivered in Evil Dead Rise, this is a film made by a fan for the fans.
Evil Dead Rise also sets up a horrifying reality for the future by the film’s end. I won’t say anything else, but it opens up the hell gates for future sequels easily. With the multiple Necronomicons revealed in Army of Darkness and the location of the book in this film, there are so many possibilities left to explore.
Full of blood, guts, and brand new deadite forms that will haunt your waking nightmares, Evil Dead Rise slaps. Alyssa Sutherland’s performance terrifies while Lily Sullivan proves her Beth is more than a capable final girl. Nell Fisher proves her mettle in her debut, working alongside the seasoned vets in this film.
Just when you think you know what will happen next in Evil Dead Rise, Cronin pulls out the rug from underneath you and smacks you across the face with it. As his sophomore feature film, he kills it, buries it, and resurrects hope and further excitement in this much-beloved horror franchise. Can’t wait to see what he does next.
EVIL DEAD RISE REVIEW SCORE: 9 OUT OF 10
Warner Bros. Pictures will release Evil Dead Rise in theaters on April 21, 2023. The film is rated R for strong bloody horror violence and gore, and some language.