I’m watching Evil Dead Rise in a movie theatre built inside of a college campus. Where, after going in, the 20-year-old behind the concessions from whom I buy the tickets, says that he absolutely loved this movie. He confidently says the words groundbreaking horror movie, then asks me to return after finishing it to share my thoughts as it’s a pretty slow 2:45 pm showing.
After several snacks and an hour and forty minutes later, I returned and told him that I liked it. Especially, the clever setup and use of the camera techniques. How the numerous callbacks to the originals were some of my favorite scenes. Things like the Henrietta Pizza Box or gallons of excessive amounts of blood or the tracking shot possession sequence following Evil, though in this case, likely filmed by a drone (which is relevant to the movie but I won’t say why).
This was when the young man shared… he’d never even heard of The Evil Dead. Nor did his cohorts. Nor did any of the college kids watching who enjoyed the film. He simply stated, that he just really liked the movie. That everyone he knew had a generally good time minus the expectations or experiences with the franchise.
I share this because that is pretty much what this movie is… a reboot meant for the next generation of fans
It’s not a bad movie by any means, and if you’re going into it having never seen The Evil Dead, you’ll likely enjoy this film. The problem is for old people like myself who’ve not only followed Evil Dead but also, just the evolution of the horror genre, as it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. In fact, the film’s second act and subsequent resolution follow beat-for-beat The Evil Dead’s throughlines, but also, quite a lot of scary movie tropes you’ve likely already seen before if you’re a horror buff.
Keep in mind this is just my experience between the high recommendations going into it and all of the positive critics’ reviews. What I’d recommend then, for anyone considering seeing this, is don’t watch this movie with high expectations. Enjoy the ride, as that’s the best thing about this film.
Specific things to note while viewing at your leisure, are the clever scene-by-scene cinematography and scares being pulled from every sort of horror genre over the past 10 years. We’re talking an amalgam of body horrors, slasher edge-of-the-knife tension, exorcist-style bodily fluids, and just the works of everything that’s ever made you cringe – but in a good way. It’s the kind of mix-up that’ll throw fans off their feet in terms of scares.
The Setup Had a Lot of Potential
First and foremost, the setup of its characters is actually rather brilliant. And without spoilers, Evil Dead Rise embraces a realistic story about motherhood, family, and most of all: struggling women. Most of the main cast are women. The first act lets you meet a mother of a recently split family living in a dilapidated apartment along with children, and a sister whom is, sort of, dealing with potential kid issues of her own. Oh and the sister has a struggling career as a roadie/music technician – which is important later.
A better written story, might’ve looked into the psychological traumas of struggling motherhood while balancing finances, or better yet, had some message of female empowerment along the way. It’s a shame, as for lack of a better purposes, despite the setup making us care about these characters… none of it really matters once Evil takes over. The ultimate beats becoming more about survival using any gory and glorified means, as Evil Picks off people one-by-one just like the classic.
Now, to be fair, the original Evil Dead didn’t do any of this kind of in-depth character setup like how Evil Dead Rise does. It was mostly a tale about high schoolers going to a cabin to drink and get laid. Yet, I can’t help but feel, somewhere along the way there was a better written script here that got scraped for more callbacks to the original. In another world, Evil Dead Rise might’ve been a movie on the high praise levels of an Ari Aster A24 type of story. Something like Hereditary, as in, a film which would be talked about for years. One that’s well-worth a rewatch for interpretation.
Instead, what you get here is a brilliant setup that gets us to a really well-utilized location, that then ultimately, lets go of whatever meaningful takeaways we might’ve actually been able to address for the sake of making another Evil Dead type of movie.
In my opinion, the most memorable horror movies are about what’s happening between its characters. The horror and scary environment, playing as metaphor to a deeper conflict. In the Babadook, it’s about the inability to let go of trauma. In a George Romero zombie movie, it’s about how often humans are more monsters than zombies. Evil Dead Rise is about women having real-life problems, which then, never gets resolved and is used as trauma insult ammo for the Evil Dead.
Why You Should Watch Evil Dead Rise
What Evil Dead Rise does have going for it then is style with music being a big theme. It works as both a profession and a hobby, as not one, but two members of the family embrace music as a form of identity and expression. It’s also, a great plot device to explore the recordings of the Necronomicon incantation, with subtext that accentuates the mood of the story. Again, all brilliant setup techniques this movie does well.
Atop of this, I’m also thoroughly impressed by the lore in Evil Dead Rise. There’s a lot more Catholicism tied into the story regarding the background of the book and how they will inevitably have to defeat, Evil. We see a lot more details than ever before of the book and in many ways, it feels as if a world was built here regarding Evil’s lore – which is brilliantly shared in scenes that never oversaturate or distract from the plot.
Director Lee Cronin makes a visually stunning tale that’s memorable in terms of visuals and a both original, yet also a tribute, to the Evil Dead franchise. It’s also impressive that they were able to shoot a lot of it on a single apartment floor. Add-in some great use of the camera with A LOT of techniques from dolly’s, fisheye lenses, and more… you’re in for a masterfully made film with an amalgam of horror genres mixed into a single movie.
The Acting was Great but I did find Danny Problematic…
Now, Beth (Lily Sullivan) makes for a compelling lead whose general badassery, I was cheering for from start to finish. As having a rocker-type in the lead felt perfect for the film’s tone. Atop of this, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) is spot on in her role as the antagonist mother, as not only are the trailers of her horrifying – with that incessant smile and freaky tonality – but the acting pivots seemlessly between her dual jobs of feeling like a grounded struggling mother, while also, an unstoppable evil.
The kids are likewise, also great too in the film, with Bridgette (Gabrielle Echols) doing a pretty great job as the awkward middle child, though major kudos to Kassie (Nell Fisher) as her adorable personality shines as the youngest of the bunch. Serving in perfect contrast to the dark tones and themes of the film. This brings us to the nitpick I have with the characterization in the script. Which is, that I really dislike the brother character, Danny (Morgan Davies).
It’s not the actor’s portrayal or because he’s transgender mind you, as that’s not actually stated openly stated in the film. The problem is that Danny is sort of a selfish douchebag. So it’s kind of hard not to hate him in the movie, which I do feel bad about, as there really aren’t that many transgender actors/characters in the industry. Without spoiling it, a lot of Danny’s selfish actions drive so many problems in the story. Yet at no time, did we ever give enough blame for, nor address these mistakes enough to my liking. I couldn’t help but feel like saying again-and-again, “Damn it, Danny. All of this is your fault.” Which I can’t help but feel like is a problem in the writing for Evil Dead Rise for obvious reasons and I’m not the only reviewer to have thought Danny was to blame either.
Evil Dead Rise is scary with brilliant film making techniques and an original setup in an apartment setting that differs well enough from its Cabin source. The characters perform well and the scares and gore feel balanced and less comedically excessive. The issue then lies in the script as it quickly forgets what it’s made in lieu of killing it all over for the sake of battling Evil.
Fans like myself were sold on this promise that this would be incredibly original. Having watched the entirety of the series from Sam Raimi’s original trilogy, Mia’s 2013 side-journey, and even my favorite: Ash vs Evil Dead, I’ve seen and consumed more Evil Dead than an average moviegoer. So that sort of hype associated with this remake ruined the sky high expectations given my experience.
Still, watch this movie with a fresh set of eyes. Dig it’s cast. And absolutely, go for the setup shots and scares – as those are executed extremely well.
Final Score: 3.5