Evil Dead Rise, 2023 – ★★★½

Y’know, it’s times like this that I kind of wish we could ressurect Mary Whitehouse and take her to the movies.

Evil Dead Rise sees the return of the much beloved franchise 10 years after it’s last cinematic outing (itself a quasi reboot/remake of the original 1981 classic) and I would argue its something of a triumphant return after Warner bros damn near dumped the thing on HBO max.

The plot revolves around a family in a small collapsing apartment complex. The complex is set to be torn down in a months time, so single mum Ellie and her 3 kids are getting things ready for a move. That is until her estranged sister who’s work requires her to travel arrives at the complex with quite important news. Before too many words can be exchanged however an earthquake hits the apartment complex revealing a (previously undiscovered) bank vault, inside which sits several mysterious records and a book with teeth.

If you’ve seen an Evil Dead movie before, you know it doesnt take long for limbs to start flying, squishy bits to start being gauged and all manner of grim and unhiged oomska. With the big question hanging over the movie being: Will whats left of the family survive a night against the deadites?

Right off the bat I feel the need to clarify, if you havent seen this movie, it’s much more in line tonally with the original ‘Evil Dead’ and the 2013 remake than it is ‘Evil Dead 2’, ‘Army of Darkness’ and ‘Ash Vs The Evil Dead’ This is a movie that, while it doesnt take itself BITTERLY seriously, is not the goof around that the other ‘Evil Dead’ films can be at times.

I was quite thankful ultimately that someone told me the vibe was more in line with ‘Evil Dead’ (2013) than ‘Evil Dead 2’ because had I gone in prepared for the latter, i’d have been dissapointed. What we have here is a *slightly* uneven but ultimately VERY gory thrill ride of a movie that absolutely has its moments, but didnt quite hit the mark for me.

The script is a bit on the lumpy side, with a 1st act thats a little bit too slow for my taste in terms of setting up the characters, establishing the setting, introducing the necronimicon and the whole ‘deadite’ thing. Which then gives way to a near breakneck 2nd and 3rd act that if anything goes too far the other way, characters arnt even allowed to breath letalone develop and in the 2nd act particularly we do end up in a bit of a cycle of deadite attacks and rests.

Equally, while the more serious nature of this film is more than welcome and I do think it does a tremendous job in setting and maintaining an atmosphere of unease, I personally did kind of wish the film would have gotten at least a *little* bit more playful with its characters. For the most part everyone involved is playing it largely straight The Deadites here have some fantastic lines at times, but apart from one or two moments where they mess with the humans, they dont really do much. It would have been nice to see them play around with possessing inanimate objects, gaslighting the humans and…well…causing chaos. There are chaotic moments. But they’re just that…moments. I never really felt the film lost control, nothing surprised me and a lot of the more ‘horror’ oriented moments relied on jumpscares…Which is just cheap and really didnt do it for me.

The gore kind of fell a bit flat for me too, especially based on whats come before it. With most of the more violent sequences either being stuff we’ve seen before in previous entries or Over CGI’d gumpf that felt forced and looked poor. There were a couple of practical effects moments that did have me squirming, but they were very few and far between and the rest? well it just didnt quite have the mania of violence and carnage that previous Evil Dead movies had.

Thats absolutley not to say though that this wasnt a fun watch! quite the contrary! If you can push past the first act you’ll find a rip roarer for the most part thats entertaining, adds to the existing mythos of the franchise and most importantly, manages to survive without Sam Raimi or Bruce Campbell gripping tightly to the reigns. THAT, in and of itself HAS to be applauded. I wont get into spoilers here, but what I will say is, there were a few continuity issues that cropped up in the 3rd act that undercut the ending a bit for me. But if this thing gets a sequel (and I sincerely hope it does) it more than gives some scope for this thing to really break out and flourish.

The Directions more than decent, it’s nice to see fresh faces tackle the franchise and I feel here, Lee Cronin has done a fabulous job in taking what Raimi laid as a foundation and added to it. it carries its own distinct style, puts the occasional nod to Raimis work in there but it isnt restrained by it. it’s more than happy to go off and do its own thing. While that does garner mixed results (there were parts of this film where it started to feel a little like a generic mainstream zombie movie and less like an Evil Dead film) those moments were mercifully brief and when this thing punches, it punches HARD. A really solid attempt at re-establishing the franchise and a more than solid foundation for a sequel to build on. I thought it was great.

The cine too is punchy, creative and vile in all the best ways. While I dont quite think this entry hit the stylistic highs of ‘Evil Dead’ (2013) it certainly holds its own, and barring a few scenes in one of the hallways that were a little over-dark making it difficult to make out what was actually happening. We had rock solid compostion, decent use of colour and lighting to create a vibrantly moody atmosphere that didnt so much steal from the other films, more recycle and upcycle what was there into a more contemporary vision.

The cast were astounding Alyssa Sutherland is probably one of the greatest deadite performances the franchise has seen. Dancing the line between aggressive, quietly terrifying and unhinged. She works a tremendous range, gives her all to the performance and is EASILY worth the price of admission alone. Its a shame most film awards overlook horror as a category, because she really was a force in this thing.

Gabrielle Echols is also fantastic as Bridget (Ellies Daughter), its almost criminal just how underused she is really in this film because, while in the first act her performance is a little on the dry side, by the time the 2nd act revs up she really hits her stride, totally gets into the swing of things and then the film shifts focus away from her. I’d have genuinely loved to have seen more of her in this movie honestly.

Equally; It would be amiss of me not to mention Lily Sullivan, who does a more than serviceable job as ‘Beth’ she doesnt *quite* get the range that Alyssa does in this, and as a lead, shes maybe a tad on the dry side. but she brings her own voice to the production. I didnt dislike her and when the 3rd act opens up she really embraces the role and clearly is having fun with it.

What I will say is, a lot of these performances do teeter just a bit into a generic TV acting style, the kind of performances you’d see in a TV movie (which…again, is probably understandable given WB were going to put this on HBOs streaming) While it didnt exactly ruin the experience for me, there were a few moments in this where things felt a little too safe, and I never really felt like any of the characters (based on their performances) were ever in any *real* sense of danger. in a film where the cast should (rightfully) be panicking when their mum is turned into a deadite, instead for a lot of the scenes, the cast just came across as quiet. not concerned. and thats a bit of a problem.

And the soundtrack? it’s oppressive. Im not sure if it’s the theatre I saw this at or if this is how the films actually mixed. but it’s INSANELY loud. like…kudos to them for mixing the vocals high enough that I could actually hear what the cast were saying (a major problem with a lot of modern films) but there were points here where it very much felt like the ‘score’ was just a sound technician cramming as much noise as he could onto the timeline and peaking the crap out of it. I have ADHD and there were several points where the films score got so loud that I ended up dissassociating and I could only hear static. it was crazy. AND it didnt work if the idea was to make me feel scared or uneasy, because I was so preoccupied thinking ‘This is BLOODY loud!’ that I couldnt focus on the spooky stuff on screen.

All in all? ‘Evil Dead Rise’ is a more than fine entry into the franchise. I enjoyed it, I could easily see this being a film that improves with rewatches, I could absolutely recommend it, is it the best Evil Dead movie? No. Absolutely not. it’s probably not even in the top 3. But it’s still an entertaining piece to experience, and I really hope (based on its current success in the box office) that they do decide to build on this, because theres a LOT of potential bubbling under the surface of this thing.

source https://letterboxd.com/tytdreviews/film/evil-dead-rise/

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