Review – Evil Dead Rise

Synonymous with ‘comedy-horror’, Sam Raimi’s wacky and insane trilogy of films that birthed cult-horror hero Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) and his chainsaw wielding, shotgun toting, one-liner spitting persona, The Evil Dead series, has grown it’s passionate fanbase since it’s grassroots filmmaking inception back in 1981. Now, just over 40 years later, with 4 movies and a 3-season television series in the bank, the deep lore of the Necronomicon and its demon-resurrecting, evil-embodying darkness once again consumes our cinema screens in fine bloody fashion in writer/director Lee Cronin’s Evil Dead Rise.

Estranged sisters, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland, Vikings) and Beth (Lily Sutherland, Mental), are reunited when Beth arrives at Ellie and her two teenage children’s apartment late one night, worried about a potential life changing event that may happen to her. Despite the initial awkward stand-off’s, the sisters begin to reconnect before an earthquake rattles the foundations of the apartment building, causing the earth and cement beneath them to open. However, what waits below unlocks an evil that forces Ellie and Beth into a blook-soaked, primal game of cat-and-mouse involving the most nightmarish version of their family possible.

The best way to lure fans of the franchise into Evil Dead Rise (as if they weren’t excited enough by the trailer and initial SXSW reaction to the film!) is to say that this film is a perfect blend of the heightened horror fun of Sam Raimi’s iconic original trilogy, and the gnarly, bloody, brutal violence that made the 2013 remake so notorious and celebrated. Clocking in at a fast-paced 97 minutes, Lee Cronin has assembled a ridiculously fun piece of horror that is as much fun as it is terrifying!

Evil Dead Rise has a real ‘punk-rock’ feeling to its tone and aesthetic. Beth and Ellie are tattoo covered, rock music fans with the badass attitudes to match. Ellie’s apartment is part living space, part recording studio and part tattoo parlour. The gritty, dark cinematography gives of a grungy feel, but Cronin’s exciting and energetic direction brings that grittiness to life as to not make it feel dull. Then on top of all that is a speaker-blasting soundtrack and score that amplifies the intensity up to 11. In short, Evil Dead Rise is a very fucking cool movie!

But the fun doesn’t stop there, as this film is anchored down by brilliant and committed performances, both physically and dramatically from Alyssa Sutherland and Lily Sullivan. Sullivan’s Beth has the weight of a recent personal revelation upon her, and going to her sister for advice and help is already a big step for her to take. However, when Ellie becomes consumed by the Necronomicon’s evil powers, her instincts to not just survive, but protect Ellie’s two children force her to confront an aspect of her life she wasn’t expecting. Much like Mia’s drug addict story line in the 2013 Evil Dead, the parallels for Beth’s character create an engaging and interesting character study for her. Then, to top it all off, the action-heroine side of Beth shines as she gets to be involved in some iconic horror-movie moments and Evil Dead call-backs that will undoubtedly bring much wicked joy to the fans.

Alyssa Sutherland is a pure scene-stealer as Ellie. The maternal side of Ellie creates so much sympathy and care for her as a character, and then is completely torn away when that trait is substituted for the heinously terrifying, demonically possessed version of Ellie that so entertainingly and painstakingly terrorises her family, and anyone who gets in her way. Possessed Ellie is unapologetically hamming up the villainy of this story, with laugh-out-loud, yet still haunting, one-liners about dismembering, disfiguring, slicing, and dicing her family up. In any other context, no laughter should be had towards a mother trying to murder her family, but Sutherland’s performance, and Cronin’s tone, make it irresistible to not have an absolute blast with it. Sutherland’s physicality as Possessed Ellie adds to the full immersion of her character, using her natural flexibility and gymnastic skills to create so truly terrifying body-horror visuals.

Speaking of body-horror, do you remember earlier in the review when it was said that Evil Dead Rise has a good dash of the old ultra-violence? Yeah, it’s delivered in spades. Buckets and gallons and pools of blood, brain matter, insides and guts are splayed all over the screen in this flick. The over-the-top and inventive ways to maim and murder in Evil Dead Rise is a wonderful call back to the ingenuity of its predecessors, while also one-upping them by creating toe-curling, watch-through-your-fingers level of cringeworthy brutality. The action/horror set pieces, masterfully directed by Cronin, are incredibly tense and bombastically gory to the point that no matter how much the grotesqueness tries to force you to look away, the excitement of each fight or chase keeps the eyes glued to the screen.

Evil Dead Rise isn’t just one of the best horror films of 2023 so far, but it’s definitely one of the best, period. Cronin’s punk-rock aesthetic and energetic direction creates an atmosphere that blends the excitement and enjoyment of Raimi’s OG trilogy, with the unabashed brutality of the 2013 remake. Alyssa Sutherland and Lily Sullivan give star-making performances in a movie that will have fans of The Evil Dead, and gore-fest horror’s in general, cheering at the screen… when they’re not gasping in shock at the violence, of course.

Evil Dead Rise is in cinemas April 20, courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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