Evil Dead is one franchise that doesn’t stop giving, and with Lee Cronin’s disgusting, chaotic, and bloody take on it, the franchise is still here to kick in your teeth. Evil Dead Rise premiered to one of the most engaged and loud theater crowds I have ever been a part of at the 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival. Directed and written by Cronin, the film is also executively produced by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. It stars Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Nell Fisher, Morgan Davies, and Gabrielle Echols.
Director Lee Cronin kicks horror in the teeth with Evil Dead Rise. It’s vicious, gross, and a goddamn delight. The film moves the action from a cabin in the woods to a dilapidated building in the city to tell a twisted tale of two estranged sisters. When Beth (Lily Sullivan) has a shocking life event, she heads to her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) to stay with her and her children. While Beth tries to figure out what to do next, an earthquake and some really really really bad choices throw them into a fight against flesh-possessing demons, which creates the most nightmarish version of family imaginable.
If you can take away one thing from the film, it is that Cronin loves horror. He wears his influences on his sleeve in a way that iterates on the classics to highlight the power in some shots without ever becoming overwhelmed by callouts or, in the case of Evil Dead references, callbacks.
But even in all of the love for iconic horror moments of the past, both in and out of the Evil Dead franchise, Evil Dead Rise captures a humor that slays. While the film never embodies the camp that has come to be known with the later entries in the franchise, it does make you laugh. Sure, you’re laughing at a crazed mother calling her children “titty-sucking parasites” while trying to kill them, but you’re still laughing. Even out of the great one-liners coming from Deadite mom of the year, Ellie, it’s humor baked into every motion of the body as much as horror.
Alyssa Sutherland is sickeningly powerful as Ellie. The way she moves her body and face are sure to keep audience members up at night, but her timing and small choices help bring a sick and twisted levity. It all works. From a growing smile to an abrupt turn in a hallway, small moments pay off in huge ways throughout the film. While I give our heroines Lily Sullivan and Nell Fisher their flowers as Beth and Kassie, Sutherland’s Ellie is the driving force for all that is wonderful in this sick and twisted genre we all love.
Read our Bruce Campbell “Elevated Horror” Interview here.
With killer effects work and more fake blood than I have seen in quite some time, Evil Dead Rise bathes in chaotic violence without ever crossing the line into the purely absurd. The reason that the film manages to balance humor and horror so deftly isn’t just because of Cronin’s writing or directing; it comes from Peter Albrechtsen’s work as supervising sound editor and the team behind turning the film into as much a sonic experience as a visual one.
Every bone cracking, cheese grating, broken glass eating, stabbing, and every other horrifying moment that makes your skin crawl or your hands immediately cover your ears perfectly sets the atmosphere. Evil Dead Rise is a visceral experience. It forces you to look at stomach-churning moments and assaults your ears with sounds you can’t escape in the best ways.
In an Evil Dead film, I want humor, buckets of blood, gnarly deaths, and a vice grip of dread as the hero tries to survive the night. Evil Dead Rises delivers this all in spades. It taps into the terrifying and brutal nature of how the franchise started, puts the pedal to the floor, and doesn’t stop. With near-perfect pacing, stellar performances, and an embrace of erratic violence, Lee Cronin has crafted a tremendous entry into the Evil Dead franchise. Cronin honors the past while crafting a new legacy for the current generation to latch on to and leaves the door perfectly open for more without shoehorning it in either.
Evil Dead Rise premiered at the 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival and is playing in theaters nationwide April 21, 2023.
Evil Dead Rise
- Rating - 9/109/10
In an Evil Dead film, I want humor, buckets of blood, gnarly deaths, and a vice grip of dread as the hero tries to survive the night. Evil Dead Rises delivers this all in spades. It taps into the terrifying and brutal nature of how the franchise started, puts the pedal to the floor, and doesn’t stop.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.