Film Review: Evil Dead Rise

By Matthew Moorcroft

Strong Recommendation

  • Directed by Lee Cronin
  • Starring Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Morgan Davies, Nell Fisher
  • R

Similar to the creatures the films revolve around, the Evil Dead franchise just never dies. Having gone from cult hit in the 80s to influential horror icons in the 90s all the way to gore-infused throwbacks of the 2010s, it’s been a wild ride for the series that had it’s humble beginnings as a low budget schlock film made by a couple of friends and their car. Director Sam Raimi’s original classic, despite it’s age and clear limitations, still holds up as a great piece of gnarly, nasty horror, and while it’s successors (particularly direct sequel) would refine it, everything owes it’s existence to that original.

Evil Dead Rise, the latest installment and the series’ first attempt to come back after Ash vs. Evil Dead‘s unfournate cancellation, represents something of a back to basics approach to the series. It’s not wrapped up in any major mythology like Army of Darkness or the aforementioned show, and it’s not as thematically ambitious as something like the 2013 reboot’s feminist leanings. Instead, Evil Dead Rise owns more to Raimi’s first two bloodsoaked installments – a simple tale of a group of people trapped in a hell that seems never ending.

And that, frankly, is all you really need, as Evil Dead Rise is strong enough to hold it’s own as a tight, well paced, ridiculously entertaining time. It’s not reinventing the mold, nor is it trying to; there is something already fundamentally strong about the setup of these movies that allows for it to shine through in spite of it being imitated time and time again by other movies. But Evil Dead is still the king of the “trapped in a place with demons” genre, and nobody else has yet to top it in terms of sheer lunacy and crunch.

The simple change in scenery – a high rise apartment building in LA as opposed to a remote cabin out in the woods – does wonders to that. Now there is a whole new realm to explore in regards to all of the terrible things that the Deadites can inflict on our poor characters. From glass to tattoo machines to cheese graters, Rise slowly ups the ante in terms of what it can do effortlessly, and taps into a cruel, vindictive side of the franchise not seen since Evil Dead II. This is a mean movie, one that even veteran horror buffs might have a squeamish time with, and it’s delightful dark humor about itself that it peppers in makes it hard to not somehow crack a smile at how insane some of this gets.

That’s not to say it’s without depth or craft, which it is absolutely not. Lee Cronin is somewhat of a newcomer on the horror scene but he immediately makes himself known here with some really inventive camerawork and a great sense of geography. The entire high rise apartment is laid out early so you get a clear sense as to where everything is, and that only heightens the anticipation on when certain actions or props come into play. It’s perfect bottle filmmaking, and Cronin clearly has talent to spare as a visual storyteller.

Evil Dead Rise is interesting too in that manages to weave in a great tale, or a twisted tale, of motherhood in the process. It’s mostly set to the side for the action (which is for the best and the right move) but after the film’s incredible cold open it quickly turns into a story of a woman accepting her becoming a mother. It shows the cold reality, and possible pain, of being a single mother in a world where everything seems out to get you and your kids, and Alyssa Sutherland’s committed and creepy performance as Ellie/the lead Deadite is leading the charge in that regard. The performances across the board are strong in general, particularly newcomer Nell Fisher who has to do a lot for a young performer here and ends up nailing it.

If this signals the return of Evil Dead to prominence then I am all for it. With horror back on the rise it seems, I would love if this became an event series that came out every couple of years or so with a new, delightfully twisted installment. And while I think it’s up for debate if this one is as good as the very best – it’s simplicity also means there isn’t much to chew on afterwards and the 2013 reboot is still gnarlier then this – it’s still another strong entry in a series that has yet to put out anything less then a great time at the movies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: