StudioCanal presents Evil Dead Rise in UK cinemas from April 21, 2023.
A new group of young people uncover the Necronomicon, inadvertently unleashing the mother of all evil. Moving the action out of the woods and into the city, Evil Dead Rise (directed by Lee Cronin) tells the twisted tale of two estranged sisters, played by Sutherland and Sullivan, whose reunion is cut short by the rise of flesh-possessing demons, thrusting them into a primal battle for survival as they face the most nightmarish version of family imaginable.
After four decades on our screens you can be forgiven for mistakenly presuming humanity had learned not to mess with a book like the Necronomicon. But here we are, almost 41 years on from the release of The Evil Dead, as another victim is coaxed in to unleashing the hell hidden within its pages.
After three films, a soft reboot and a TV series, Executive Producer hand picked Irish writer/director Lee Cronin (The Hole in the Ground) to put a new spin on the classic horror tale. The results of which are a crowd pleasing gore-fest that is sure to please fans old and new.
Cronin is clearly a fan (who isn’t?) of the franchise, often tipping his hat to pay homage to previous films. But don’t be mistaken Evil Dead Rise is something different. For a start, after a prologue in a classic Evil Dead woodland setting, the entire film takes place in a soon-to-be-derelict apartment block. Cronin also steps away from the other classic Evil Dead trope of protagonists in a romantic relationship. Instead he approached Evil Dead Rise as a family story. Both losing and accepting of family and familial responsibilities are strong themes throughout.
At the centre of the story (and much of its marketing) is Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland, Vikings) and her kids Bridget Gabrielle Echols, Reminiscence) Danny (Morgan Davies; The Hunter) and Kassie (Nell Fisher, Northspur). Ellie’s guitar tech road sister Beth (Lily Sullivan; Picnic at Hanging Rock) unexpectedly drops by only to find that Ellie’s husband has abandoned the family. Beth harbours a secret, she’s fallen pregnant on the road.
The family reunion is cut short when a quake strikes causing damage to the building. Turns out their home, marked for demolition, is a former bank and hiding within an underground vault is the dreaded Necronomicon. Of course Danny can’t resist grabbing the book along with some spooky looking vinyl records nearby. The wannabe DJ listens to the records which is an audio journal from one of the priests who originally uncovered the book. As he reads the incantations from within the book, a demonic entity is unleashed and all hell breaks loose.
It was only after seeing the film that I learned it was originally envisioned as an HBO Max movie event. It was back in August 2022, long after filming was completed, that the project was upgraded to a theatrical release. I’m elated to report that you would never know when watching it. Having witnessed the film on the big screen, it is entirely deserving of the theatrical experience.
Cronin has crafted the darkest and most twisted entry in the franchise. Once Ellie becomes a Deadite – that’s not a spoiler, it’s literally on the poster – events escalate at a dramatic pace. Whilst the Evil Dead franchise is known for keeping its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, Cronin is having none of it. Evil Dead Rise is terrifying. Packed with incredible tension and equally incredible jump scares, it’s a stunning natural progression towards more straight-up horror.
Previous entries have focussed on Ash losing his friends to the curse. Cronin takes that a step further by literally tearing a family apart from within. So often horror will place the parent in the driving seat, seeking desperately to recuse a possessed child. Here we fully explore the reverse nature of the demonic presence playing on Ellie’s maternal bond with her children. It’s tough to watch but makes the impact of Evil Dead Rise all the more heavy.
Of course technology has moved a lot since 1981. Where The Evil Dead relied solely on excellent practical effects work, Cronin is able to imbue Evil Dead Rise with the added benefit of VFX. The final product is a strong mix of the two. Makeup effects and the reported 6,500 litres of fake blood all appear impeccable on screen. Ellie’s demonic appearance is at the centre of much of the film and looks great. Whether she’s lurking in the shadowy corners of the apartment or lit from above in the dank hallway, the former matriarch of the family looks sinister.
I’m also happy to report that Evil Dead Rise sticks the landing. In true franchise fashion there’s a chain saw involved. I don’t want to get in to spoiler territory but Cronin’s script circles back nicely to the opening prologue to complete the narrative. It closes the book on this chapter but with plenty of potential for future sequels.
Evil Dead Rise benefits greatly from a change of setting and tone. Cronin has crafted a genuinely terrifying and stomach churning gore-fest which is deserving of the Evil Dead name.