It’s been over a month since I was able to attend the world premiere of “Evil Dead Rise” at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. It has been extremely difficult to hold in the amount of excitement I have toward this movie since I saw it front and center at the Paramount Theatre in Austin. Fortunately, the horror film was released in theaters last Friday, and now everyone can finally see it.
With that said, here’s a spoiler-free review of Lee Cronin’s “Evil Dead Rise” (2023).
To begin, the film follows two sisters, Beth (Lily Sullivan) and Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), and Ellie’s three children, Danny (Morgan Davies), Kassie (Nell Fisher) and Bridget (Gabrielle), who have to fight against demons that take over their high-rise apartment building in Los Angeles, California.
The film is the fifth movie installment of the Evil Dead franchise, which began with its first film in 1981. Two sequels followed “The Evil Dead” with “Evil Dead II” (1987) and “Army of Darkness” (1992). From there, a reboot of the original film was released in 2013 titled simply “Evil Dead,” which separates itself from the original trilogy as it follows protagonist Mia Allen (Jane Levy) and her fight against the evil deadites. Of course, there are a plethora of Evil Dead video games as well as the “Ash vs Evil Dead” TV show that sticks with the main plot of the original trilogy.
On the contrary, “Evil Dead Rise” tells a new story that lands the franchise in a new setting with brand new characters. Instead of having the story play out in a cabin in the middle of the woods, the characters suffer their fate while being trapped in the confines of a high-rise apartment complex in the city. Although it’s a different setting, Cronin masters this change beautifully by creating a stunning yet scary atmosphere within and outside the apartment where most of the action takes place.
As stated previously, the movie features a new set of characters for audiences to empathize with or be completely terrified of. The lead protagonist of the film, Beth, is a guitar technician who visits her sister, a tattoo artist, and her three kids at their home in LA. Lily Sullivan plays the new protagonist with lots of strength and wit while she battles with Alyssa Sutherland, who is the main deadite of the movie.
While at South by Southwest, I attended the “Evil Dead Rise: Flesh-Possessing Demons Come Home” panel, which featured the director, producers, and leading cast of “Evil Dead Rise.” During the Q&A, I was lucky enough to ask Sullivan how she felt about becoming the newest protagonist of the franchise alongside Bruce Campbell, who played Ash Williams in the original Evil Dead films, and Jane Levy from the 2013 reboot.
Sullivan stated, “I feel extremely grateful, [I feel like] especially as a woman, you rarely get the opportunity to be super physical and to be in your own body. It’s like I did a lot of period dramas [or] I’m the pretty girlfriend who asked a lot of questions to move the plot along. Now, I’m kicking in f**king doors and have a f**king chainsaw.” It was extremely inspiring to see her kick butt in this film along with the other characters who help her become a heroine.
Of course, one cannot talk about a horror film without mentioning the scary stuff, and this scary movie brings it to a whole other level. The film opens at a cabin by a lake, which may confuse viewers at first; however, the opening scene not only excites fans of the franchise but immediately showcases the kind of fright that will be explored throughout the next hour of the movie. It draws the audience in, but it takes another twenty minutes of exposition for any other action to arise.
However, once the horrifying stuff does kick in, it does not stop until the very end. It’s a very fast-paced film, so it does not calm down to help the audience catch their breath. It also helps when each new scene is scarier than the one before. There are horrific kills that seem nearly inhumane and fight scenes covered head to toe in blood. It’s an absolute nightmare, but it’s a paradise for any horror fan.
Overall, this film is a love letter to horror fans, especially to those who are fans of the franchise. It’s new and exciting with all of its creative skills and scary imagery. The plot can seem sort of fuzzy at first, but it ties all together at the end in a neat, bloody bow. To Lee Cronin, the cast, and the producers, hats off to you!