Evil Dead Rise – Review

Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead was a momentous watch for me, freaking me out and introducing the glory of Bruce Campbell’s chin all in one fell swoop. I’ve never been as invested in the slapstick sequels, though I know Evil Dead II is considered the favorite by most horror fans. When Fede Álvarez released Evil Dead in 2013 I felt seen, enamored with this vicious little entry that was more of a throwback to the original. Evil Dead Rise has taken that bloody, gruesome energy and taken it a step further (not to mention gifting us with one of the greatest title reveals of all time). We’re all the better for it.

Loosely tied into Sam Raimi’s trilogy, the film takes the idea of the Deadites and moves them from the woods to a single floor in a condmened apartment building in LA. Guitar Technician Beth (Lily Sullivan) is visiting her estranged sister, Elle (Alyssa Sutherland). The two have grown apart, but Beth is hoping her new pregnancy will bring her closer to the mother of three. She’s a fun aunt for Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), and Kassie (Nell Fisher), but hasn’t been present in their lives for quite some time. She has to take over as a key player when an earthquake hits the building, revealing an old underground vault where Danny finds an upgraded Necronimocon and some vinyl records containing recordings from the book. Elle soon becomes possessed and the family trapped on the 14th floor of the building, desperate for a way out as Deadite-Elle tries to get the kids.

Let’s get right down to brass tacks and acknowledge that Alyssa Sutherland may be the single best performance in this franchise. This isn’t to dismiss Bruce Campbell, whom I adore and I think his comedic work and physical comedy are some of the best out there, but the full-body commitment from Sutherland is terrifying and endearing all at the same time. Possession films are tricky and follow a lot of tropes, with body contortion and eerie crawling and a whole lot of shouting with voice modulation, but Sutherland makes a lot of effort to remain endearing and nasty in equal measure. Elle is a sweet character that seems to be a bit of a mess while raising her three kids while her Deadite form is just cruelty personified.

Along with that performance is an incredible makeup and production team. Designer Nick Bassett created the apartment and atmosphere of the rundown building, putting together a unique layout and managing the geography in a way that is tactile and tight to keep the terror up. It’s a daunting purlieus for viewers and adds to the sheer tension of Elle’s rampage.

Horror flicks can often delve into easy territory, relying on jump scares and darkly lit sets to create fear when actual terror is beyond their reach. Director Lee Cronin (The Hole in the Ground) has decided to try his hand at something more akin to real fear instead of a jolt of electricity, which makes it all the sweeter when the film climaxes and steps into the territory of the ridiculous. Worthwhile tension is often beyond reach for a film like this but Cronin is careful to avoid showing his hand until it’s too late for us to escape. The blood hits hard and fast, the scares come quickly, but he keeps them up for the entirety of the runtime instead of ever giving the audience a break.

I had an absolute blast with this but there were walkouts in my screening. The blood and gore and intensity is going to be too much for many of you and there’s no shame in that. Tread lightly but if you can handle that kind of thing this is going to be an absolute blast.

Evil Dead Rise is currently in theatres.


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