The sixth big-screen appearance of Sam Raimi’s Deadites (they previously had a three-season run on cable TV) is titled Evil Dead Rise, and it aims to address the issue of whether The Evil Dead are compelling enough on their own to hold the audience’s attention without Bruce Campbell’s Ash. Ash has never been completely ignored in a series chapter before, despite the fact that his debut in Fede Alvaraz’s 2013 version was just a brief post-credits cameo. Even with a shotgun and a chainsaw, the new characters can’t completely cover the Joseph Campbell-sized hole in the screenplay’s fabric, so the verdict is still out. An Evil Dead movie undoubtedly requires its human star more than the other way around, much as with the reincarnation. Regardless, Lee Cronin’s approach to the Deadite universe in Evil Dead Rise is superior to Fede Alvarez’s but still falls far short of Sam Raimi, who directed the original trilogy (The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, and Army of Darkness).
Although the film begins in a cabin by a lake, most of the action takes place in a run-down Los Angeles tenement building that is about to be demolished. The happily disorganised fatherless family of Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), Danny (Morgan Davies), Kassie (Nell Fisher), and their mother Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) live in one of the apartments. Beth (Lily Sullivan), Ellie’s mischievous sister, enters the scene with a stain on her soul and a child in her tummy after returning home after a global tour as a band’s audio technician. A buried vault is exposed deep under the parking garage when there is an earthquake. Danny descends to investigate what’s going on, embraces the inherent horror movie foolishness anticipated in an Evil Dead movie, and finds the Necronomicon and a collection of antiquated documents. Naturally, he is compelled to play the records and open the Book of the Dead. Ellie has the misfortune of becoming the first victim when this releases a demon.
Cronin (like Alvarez) chooses a more serious Evil Dead in keeping with Raimi’s original, maybe realising that the overtly campy/comedic tone of Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness would not work without Campbell’s involvement. The film chooses to go for something closer to straightforward horror rather than the horror/comedy pastiche that Raimi adopted for the final two installments of his trilogy (which was carried over to “Ash vs. Evil Dead”), even though Evil Dead Rise has plenty of dark humour and plenty of gratuitous blood and gore.
Evil Dead Rise mostly adheres to the model Raimi set for Deadite flicks in the 1980s. As a result, by the time the action moves to the closing moments, everyone has been properly covered in blood, the hero or heroine is in complete control of a chain saw, and the majority of the supporting players have passed away. The location restricts the amount of victims, which is essentially why there aren’t many deaths for a horror movie with this much brutality. Cronin decides to focus on quality rather than quantity as a result. And much like Ash, who lost an arm when it was inconvenient, the Ash substitute too ends up being chopped and diced.
Given how the horror genre has developed since 1987 (the year Evil Dead II was published), it’s possible that this is one of the reasons that Evil Dead Rise lacks the full-throttle excitement of Raimi’s efforts. Raimi created several things that have subsequently been copied, recopied, and improved upon. Though the early Evil Dead films were many things, few would describe them as “generic.” However, elements of Evil Dead Rise have a recognisable feel. It never really scares me, but it’s always gory and sometimes darkly funny. The crazy plots of serious horror films in the 2020s or the use of ominous camera angles and eerie set designs are where these films find their niches. Both are present in Evil Dead Rise. The outcome should, for the most part, satisfy series fans (albeit Ash’s absence leaves an unbridgeable gap). Younger viewers or those unfamiliar with the genre may be curious as to what makes this movie unique. The response is null. Another time, nostalgia has triumphed over originality.
Evil Dead Rise (United States/New Zealand, 2023)
Director: Lee Cronin
Cast: Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Gabrielle Echols, Morgan Davies, Nell Fisher
Screenplay: Lee Cronin
Cinematography: Dave Garbett
Music: Stephen McKeon
U.S. Distributor: Warner Brothers
Run Time: 1:39
U.S. Release Date: 2023-04-21
MPAA Rating: “R” (Violence, Gore, Profanity)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1