Evil Dead Rise Review
The Evil Dead franchise returns to the big screen ten years after its last theatrical release,
Evil Dead (2013). Interestingly, this movie was not intended for theatrical release, but was
scheduled for HBO Max streaming, and was upgraded due to positive test screenings.
Evil Dead Rise features a relatively low-key cast (much like the classic 1982 original)
consisting of mostly unknowns, although you might recognise Alyssa Sutherland (who I’m
reliably informed is not Olivia Wilde) from the TV show Vikings. Another noteworthy crew
member is Irish director Lee Cronin (I’ve not heard of him either) who proves to be a
talent to watch out for.
Evil Dead Rise abandons the tired trope of youths trapped in a cabin in the woods and
replaces it with a single parent family stuck in an urban high rise apartment building,
which is a nice change for the series. All seems peaceful, apart from regular family drama,
until an earthquake and some teenage curiosity unearths one of the fabled “Books of the
Dead”. Cue reciting of evil passages, blood, demonic insults, more blood (not CGI,
thankfully) and looming POV shots of unseen evil hunting down our characters.
At its core Evil Dead Rise is about family, which really ups the stakes from previous
iterations, whereby various jocks, hillbillies, nerds etc show up merely so demons can
possess/kill someone who isn’t Bruce Campbell (who sadly does not make an
appearance). It’s quite refreshing for a horror movie to feature likeable and relatable
characters, and when all hell breaks loose you genuinely feel bad for them, which
immediately sets Evil Dead Rise apart from many other horror movies of the same vein.
With a large portion of the cast being teenagers and children, you’d be forgiven for
expecting Evil Dead Rise to skimp on the gore, or tone down the violence, but thankfully
this was not the case. This is an 18’s film through and through.
In there lies what lifts Evil Dead Rise above so many similar movies. Director Lee Cronin
clearly knows what he is doing, and due to his care of writing and directing he manages
to tell a fairly common story and present it with enough quality, nuance, and subtle
variations that the viewing experience is both familiar yet unpredictable. The movie is
filled with fan service, common movie tropes, and nods to previous films in the series, but
they are, for the most part, cleverly subverted, disguised or woven seamlessly into the
script that they never feel contrived, nor formulaic.
While other horror franchises are noticeably waning Evil Dead Rise is, ironically, a beacon
of hope. It’s well written, well directed, well acted, and features legitimately unnerving
moments, while not relying on jump scares to get them. I wouldn’t dare say it’s the best in
the franchise, but I do dare say it’s not far from it. Whether it will have the same cultural
influence remains to be seen, but it’s a very worthy sequel, and a terrific watch.
4.5 / 5 stars.
- Written & Directed by: Lee Cronin
- Starring: Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols.
- Run Time: 97 minutes
- Rated: R (US) | 18 (IE)
- Released: April 21st, 2023
Review by Ross McCarthy, Dublin based screenwriter and stand-up comedian.