Evil Dead Rise Wants Us to Know That The Evil Dead Is Back, Baby!

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Evil Dead Rise Wants Us to Know That The Evil Dead Is Back, Baby!

If there’s anything that could have an entire audience cheering when a possessed pre-teen drags a cheese grater across her aunt’s calf like it’s a fresh block of cheddar, it’s an Evil Dead movie. The first film to grace the beloved franchise in a decade, Evil Dead Rise is everything you could ask for from an Evil Dead flick: It’s disgusting enough to make you physically recoil, it’s funny as hell and, perhaps most importantly, it might just wield more blood than I’ve ever seen in a movie.

Directed by Lee Cronin (The Hole in the Ground), Rise boldly ditches its familiar cabin-in-the-woods setting for a crumbling inner-city apartment building on the brink of being condemned. Living there is newly-single tattoo artist Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three kids: Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), Danny (Morgan Davies) and Kassie (Nell Fisher).

The film kicks into gear when Ellie’s sister, badass punk rock band tech Beth (Lily Sullivan), comes to visit after discovering that she’s pregnant. During Beth’s stay, there’s a lot of sisterly bonding, heart-to-hearts and, of course, gnarly torture. It isn’t long before Ellie is held captive by her building’s elevator in a clever take on Evil Dead’s woods scene, wherein the machine’s coils recall the original film’s vengeful branches.

After her time in the lift, it becomes clear that there’s something a little off about mom. She cooks an omelet garnished with a healthy dosage of eggshells. She offers her family a detailed account of a disturbing dream she had. She chases them through the apartment with a gigantic knife. 

From that moment forward, Rise descends into utter, relentless, uncompromising carnage. I’m talking eyeball gore. I’m talking glass eating. I’m talking industrial grinding machines. Indeed, Cronin doesn’t take his chance to make a mark on the hallowed series lightly. He squeezes every ounce of blood out of these 90 minutes like his life depends on it, while also remaining faithful to Evil Dead’s wicked sense of humor (again, it takes a special kind of filmmaker to inspire such uproarious laughter at cheese grater torture). 

But Cronin doesn’t just honor the Evil Dead franchise by mimicking classic scenes, preserving the iconic look of the series’ pale-faced and glowing-eyed Deadites, or implementing his fair share of fast-paced POV shots. He also adds his own flare, subverting what we know about these classics and ushering in a new way of viewing them. It takes a certain level of bravery to ditch the haunting setting that every Evil Dead fan knows and loves for an apartment. The change of scenery works. The crumbling building becomes a monster in itself, creaking with the audible groans of an anguished creature in perfect synchronicity with the masterfully exaggerated bone-crunchings of the bloodthirsty Deadite, and moving and shaking like a trembling beast.

The eeriness of the apartment building is emphasized by cinematographer Dave Garbett, who implements split diopter shots to collapse space between Ellie and her victims, making it feel like the world is collapsing on them. Garbett also frequently implements extreme close-ups that make Rise’s setting feel more claustrophobic than the woods ever could, paired with creeping tracking shots that make it feel like something is constantly lurking behind the camera.

Of course, equally vital to the setting of any Evil Dead film is its villain, and in Rise, Sutherland exceeds any and all monstrous expectations. Contorting her face into a stretched, Joker-esque smile, she nails the Deadite look while finding an unexpected level of humor in her flitting side-eyes and perfectly wry deliveries of gloriously funny lines such as, “Mommy’s with the maggots now.” Sullivan also shines, offering her character a pitch-perfect level of attitude and pizazz while keeping Rise’s emotional core genuine enough to balance out all of the flying eyeballs and severed limbs. 

If Rise has one downfall, it’s that Cronin sacrifices too much to get his shocking, gore-filled images on the screen. The film only works if the five main characters aren’t able to leave their apartment. As a result, no one tries particularly hard to. And while I am endlessly thankful for all of the horrible, depraved things that I witnessed in that theater, at times I could imagine Cronin asking “What is the grossest thing I could put in a movie?” and working backwards from there, without paying too much mind to the plot. Still, you have to hand it to him: Cronin gave Evil Dead fans (myself included) precisely what they wanted with Rise. All of the gore, humor and callbacks you could possibly ask for, packaged into 90 minutes. You can’t ask for much more than that—though it’ll be a while before I eat grated cheese again.

Director: Lee Cronin
Writer: Lee Cronin
Stars: Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Morgan Davie, Gabrielle Echols, Nell Fisher, Mia Challis
Release Date: March 15, 2023 (SXSW)

Aurora Amidon is a film journalist and passionate defender of Hostel: Part II. Follow her on Twitter for her latest questionable culture takes.