Review: ‘Evil Dead Rise’ brings new life to the cult horror franchise

“Evil Dead Rise,” is in theaters starting April 21. This movie is ready to scare you and everyone else — no one is safe.


Aaliya Luthra

(Illustration by Aaliya Luthra)

Chesney Graham, Contributing Writer

In Lee Cronin’s new addition to the “Evil Dead franchise,” which now has five adaptations in addition to a TV show, “Evil Dead Rise” seems to be the first film that could stand on its own. It adds even more blood, guts and possession than its already horrifying predecessors.

The film follows two estranged sisters who reunite — an occasion that is shortly ruined by the opening of the Book of the Dead, which allows the world of the undead to wreak havoc on the living. The movie mainly takes place in one location: the apartment of Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), one of the sisters. “Evil Dead Rise” takes a new turn with the inclusion of several strong, female characters — while we all love the chainsaw-toting Ashley Joanna “Ash” Williams, the protagonist of the franchise, his absence in the new installment brings focus to the female protagonist of Beth and her sister, Ellie.

The previous “Evil Dead” films were set in a cabin with a primarily adult cast, whereas “Evil Dead Rise” is set in Ellie’s apartment with her three children. In Cronin’s addition to the franchise, no one — not even an innocent child — is off-limits for the dead. While the franchise’s previous films depicted people going into creepy places on their own accord, for example, a dark forest in the middle of nowhere, Cronin wanted to show how evil came “knocking on [the] doorstep” of this innocent family that had been otherwise minding their own business.

In entering Sam Raimi’s world, Cronin was determined to put an original spin on “Evil Dead Rise” to separate it from previous films in the franchise. Cronin elucidated his approach to the film at a roundtable discussion for college journalists around the country.

“If you’ve got to break the mold, you’ve got to break the mold, right?” he asked.

Central to the film’s gutsiness is its amazing visual prowess, which is due in part to the gore and prosthetic makeup. The undead characters, called “deadites” in the Evil Dead universe, look scarier than ever. We see the life drained from the characters and their appearances are grotesquely altered to reflect their demonic possession — each gory frame sears itself into your mind.

The performances feel deeply connected to their characters. Beth gives a standout performance, coming to visit her sister and taking on the role of the hero. We see Beth go on a character arc from beginning to end — at first, she’s on the defensive, shunning herself away from her family, but by the end of the film, Beth becomes the protector.

While “Evil Dead Rise” paves a different path from its predecessors, adding increasingly intense and jarring elements, it still honors the original movies — most notably, by including the iconic chainsaw. If you see “Evil Dead Rise,” now showing in select theaters in New York City, expect to leave the theater wanting to return for a rewatch. You’ll be quoting things like “Mommy’s with the maggots now,” and you’ll absolutely know that you should never pick up a book you find underground.

Contact Chesney Graham at [email protected].