EVIL DEAD RISE
FILM REVIEW: EVIL DEAD RISE
Release Date: 21st April 2023
Directed by: Lee Cronin
Cast: Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols
Written by: Lee Cronin
Cinematography: Dave Garbett
``a pretty effective horror, but not a great Evil Dead Movie``
Irish writer/director Lee Cronin is handed the keys to Sam Raimi’s 1973 Oldsmobile for this reboot of the much-loved Evil Dead series.
Guitar tech Beth (Lily Sullivan) returns to LA following a lengthy world tour which has left her unexpectedly and slightly pregnant. She visits sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three children of varying appeal. A sudden earthquake rocks the run-down apartment building, exposing a vault hidden beneath the basement car park. The vault contains lots of creepy things, such as the crypt of a monk holding the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis (or the Book of The Dead to you). In the first of many staggering examples of Darwinian idiocy, the epically-annoying middle child Danny (Morgan Davies) climbs down into the vault, takes the book and some recordings from 1923. Soon enough, Ellie is vomiting gallons of white stuff, and all hell breaks loose.
Evil Dead Rise is a pretty effective horror, but it’s not a great Evil Dead movie. Cronin is to be commended for at least trying something new and not slavishly following all of the tropes established by Raimi’s original trilogy. But this movie moves so far away from that world that the title seems almost deceitful. Apart from a prologue and epilogue set in a creepy cabin in the woods, Evil Dead Rise moves the action from the traditional remote rural location to an urban apartment block, with mixed results. I would not be surprised if Evil Dead Rise started out as a project not related to the Evil Dead at all.
The gore is pleasantly relentless, although some of the post-possession lines of dialogue are infinitely creepier than any of the actual bloodshed (of which there is literally gallons). Cronin pays tribute to what has gone before (oh look, a chainsaw) by replicating some of Evil Dead’s trademark shots, such as the sped-up shaky cam. There are at least two impressive segments, including a thrilling climax and a massacre seen through a fisheye peephole. And you will never be able to look at a cheese grater in the same way again.
Evil Dead Rise is ultimately let down by two things; a lack of wit, and a poor cast. Sadly, this has more in common with Fede Alvarez’s 2013 remake than Raimi’s tongue-in-cheek anarchy. The tone here is far more sombre and far less fun. And with the exception of Sullivan and the 10-year-old Nell Fisher, the standard of acting from the predominantly Australian cast ranges from ropey to downright annoying. Bruce Campbell’s charm and charisma is sorely missed. Raimi and Campbell are involved in executive producer capacity only (meaning they get paid, but that’s about it). Having said that, most characters are somewhat improved after becoming possessed, and there is an advantage to having such a profoundly irritating cast. You will probably look forward to watching them die painfully.
Although this is Cronin’s first foray into franchise filmmaking, there is a thematic thread here that links back to his first feature. Where the terrifically creepy Hole in the Ground dealt with a mother’s horror in discovering that her child is not what they seem, here the roles are reversed, and it’s the children who find that their mother is the monster.
No doubt Cronin is capable of producing another great movie. But Evil Dead Rise is not it. The aforementioned bookends suggest a possible sequel, box office permitting, which is not an attractive proposition. It’s probably best to bury this franchise for at least another decade.