MOVIE REVIEW – A new entry to the Evil Dead Franchise has arrived, and once again, it promises to be a thrill ride of gore and spookiness with a tiny bit of humor. Once again, we have a new cast rather than a continuation of the previous movie. Lee Cronin (who directed the excellent horror movie called The Hole in the Ground) is taking over from Fede Alvarez, who directed the previous movie in 2013. A change of scenery has also been made, and it moves away from the franchise’s signature Cabin in the Wood location to switch to a big city’s rundown apartment.
Initially this movie was set to release on HBO Max and skip the cinemas entirely. However, with the first test screening having a very positive reception and nearing the movie’s release, WB was so confident in this horror movie that some reviews came a month early. It’s rare to see such high confidence from Warner Bros, and more surprisingly, their bet paid off, and the franchise that also loves chainsaws is revving up 2023 with a lot of good press, not just corpses.
Bruce Ain’t Almighty
Bruce Campbell is, unfortunately, once again not returning for this entry in the Evil Dead Franchise, and neither is Sam Raimi. While they are producers, Evil Dead Rise tells a completely separate story, with no connection to 2013’s reboot and some tiny speck of connection to the old movies from the Rami Era. The 2023 movie stars Lilly Sullivan as Beth, a guitar technician who visits her sister and her family. The sister (Ellie) is played by Alyssa Sutherland, whose the highlight of the movie as she plays two different personalities, the normal human and the possessed freak monster, and her performance is stellar and one of the creepiest ones in a long time. While in a lot of horror movies, there’s a monster or a killer, I never found them taunting their victims this much (and I’m even counting 2023’s Scream 6 in this one).
The movie takes place in Los Angeles, where a family gets to experience the sheer terror of Deadites after an earthquake reveals the book to the family. Unfortunately for the family, they get tricked into using the words to summon evil spirits to wreak havoc on them. From that point, the fun does not stop for the spirit, but for the family, this might be their curtain call.
Terror in the apartment
While setting a movie in an apartment could feel like the movie makers trying to cheapen out on the set design, that could be further from the truth. The movie’s location creates a massive amount of tension for the viewers, as while in a cabin in the woods-esque setting, you could try and run away into the woods far away from the demons, you cannot do much in an apartment locked in with demons.
These days, many horror movies take a while to get going, as in your typical Conjuring or other similar-styled jump scare fest horror movies. This reaches us to the movie’s highlight, the kills, and the brutality. The family is forced to deal with a demon possessing their mother that’s trying to kill them in the most brutal ways that it can possibly think of. I initially thought the movie would chicken out on a lot of scenes (even if this was rated 18 here in the UK); all I have to say is that no one is safe in this movie, which was a bit refreshing. The movie also does not play around and gets into the meat of the action, which is admirable for its 97-minute runtime.
Evil Dead Rise kicks that down the stairs of horror tropes, and rather than giving you one act of brutality (usually at the very end), it starts at the movie’s first act and keeps escalating the blood and gore till the very end. I was also impressed how the movie did not rely on jumpscares or quick cutaways, and while violence/gore is plenty in the movie, it never felt schlocky like those low-budget horror movies that go straight to streaming.
Smoke and Blood
Speaking of violence in Evil Dead Rise, the movie has a lot of creative ways of showing the kills. The camera angles and lighting is also superb. For some of the shots, I could not decide whether it was CGI, or practical effects, which was impressive, and that 15 million USD budget was put to good use for this movie. Not everything is about the gore, though, and the director utilizes a lot of eerie sound effects to haunt the viewer. There’s also an extended scene where the violence is not seen in its full glory, but the way that scene is shot is very effective.
There are even a few references to some of the older Evil Dead movies, but it never became too funny. In fact, if there was one big negative for me in this movie, it is that, once again, as per the 2013 reboot, there’s not much humor compared to the old Sam Raimi movies. This is a shame, as that used to be a hallmark of the Evil Dead movies back in the day, but I guess with Army of Darkness flopping back in the 90s, the producers, which include Raimi, decided to play it straight for the last two entries. In fact, found this movie to be just absolutely viciously mean. The family in the movie is not your typical family who hates each other or are terrible people. Instead, it’s just an innocent single mother and their kids targeted by evil spirits.
Open the book or close it forever?
This movie is a must for all those who love gore and intense scenes of violence, and while a lot of movies these days try to pull back and not linger – Evil Dead Rise is not one of those movies. It’s a not schlocky violent movie with plenty of scares to go around and does not lose its strengths even after repeat viewings.
If you are squeamish, you might want to be careful around Evil Dead Rise, as it is not one of those lighthearted easy-to-digest jumpscare horror movies. While it never reaches the absurdity of Terrifier 2 (which is a good thing), it is still not for the faint of heart. While watching Evil Dead Rise in the cinema, I could see a few scenes where the director was held back, as their original ideas might have gone into an Adult Only rating, which would have killed it at having a cinematic run around the globe.
Probably one of the best horror movies of 2023, and it looks like 2023 will be the year of horror movies, as we’re still just in April of the year. Hopefully, a potential sequel will have a bit more of that Raimi humor, or maybe even Bruce Campbell returning as a side character. Only time will tell how successful this entry is, but this was a win in my book.