The Evil Dead franchise is crowned a cult classic based on its consistently successful amalgation of unfettered gore and slapstick humor—Evil Dead Rise takes those elements and boxes them just to make it a little more claustrophobic than the previous instalments.
Straying away slightly from the typical Evil Dead set up, the film follows a family consisting of Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), her kids Danny, Bridget and Kassie (Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols, and Nell Fisher) and her sister Beth (Lilly Sullivan) who decides to pay them a visit. Taking place in a dilapidated apartment, the peril and brutality feel more contained with its minimal space and hallways of flickering lights. Ellie transforms into a Deadite (a parasitic demon) early, and the once loving and compassionate mom becomes the children’s worst nightmare. With its remarkable practical effects, the gore and flinch-worthy moments are at the forefront of this film—a particular scene involving a cheese grater comes to mind.
The plot is deceptively simple and still formulaic to a degree: A careless character summons a demonic entity by accident, someone else transforms into a Deadite, and the rest of the crew has to deal with the terrifying consequences of the incident. I wouldn’t say that the plot is particularly distinct from Evil Dead (2013), but that’s completely forgiven by its utilization of its new setting along with the practical effects, dialog, acting, and the convincing despondency in combination with a sliver of hope that permeate the atmosphere.
Director-writer Lee Cronin embraces the gnarly and brutal aspect that is wholly present in Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, with Raimi still being involved as an executive producer to make sure the essence of the franchise is there. Cronin doesn’t hold back with the jump scares, often see-sawing between goofy and frightening. With the ample amount of nooks and crannies in the building, the build-up of “something’s behind you,” shots along the effective camera angles keep you on edge almost incessantly. The film is a vicious entry that amplifies all the good elements in its predecessors—it’s extra gory, fun, tense and mean-spirited.
However, even with how sinister this entry is compared to the previous instalments, it’d be remiss to for me not to appreciate the gallows humor that was often included in a few gory scenes. They never feel misplaced or unintentional, receiving quite a few chuckles when I watched it in theater. The lore just slightly expands the origin of the Deadites in a different direction by letting the characters listen to its ancient genesis through audio means. Interestingly, the lack of visuals for this part of the film worked in its favour and is more ominous than showing the audience another flashback.
One trope that feels like “a necessary evil,” is the typical pregnancy side plot that ends up with a character having an epiphany of how much she wants to keep the baby after all. I understand that it’s a natural progression of the character’s arc, however, it does feel like a banal archetype that just barely grazes the concept of motherhood and life. The ending is more sinister than expected, tying in nicely with the beginning, which is an apt change. With a nod to one of The Shining‘s most iconic scenes, Cronin utilizes a literal bath blood in the last act, signifying the spill of everything that’s culminated and how it’ll conclude.
Evil Dead Rise is a daringly well-done horror film with sprinkles of camp that gore lovers will appreciate; it features all the trademarks of the franchise—and more.