Evil Dead Rise

Evil Dead Rise (2023)

Evil Dead Rise first published (in a slightly different version) by Sight and Sound, 18 April 2023

Review: From the initial twisting POV shot that races along a creek through woods to a lake, and across its surface right up to Teresa (Mirabai Pease) on the pier, we are clearly in Evil Dead land. This, after all, is the series’ signature style for evoking the presence of a demonic force zeroing in on its next human host – even if it is really an intradiegetic shot from a drone controlled by Caleb (Richard Crouchley), who is trying to spook Teresa. Meanwhile Caleb’s girlfriend Jessica (Mia Challis) – who is already possessed, and will fast make bloody work of her companions – sleeps in accommodation nearby that is more modern A-frame house than the iconic cabin in the woods. Advertising difference as well as similarity, this prologue is, like the urinating Caleb, marking familiar franchise territory as its own.

Cut to ‘one day earlier’, and Evil Dead Rise takes us to its prime location – not the usual haunted woods or medieval castles, but a dilapidated old apartment building in Los Angeles. Horrified to learn that she is pregnant, Beth (Lily Sullivan) arrives seeking comfort from her older, recently dumped sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and Ellie’s teen children Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and the much younger Kassie (Nell Fisher). When an earthquake exposes a Book of the Dead and recorded incantations in the basement, Danny unwittingly summons an evil to the building, setting this normally close-knit family against one another in a nightmare of psychological and physical trauma. 

Evil Dead Rise

Writer/director Lee Cronin here, as in his The Hole In The Ground (2019), uses genre material to give monstrous expression to the maternal anxieties and bad blood of his well-sketched characters, as he fills the cracks in their family relations with id-like embodiments of repressed rage and resentment. For these demons deconstruct and reconstruct their victims much as Kassie does her dolls, or Cronin the franchise’s formulae. Equally appropriating the high-rise hell of Lamberto Bava’s Demons 2 (1986) and Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza’s [Rec] (2007), and the flooded elevator of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), Evil Dead Rise brings all-new locations and dramatis personae, ditches altogether Bruce Campbell’s popular hero Ash (who even in Fede Alvarez’s 2013 sequel/reboot had a brief cameo), and dials down the comedy. Hitting the ground running with intense gore and unnerving sound design, it is the bloody mother of the series, ultimately forging a macabre Möbius loop back to the woods where it all started – at least in this film, if not quite in Sam Raimi’s 1981 original

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Synopsis: Los Angeles, present day. In an old apartment building, Ellie and her three children are visited by Ellie’s newly pregnant sister Beth, and by accidentally awoken demonic forces determined to set this loving if fragile family against each other as it tries to possess them one by one before dawn.

strap: Lee Cronin’s rambunctious reek-quel is the bloody mother of the franchise, dividing a fragile family in an apartment building

Anton Bitel