A wonderfully gory addition to the Evil Dead franchise able to stand on its own merits.

Evil Dead Rise is the fifth installment of the Evil Dead film franchise and tells the story of a family fighting for their lives against monstrous demons after they discover one of the three volumes of Naturom Demonto, aka The Book of the Dead. Originally intended to be released on HBO Max (now just…Max), Evil Dead Rise tested so well at screenings Warner Bros decided to release it theatrically – and I’m so glad they did.

After finding myself squirming in my seat numerous times throughout the film while being thoroughly impressed with the extreme gore, incredible makeup and great performances, I left the cinema realizing this is one of the best horror films I’ve enjoyed in a while.

Guitar technician Beth (Lily Sullivan) is in need of help and visits her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) who lives in Los Angeles. Ellie lives with her children Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and Kassie (Nell Fisher) in an apartment that is going to be torn down in a month so she has problems of her own as she needs to find a new home pretty quickly.

When one of the children discovers one of the three volumes of the Book of the Dead in a vault beneath their apartment building, evil rises once again to wreak pain and suffering upon those of the living. With the demonic beings hellbent on destroying everyone in the family before the night is over, it is up to Beth to step up and try to protect the children after Ellie is the first to become a monstrous deadite and the first of many murderous adversaries out for their souls.

For the horror genre the acting is top-notch with fantastic performances from the lead cast, especially Alyssa Sutherland who gets to play a demonically-possessed Ellie fairly early in the story. Assisted by incredible makeup, Sutherland is absolutely terrifying as she embodies an innocent mother possessed by a monstrously evil demonic entity who isn’t just out to kill her prey – but to torture, torment and belittle before snuffing the life out of you and turning you into another deadite.

Lily Sullivan also stands out with her portrayal of Beth, the sister who came to Los Angeles with the goal of receiving help but instead is the one who must give it. Sullivan perfectly compliments Sullivan as their characters clash against each other both before and after the possession of Ellie. The reluctant (and unexpected) hero, Beth is one who needs to find that extra gear in order to fight the unholy adversaries in the apartment complex and Sullivan easily translates that to screen.

Writer / director Lee Cronin (The Hole in the Ground, Minutes Past Midnight) has successfully recreated the hardcore, brutal and gory nastiness that made Fede Alvarez’s 2013 Evil Dead so awesome and again shows that you don’t need Ash to tell new stories revolving around the Naturom Demonto and the deadites it spawns. Having new heroes encountering the same gruesome evil adds new life and a fresh feel to the franchise.

While I’m a big fan of Bruce Campbell, and his character Ash, it does get a bit long in the tooth having him as the main protagonist in the first three films and again for the three seasons of Ash vs Evil Dead.

And while the franchise is moving away from Ash with new characters and a more serious tone, Cronin still keeps some of the same tropes of the original films such as the simple, one location story (well mostly one location), having the Book of the Dead as the source of summoning the deadites and, of course, including a shotgun and chainsaw. This is still very much Evil Dead,and recognizes that every franchise needs its staples, and weapons.

Cronin also really focuses on creating characters we can connect and empathize with while also focusing on delivering impressive visuals whether it’s incredible demonic make-up or creatively gruesome violence. Evil Dead Rise doesn’t feel like a half-assed horror sequel designed to cash in on an existing fanbase, but is instead a strong and wildly entertaining addition to the Evil Dead world able to stand on its own merits. You can easily enjoy this film without seeing any of the others in the series (though you probably still should).

Evil Dead Rise is a wonderfully gory addition to the Evil Dead franchise that’s totally worth seeing on the big screen to appreciate the horrific visuals and captivating sounds. With fantastic performances from its stellar cast and a self-contained story that doesn’t require you to see the other films in the franchise, this is definitely a movie that caters to both fans of deadites and supernatural horror lovers in general. You made a great decision Warner Bros – hail to the king, baby.

  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Release Date: April 10, 2023
  • Distributor: Warner Bros.

Originally published on April 24, 2023 at https://www.popzara.com/movies/movie-reviews/evil-dead-rise-2023/