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Evil Dead Rise is dark, refreshing and gory but ultimately lacking in charm

Sam Raimi's iconic comedy-horror franchise The Evil Dead has been resurrected by director Lee Cronin, with Evil Dead Rise. Patrick Edwards discusses the successes and failings of this new entry.

By Patrick Edwards, Second Year, Film

The Evil Dead Franchise (1981-) returns to the big screen for the first time in a decade, with its signature over-the-top gore and chaotic nature. Evil Dead Rise (2023) is a great improvement on the previous attempt to modernise the franchise, with 2013’s Evil Dead being a dull retelling of the original. Evil Dead Rise has everything a fan could want, although it lacks the original trilogy’s charm.

Evil Dead Rise is a unique entry, not only does it move the conflict to a fairly well-populated apartment building (instead of the usual cabin in the woods setting), but it also changes the dynamic of the characters. This time it isn’t a group of friends tormented by the Evil Dead, but a family torn apart by them. The premise is a reunion between sisters Beth (Lilly Sullivan) and Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) which is cut short when the latter is possessed by a demon, leaving Beth to fend for herself and protect Ellie’s children.

Photo by Warner Bros, Courtesy of IMDB

These changes to location and dynamic are Evil Dead Rise’s biggest strengths, bringing a fresh take to the franchise. It is also much more harrowing than the other instalments, as a mother turning on her children is much bleaker and disturbing than the usual plot of a group of friends being tormented.

The film excels at building suspense and is packed to the brim with gore and creative kills, which are staples of the franchise. However, due to this brutality, it loses some of the cheesy fun that makes the original trilogy so charming.

Unfortunately, it feels like a sequel to the 2013 remake, and, while some may enjoy this, I think Evil Dead is at its best when it embraces the low-budget silliness that the original crew were forced to work with. Undoubtedly, it is more tongue-in-cheek than the 2013 remake, with some direct references to the original trilogy, but these silly moments often seem out of place given the film’s dark atmosphere.

Photo by Warner Bros, Courtesy of IMDB

The cast is likeable enough and there are some brilliantly intimidating physical performances, although a few characters could do with more development. The script is riddled with idiotic horror movie decisions, such as characters splitting up despite blindingly obvious threats. This wouldn’t usually be a problem, but the film’s claustrophobic setting and its main plot being the characters’ attempts to survive leaves the audience questioning these decisions.

The film doesn’t take full advantage of its setting either. Changing the environment from the traditional cabin in the woods makes perfect and innovative sense, however, the film only uses this new setting to up the body count in a brief, although very well-directed, sequence.

Photo by Warner Bros, Courtesy of IMDB

Evil Dead Rise is an enjoyable watch with some creative set pieces, and its unique premise sets it aside from the other entries, even if it never fully commits to its setting. I personally would’ve preferred a sillier tone, as I believe this is what makes the franchise stand out from other similar horror films. However, enough of the characteristic bloodshed will make it well worth your time.

Featured Image: by Warner Bros, Courtesy of IMDB

Did Evil Dead Rise leave you feeling haunted?