Review: ‘Evil Dead Rise’

Lee Cronin Does The Impossible, Revamping A Classic And Delivering One Of The Most Terrifying Studio Releases Of The Last 20 Years

Sam Rami’s Evil Dead franchise is one of the most iconic horror franchises of all-time. It’s success was seemingly linked to it’s masterful balance of horror and comedy with Bruce Campbell leading the way. Evil Dead Rise just came through and proved to the world that, yes, the comedy/horror blend was perfect there…but there was also a TRULY terrifying story waiting to be told. This isn’t to throw shade or neglect Fede Alvarez’s remake from 2013, this is something all together different.

Beth is a touring guitar technician (or groupie as her sister likes to say) in her mid-20s whose life just got flipped upside down by a positive pregnancy test. Needing love and advice she heads straight to her older sister Ellie’s apartment, only to find that they aren’t doing much better. Ellie and her three kids are living in a building that’s about to be condemned and trying to put the pieces of their lives back together after Ellie’s husband walks out on the family with little to no explanation. Things don’t start out great and boy, oh boy do they only get worse when, after an earthquake, the three children, Caleb, Bridget, and Cassie (oldest to youngest) find a secret basement in their building which holds (you guessed it) a very creepy book and a series of audio recordings on vinyl. Against the advice of his sister Bridget, Caleb can’t help but to listen to the recordings. While he’s doing that mama Ellie heads down to the basement to do a load of laundry, a trip she never completes as the recordings unleash a surprise guest which corners mommy in the elevator…after which nothing is the same and things go from bad to hellish.

One thing movie critics love to do is invoke hyperbole and popular metaphors. How many times have you heard “An Adrenaline Filled Thrill Ride!”? I hate that phrases like that are used so much because it really takes the power out of me saying that this film is a no holds barred, full court press of bloody horror for most of its 90 minutes. Director Lee Cronin does a masterful job of placing the action in the middle of a bustling city while creating an environment from which his characters can not realistically flee, which is really the cherry on top. Sure, the solitude of a cabin in the woods is scary, but the solitude of being mere minutes from help with no way to engage that help is utterly terrifying. Cronin had an impossible job, take one of, if not THE, most beloved cult horror film series of all time and take it somewhere new without losing the core of its essence. Damn did he nail it… actually, he didn’t just nail it he brought it to new heights of terror. The comedy aspect of the Evil Dead series is well known but Cronin took that out completely and left us with unrelenting demonic horror, I honestly don’t know the last time I was so disturbed in a theater.

Let’s talk performances. Anyone that’s seen the History Channel series Vikings (and if you haven’t, you need to!) will be familiar with Alyssa Sutherland. Sutherland, who plays the demonically possessed mother Ellie, is a beautiful statuesque woman. The exact picture of “Supermodel” that your mind generates when you hear that word. One of her most striking features is her million mega-watt ear to ear smile which is used to alarming effect because, you see, in Evil Dead Rise world good becomes evil and beautiful becomes fear inducing. The make-up work Sutherland went through was extensive and worth every minute. It’s obvious to anyone watching that she took this role seriously and left all her inhibitions at the door, from her line delivery to her physicality Alyssa Sutherland is the core of what makes this film horrifying. Lily Sullivan, who plays Beth our stories hero, has all the makings of a tough as nails final girl taking her unbelievable situation and making it that much more acceptable as a reality. Lastly there’s little Nell Fisher who plays the baby of the family, Cassie. My god this little girl has something special, not only is she extraordinarily adorable and obviously talented but the girl must be a hardened pro. There was no way they could have sheltered her from what was going on around her in these scenes yet she delivered every line with believable innocence. I don’t have much to say in terms of negatives. Some of the performances were par for the course of a cheaper horror film and there wasn’t a ton in terms of character development. This is especially true for those outside of the core family, all of whom felt like 2-dimensional check boxes that needed to be hit. Did any of that takeaway from the film? Nope, not one. Single. Bit.

Evil Dead Rise will, no doubt, be too much for some theater goers. If you don’t like being terrified or have a weak stomach stay away (seriously, you’ll never look at a cheese grater the same way again), but if you’re a horror fan this is the film you’ve been waiting for. Lee Cronin has proven that behind the Chin of Bruce Campbell was a plot device that can more than survive on it’s own. Most promisingly there were additions to the lore of the Evil Dead universe that could lead to some amazing sequels and, possibly, one gnarly prequel.

Evil Dead Rise is in theaters now.