‘Evil Dead Rise’ Delivers a Rightfully Gruesome, Peculiarly Ghoulish, and Entirely Worthy Sequel


Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

In 2013’s Evil Dead remake, director Fede Álvarez revitalized the franchise more on nostalgia than anything else. The idea of a remote cabin, the broken-down bridge, a basement cellar, the evil tree branches, and the humor was lost in execrating dialogue. Now, a decade later, Lee Cronin has breathed new life into the evil that rises from the dead in a new setting that takes Sam Raimi’s originals and upgrades the levels of blood, taking it leaps ahead in the visualization of visceral fright.

Evil Dead Rise sets the stage right from the beginning. A nod to the originals, the opening sequence features a lakeside cabin with three friends on a weekend getaway, who the horrifying demon engulfs first. The possessed floats above the ground at the dead center of the screen, right in front of a scenic landscape. And from beyond the hills rises the title card, with an ever-amplifying demonic sound mix that chills the audience. With that perfect opening, the film rewinds a day back to unravel the preceding events.

Rise is everything you need from an Evil Dead movie and more. The franchise’s latest installment is reflective of the newness on either side of the camera, even in the fundamentals. Following the trilogy and Álvarez’s reamke, Cronin develops an alternate, more recent history to the devilish Necronomicon.

While the book retains its inherent dark magic triggered by incantations, the design seems like a valid upgrade. The passages and drawings are inked in red, referenced in the film as blood, and act upon recorded incantations on vinyl. Unlike the previous movie, this Necronomicon has some roots in ancient Catholicism instead of witchcraft. The corresponding sound design, the camera’s emphasis on turning pages, and some hair-raising demonic references set the mood for the impending horror that follows the discovery.

That’s the setup, but Cronin increases the manic by slightly changing an approach from the original Evil Dead’s slapstick terror to more body horror. Even in the bloody gore, the excessive vomit, or the excruciating screams, genuine style is added to the possessed’s demonic movements. The crackling bones marking the walk, the stretched-out creepy smile, the limbs’ weirdly unusual twisting, and the changing pitch in the evil’s voice – all of it is empowered by the writing.

More detailed work on effects and makeup ensures an experience that makes your nerves and spine crawl. The practical effects aren’t limited to the flooding pool of blood that drowns the characters, or even the iconic churning moments that paint the surroundings red. It’s also noticeable in expressions and facial traits that make the film unusually groovy. Amidst those elements, the production design of the rugged, to-be-demolished, worn-out suburban apartment with a busted parking shutter and poorly placed fire escape perfectly fits the setting.

Cronin has done a terrific job recreating an old franchise with new ideas and upgraded elements, but nothing would have been remotely enjoyable about Evil Dead Rise if not for a fantastic showcase by the impeccable cast. Alyssa Sutherland left enough crumbs in the trailer for the audience to follow them to theaters to face her character’s full wrath. After watching the film, you’d know she wasn’t joking. Sutherland’s disgustingly frightening performance of a blood-spewing Deadite gives the script the required brutal and diabolical obscenity.

Donning a bloodstained and torn-apart white shirt, aesthetic tattoos (corresponding to her character Ellie’s profession), and shorts, Sutherland walks with a visibly twisted back and kneecaps that alone send horrors through the screen when she appears from a silhouette. Dropping a handful of rightly timed slapstick moments and freaky puns in a nightmarishly happy face, she delivers a showcase turn that ranks among the top performances in the genre.

Lily Sullivan plays Beth, Ellie’s sister, who finds a strong co-actor in Nell Fisher, embodying the psychologically and physically threatening impact of a walking evil in their apartment building. Cronin doesn’t hide the child actor behind bloody carnage and butchery, but instead puts her through it, which reflects pure fear. On the other hand, Sullivan is the protagonist the franchise needed for a long time, and showcases the ability to stand on par with the longstanding legacy of Ash Williams.

While Jane Levy in Álvarez’s Evil Dead proved her mettle as the scream queen, Sullivan shines as the hero who stands tall in the claustrophobic danger, even under the duress of a gruesome family loss. Also, Gabrielle Echols’ Bridget and Morgan Davies’ Danny – Kassie’s elder siblings – add to the familial subplot that makes the lurking satanic entity a more personal enemy.

In his standalone follow-up to the original and reboot, Cronin deliberately keeps familiar elements as creative callbacks. The camera movements and a couple of POV shots were made famous by Raimi, and have carried through the veteran director’s career. In addition, certain moments resemble the Evil Dead formula, such as Necronomicon’s vast catalog of monsters, a multi-Deadite team-up, and some iconic massacre moments.

Yet, Cronin successfully throttles the film with new imagination. The ferocity of violence and flair for the grotesque that comes with the climax seems well laid-out as in the script as it is depicted onscreen, while the levels of extremities it shows in its more graphic highlights blood-spatter proves it to be a worthy addition to the franchise.

Cronin’s Evil Dead Rise runs for a shade under 100 minutes. Though screentime is hardly a measuring unit for a film’s takeaways, the crisp and claustrophobic horror venture finds it useful. It doesn’t tone down on the fear, and keeps increasing the violent intensity with every frame. Gradually raising the evil, it amplifies the damage and culminates into a chaotic finale. In its claustrophobic setting, the crisp and concise final cut sustains consistency throughout, and keeps the narrative away from stagnancy.

For Evil Dead fans, Rise is a massive homecoming treat. For those who haven’t watched the originals, it’s a great movie to start familiarizing with the long-running arc, which leaves some hints for a potential future to take shape. For the grisly take on the classic property and the ghoulish vibes it intentionally conveys, you’re encouraged to check Evil Dead Rise.


‘Evil Dead Rise’ is rightfully gruesome and peculiarly ghoulish. And it makes it worthy of a theatrical experience.

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