The newest installment to the Evil Dead franchise, Evil Dead Rise, from writer and director Lee Cronin and executive producers Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, is now in theaters. Unlike its franchise predecessors, the fifth take on the franchise takes place in the city, following a single mother and her children as their lives turn to a living hell.
Ellie, a tattoo artist, is doing her best to provide and care for her children after her husband abandoned them and they face the demolition of their building. Ellie is already barely keeping it together when her sister, Beth, reappears in their lives, facing a crisis of her own. The sisters are barely able to navigate a rocky and emotional reunion before an earthquake rips through the building, opening up the floor to reveal what will be the family’s torment — a hidden vault containing the Necronomicon or “Book of the Dead.”
This is as much of the plot as I’m willing to reveal in this review, because Evil Dead Rise should be viewed with nothing more than this information in mind so viewers can appreciate this movie’s offerings and twists in full. Going into this movie with no spoilers will ensure this movie is appreciated for all it has to offer, and it has plenty.
The ultimate takeaway from the fifth franchise installment is that the claim that there’s never been a bad Evil Dead movie continues to be true. It was evident from the trailers that Evil Dead Rise would be a depraved scream fest, and the team behind this movie absolutely delivered on the trailers’ promises. Evil Dead Rise has gratuitous gore, driven home by the 1,700 gallons of fake blood used and everyday household items that are used for things they simply shouldn’t be (my irrational fear of cheese graters suddenly became very real). If you have a stomach of steel you may still find yourself nauseated by the use of practical effects.
Cronin clearly came into this with a deep understanding and respect for the franchise, but also with the intent to breath new life into it. Evil Dead Rise expands on the lore created by Raimi and co. in 1981, but the heart of the franchise is still there — as are plenty of homages to the original.
Not only does the movie reference its own franchise, it also gives itself the space to reference plenty of other horror greats, including The Shining (thanks to buckets of blood). Cronin also chose to reintroduce a key element to the franchise that the 2013 reboot, Evil Dead, left out by including just enough humor to break up the scares — but it never forgets that it is a horror movie first and foremost.
As fantastic as the majority of the movie is, Evil Dead Rise is not without fault. It has a clear depth of potential in its new setting, but what it could have done, it simply didn’t. Moving to a city apartment building rather than a secluded cabin should have given much more room for the evil to stretch its legs, but the setting is simply not used to its full advantage.
Additionally, from the moment the majority of the secondary cast are introduced, it’s obvious they’re purely there to become the deadites’ victims — the movie would have only benefitted from adding even slightly more depth to the subset of characters by giving the audience something more to connect to. For the majority of them, you simply don’t care what their fate is. However, given Evil Dead Rise was initially planned for a direct-to-streamer release, its bare bones story and characterization is hardly surprising.
The main cast, however, all provide excellent performances — none more-so than Alyssa Sutherland, who will undoubtedly make an appearance in a future nightmare for many viewers (which is a compliment).
Evil Dead Rise is playing in theaters now.