‘Evil Dead Rise’ is Full of Mayhem and Glorious Gore [SXSW 2023 Review]

Alyssa Sutherland in Evil Dead Rise

The world premiere of Evil Dead Rise at SXSW proved one thing first and foremost: This horror franchise has never, ever disappointed. That’s an incredible feat to uphold after over forty years of maniacal thrills that have sent Ash Williams through time on a continuous battle with the unfathomable evils of the Necronomicon. Director Lee Cronin’s frenzied new entry removes Ash from the incantation this time around and moves the locale from a remote cabin to a rundown apartment building. The setting may be different, but Sam Raimi’s trademark style is ready to travel thanks to Cronin’s inherent understanding of what makes an Evil Dead movie snap into place.

The opening shot of Evil Dead Rise perfectly encapsulates the kind of tension and release setup that has defined the series. Start with a scare, then a punchline, and end with a jaw-dropping kill that will make you wince and chuckle all at once. Moving from an idyllic lake to a dingy dive bar bathroom, embattled roadie Beth (Lily Sullivan) discovers she’s pregnant and promptly decides to visit her estranged sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) for a little reprieve from the road. Ellie’s three kids, Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), and adorable youngster Kassie (Nell Fisher) are definitely a handful, but they all have a strong bond together. That bond is tested when an earthquake strikes causing a secret room to be uncovered containing another book of the Necronomicon.

As seen from the trailer, Ellie is taken over by an unforgiving force that seems much stronger than the demonic forces seen before. Her possession looks absolutely torturous, and the harm Ellie inflicts on her own family acts as revenge for her own torment. The subtext of regretting motherhood isn’t explored and doesn’t need to be. Ellie becomes the head Deadite and proceeds to crawl up walls and run on all fours to track down her shell-shocked kids and turn them into a new army of the dead.

The time that Cronin takes setting up the family dynamic early on in the first act pays off when it’s established early on that no one is truly safe. Every gross-out gag is used to chilling effect and household items like a cheese grater become horrifying torture devices. Every slice, stab, and bloody ejecta is more painful and more disgusting because the matriarch of the family is the one causing all the chaos. As soon as this no-holds-barred approach kicks into gear, Cronin is making it clear that it’s okay to have fun.

This is where the crossroads of truly gruesome horror intersect with the pure, liberated joy of experiencing something so deliciously vile. The term “splatstick” really is overused to describe the twisted techniques of the Raimi-verse. The world of Evil Dead Rise moves beyond the crazed acrobatics of Evil Dead 2 to create a grotesque hybrid that lies somewhere between Raimi’s films and the much darker “re-imagining” from Fede Alvarez. The combination is exhilarating, especially with an amped-up crowd full of deplorable, salivating genre freaks (myself included).

Lily Sullivan is so much more than just a stand-in for Bruce Campbell, while still managing to pay tribute. She still knows how to wield a chainsaw and laugh maniacally as waves of blood-splattered goo drench her to the bone. Sutherland’s Deadite demon is easily the most menacing and terrifying threat and she gives a fully committed, out-of-body performance. The two of them going head to head is a little tragic at first until both characters start to relish trying to kill each other.

Cronin takes Raimi’s kinetic camera work, comedic timing, and penchant for bone-crushing terror and ramps it up without ever turning to total camp. There are also countless tiny moments of levity amidst the horror thanks to the ingenious intercutting and light-speed editing from Bryan Shaw. Staying on as producers, Raimi, Campbell, and Rob Tapert prove once again that they know exactly how to define this universe that continues, somehow, to deliver an unprecedented level of demented entertainment.

The creators of Evil Dead Rise and Warner Brothers, for that matter, fundamentally understand why this series is so infectious. Simply put, it’s because the Deadites actually take pleasure in being the evilest presence on the face of the Earth. The soul-thirsty elation they feel is strangely liberating to watch. The new book of the dead introduced is ecstatic to be out on the city streets instead of screaming through the woods for fresh souls to take over. Some of the images on the pages of flesh haven’t been seen before, and the Necronomicon itself is more than happy to introduce a few new surprises.

Evil Dead Rise is in theaters on April 21, 2023.

  • Evil Dead Rise


The further adventures of the Necronomicon venture into the city this time around and still deliver the same glorious mashup of gore and gags Evil Dead fans have come to know and love.



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