Movie Review: Evil Dead Rise
By Kevin Hoskinson
By the time Evil Dead Rise passes the finish line, everything you see on screen is covered in blood. In typical franchise fashion, this installment revels in the things that make you feel uncomfortable and sick to your stomach. Some might find these films’ splatter house horror style not to their liking, but if you are anything like me, you will be smiling in gleeful morbid joy while experiencing what is playing out before you. What some consider shocking for nothing more than cheap thrills, there is a beauty to the chaos, and it’s great to see filmmakers like Lee Cronin step up to the plate to deliver something amazing.
The Evil Dead franchise has been around for over 40 years. What started as a super low-budget film based on a short film titled Within The Woods, the series has produced five films, a tv show, video games, and comic books. Director Sam Raimi, producer Robert Tapert and main series star Bruce Campbell have all stayed with the franchise in one capacity or another, ensuring that everything maintained a certain quality over the years. Even with the 2013 sequel, which featured an entirely new hero and cast, the trio had a hand in ensuring it still held true to what made the series tick, and that film surpassed all expectations to become one of the scariest films of the 2010s.
It’s been ten years since that film, and although we have had a television show (Ash Vs. Evil Dead), we haven’t had anything on the big screen to satisfy the hunger for more Evil Dead. That all changes with Evil Dead Rise, and it’s a welcome return to the madness and manages to balance the series roots with the darker tone of the 2013 sequel in a way that makes it feel fresh again. Not only that, but it changes the setting drastically, which plays into its strengths and makes it one of the best films with Evil Dead in the title.
The movie starts familiar enough, with a camera snaking through the woods (using Raimi’s trademark style) and bringing us to a familiar sight. It’s a cabin in the woods with some young people hanging out by the lake. As you can imagine, things quickly go awry, and we are taken to a brand new setting, a high-rise apartment building in an urban area of California. It is here where the rest of the movie takes place, and it’s a claustrophobic nightmare of epic proportions.
The film does a good job of introducing us to characters we actually care about and root for throughout. Alyssa Sutherland and Lily Sullivan play sisters Ellie and Beth. After being on tour with a band, Beth visits her sister and family to reconcile past events and be with her family more. Ellie has three children, Danny, Brigette, and Kassie, who haven’t seen their aunt in a very long time. After an earthquake opens up a hole in the parking garage of their building, a certain book is unearthed, and all hell breaks loose for all of the tenants of the building.
It’s safe to assume that you would know exactly what to expect with a fifth movie in a franchise using a tried and true formula. It’s safe for me to tell you to leave all of those expectations at the door because you have no idea what’s coming. There is a moment in the film where something happens that makes you feel completely unsafe. At that point, all bets are off, and anything can and does happen. I can tell you how great everybody is in the film and how it seems like everybody is having the time of their lives, but I won’t bore you with that. As true as it is, the filmmaking and craft on display are the true highlights.
It’s like a time capsule in a sense. While plenty of filmmakers are doing really cool things today, it’s rare you get a big studio film willing to take chances and do the most insane stuff. This feels like a Sam Raimi film through and through, down to the set design, music, and camera work. While it’s not as humorous as his earlier films, it manages to make you laugh uncomfortably while the most brutal things are happening on screen. Director/writer Lee Cronin isn’t doing an impression of Raimi; he is doing Raimi. It’s a sight to behold, and I can’t think of anything that has made me happier in the last couple of years.
There isn’t much more I can say other than go see it! It is certainly not for everybody, but if you like your horror films to be full of atmosphere and bloody chaotic violence, this is your movie. It feels like the natural progression of the franchise, and here’s to hoping it spawns more sequels done with as much love and care as this one was. It’s so good!