Evil Dead Rise

When she discovers she’s pregnant, guitar tech Beth (Lily Sullivan) makes her way to her estranged sister Ellie’s (Alyssa Sutherland), only to find the mother of three separated from her husband and packing up her apartment in a condemned L.A. building with nowhere to go.  Beth’s barely begun to reconnect when an earthquake uncovers an old bank vault beneath the building’s parking garage and Ellie’s aspiring DJ, Danny (Morgan Davies), recovers one very sinister looking book and a couple of recordings made by priests.  Against his sister Bridget’s (Gabrielle Echols) objections, Danny spins them on his turntable and “Evil Dead Rise.”

Laura's Review: A-

It’s been ten years since Fede Alvarez’s bloody good, gorier remake of Sam Raimi’s 1981 original, Bruce Campbell keeping buzz alive with Starz’s ‘Ash vs. Evil Dead’ series in the interim.  Now Deadite fans have something to celebrate with writer/director Lee Cronin’s ("The Hole in the Ground") new take, which opens up the franchise without jettisoning any of Raimi’s foundational rules.   Exceptionally crafted and cast, “Evil Dead Rise” pays genre homages as it puts characters we care about into unrelentingly horrifying scenarios.  It may be the rare franchise sequel that is as good as the original.

Where Alvarez took on a female protagonist and an addiction theme, Cronin gives us two rock ‘n roll Goth sisters, one maternal, one a mom-in-training, and by the time the night is over, Beth will have had to learn fast.   Ellie, with her tattoos and black attire, is an unconventional mom and we can see her Bohemian streak in her kids, her youngest, Kassie (Nell Fisher), cutting the head off of a baby doll to create the head-on-a-stick she calls ‘Staffenie.’  But although the family’s tastes may run toward the weird, there is no mistaking the love they have for each other.  Which makes it all the more distressing when, after a harrowing episode in the building’s elevator, Ellie suddenly starts threatening her children.  Fortunately, Beth has managed to lock the door.

When Bridget starts to blame her brother for bringing that fanged book into their apartment, Beth steps in and deescalates, but as she listens to the recordings on headphones in an attempt to understand what they are dealing with, her sister, inspired by a neighbor’s cat, slides down from an overhead duct and proceeds to put her talon on the spinning vinyl and project its sound just like Stitch in “Lilo & Stitch.” 

Cronin serves up demonic horror in a tense bathroom scene (one of two nods to “The Shining” here, and a marvel of practical effects), with avert-your-eyes gore fashioned from cheese graters and Kassie’s doll-head-on-a-stick, distressingly used against her own possessed sibling.  Formerly helpful neighbors create their own massacre in the hallway, one of many horrors viewed from the fisheye perspective of a peep hole.  Drenched in gore, Beth will do battle against her sister, now formed into a multi-limbed creature with two of her own children, Beth saving the last like Ripley protecting Newt.

There is humor to be found here too, cinematographer Dave Garbett (TV's 'Ash vs. Evil Dead') recreating Raimi’s whooshing-through-the-woods camera shot only to reveal the drone now used to create it before turning said drone into a weapon in the film’s outstanding flashforward opener which takes place at an A-Frame in the woods and will forever change your reading of ‘Wuthering Heights.’  He creates some really elegant shots throughout, an underwater view of Beth’s hand testing the temperature of bathtub water made sinister.  Sound designer Peter Albrechtsen ("The Killing of Two Lovers") was given a hard drive of all the sounds recorded for the first two films by producer Bruce Campbell and he recycles them to hair-raising effect, Stephen McKeon's confrontational score adding to the unsettling aural experience.

Kudos to casting two actresses who actually resemble each other as the sisters, both excellent (we mourn the loss of Sutherland’s quickly yet acutely drawn Ellie to the Deadites).  The film also features Anna-Maree Thomas as unfortunate neighbor Jessica, who appears in the film’s knockout of a prologue with Mirabai Pease and Richard Crouchley.   

Robin's Review: B

Warner Brothers opens "Evil Dead Rise" in theaters on 4/21/23.