Evil Dead Rise Satiates fans with all Things Deadites, Visceral gore, and, oh yes, Raining Blood.
DIRECTED BY LEE CRONIN/2023
From the opening scene, we get a taste of what we’ve been missing: the all-too-familiar cabin in the woods with a young woman on the dock of a lake desperately trying to read her Emily Brontë book. As Lee Cronin pays homage to the shaking, high-speed, tracking shots of the original franchise, we come to understand that it’s a drone – and I can’t help but get excited in my theatre seat knowing we are seeing all the sprinklings of the 1981 Evil Dead with all the trappings of a 2023 contemporary horror movie. This opening sequence takes us out of the nostalgic back-in-time headspace we are used to with this franchise as we abruptly arrive in modern day. (This isn’t to say the phenomenal 2013 Evil Dead revisit wasn’t also set in modern day, but this one slaps us in the face with drones, smartphones, and FaceTime calls.) Not only does this scene give us a cabin, lake, and that modern-day flair, it also gives us one of the better title reveals I have seen in a long while. Once Evil Dead Rise came on screen, I knew we were in for a ride.
Moving the setting from an isolated cabin in the woods with a group of friends to a run-down apartment building in Los Angeles with family just worked for me. The dynamics are different but the framework is there and Cronin marries these narratives and tones in a way that felt right. Now, I feel like I must confess, I am a greater fan of the 2013 Evil Dead as opposed to the original Evil Dead franchise – I know, blasphemous. I get a greater kick out of the realistic gore and the reduction of silliness for the sake of a more inescapable nightmare. With all of that being said, I do believe Cronin did a good job of making the movie scary while also keeping it Raimi-silly (spoiler alert: but c’mon eyeball popping out of head into neighbor’s mouth!?)
There were scenes that had me all too excited and, without spoiling too much, every Deadite turn and reveal made my horror heart very happy. There were scenes à la Evil Dead (2013) leaving the audience blood-soaked and terrified for the characters’ untimely turn into the undead. Cronin leaves franchise fans with clever aspects of demise and makes us curl into our seats to avoid feeling the pain of what is happening on-screen. Ultimately, an extremely successful contribution to the universe with all of the familiarities of “Oh, shit! Run away! Get out of there!” and all of the hoping that they don’t escape their fate.
Also, a small gripe but a gripe nonetheless, some of these scenes needed to go there. As an example, the cheese grater scene was awesome, visceral, and made me squirm in my seat – but then it was over. I can’t tell if I’m upset that it was too short or that it was revealed in the marketing (stop showing everything in your trailers!!!), or if I’m just too messed up to know the difference. But some of the scenes that needed that punch fell a little short and I wish I was leaving a little more scarred. I will say that Cronin made up for some of these shortcomings by revealing something near the end of the movie that made my body-horror heart giddy with excitement. Sure we’re expecting Deadites but… that!? Uh, yes, sign me up.
Overall, I’m extremely impressed with Evil Dead Rise and I want to see the terror continue. I gave the film a 4 out of 5 star rating on my Letterboxd. A more than fair rating, but knocked down a star for my greediness of wanting more! Recently, Cronin discussed his sequel ideas and I want them all: the story behind the Book of the Dead, Beth takes her chainsaw on the road, the apartment building, and, of course, back to the woods. Which would you like to see?