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Evil Dead Rise (Film Review)

4 min read
A blood-soaked women aims a shotgun at something off screen

The series is certainly an outlier compared to other franchises. It isn't massively popular at the box office or in the public conscience, but it has enough of a fan base to generate a three season TV show and a recent video game four decades after the series' inception. Even more surprising is that arguably there hasn't been a bad Evil Dead film yet. Is writer and director 's a groovy time or as rotten as a Deadite?

This fifth entry forgoes the cabin in the woods setting and instead unleashes chaos inside a high rise apartment. Cronin also swaps out a group of friends for a small family unit: mother Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), her children Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and Kassie (Nell Fisher), and Ellie's sister Beth (Lily Sullivan). Whilst the setting unfortunately doesn't change the formula much, having a family with children tormented and possessed by demons raises the stakes and shows an even gnarlier side to the Evil Dead series unlike anything we've seen yet. 

You'll have to wait a while for the gory fun to begin however. After a gleefully bloody cold open, Cronin takes his time setting up the characters and the long-winded way in which the cast get their hands on the Book of the Dead. Ellie and her creative children are dealing with several issues, most crucially the separation between Ellie and her husband and the fact that the family is being kicked out of their apartment. To complicate things further, guitar technician and roadie Beth rocks up unannounced after finding out she's pregnant. As tensions simmer, an earthquake hits the apartment block, opening up a way into the bank vault underneath where the Necronomicon lies – it's a lot. What makes the first act feel longer than it is is the inclusion of some half-baked jump scares and red herrings.

A woman possessed by a demon peers into the peep hole of a front door whilst covered in blood.
StudioCanal UK

Thankfully, that all changes when the demons start having their fun. Evil Dead Rise falls somewhere between Fede Alvarez's straight-faced remake/sequel and Raimi's goofy second outing; Cronin balances the grounded brutality expected of modern horrors but doesn't forget that audiences are supposed to have as much fun as the demons. There isn't really anything new but here that's fine as Cronin understands what makes an Evil Dead film work: creative visuals, shockingly comedic moments, and lots and lots of gore. 

Whilst we don't get too attached to the characters, having the cast as a family – a young family – seriously ups the tension. Typically kids are safe in on screen media but the filmmakers are just as nihilistic as the Deadites. It's very clear that no one is safe and the unfortunate victims – no matter their age – are all subject to grisly deaths. Audiences will surely be kept on their toes, and will be laughing as they watch through their fingers. As fans of the series know, the Deadites love psychologically tormenting their victims as they possess a loved one, and that is pushed to the extreme here. One such example sees the very young Kassie unsure of whether to let in her possessed mother in their home as the blood-soaked Deadite plays every cruel trick on her. It's delightfully nail-biting stuff. 

Of course it wouldn't be an Evil Dead film without some inventive filmmaking and there's some great work on display here. Whilst there are some homages to previous entries (it'd be a crime to not have the demon POV shot), the use of split diopter shots gives Evil Dead Rise an identity of its own that adds to the fun frights. What really stands out is the sound design, which is punchy, effectively utilises surround sound for genuine scares and makes gory moments all the more sickly sweet. It comes as no surprise that the visual and practical effects are top notch too. Fans will cheer and squirm at the many, many visceral hits and kills.          

So is there a bad Evil Dead film? After this fifth entry, thankfully not. On the surface it doesn't do enough to really push the series forward but when it nails the core of what an Evil Dead movie is, that isn't so much of a problem. Evil Dead Rise is gnarly, brutal, and a load of fun. Fans will delight in the callbacks and surprising new twists, whilst newcomers can enjoy a brutally nihilistic that revels in its own twisted delights. The future of franchise is looking groovy. 

Evil Dead Rise is released on DVD, Blu-ray and 4k on July 17th