‘Evil Dead Rise’ Another Home Run for The Franchise – ScreenHub Entertainment

Minor spoiler-alert in paragraph three

When listing the best horror franchises of all time, Evil Dead strangely enough doesn’t come up as often as one might think. Perhaps this is because the series is so varied, encompassing film, television and even a video game, that it’s often difficult to connect them together. Evil Dead Rise, the latest in the series that began as an indie film made by a rag-tag group of Michiganders, is nothing like its predecessors, and yet somehow manages to encompass everything that makes Evil Dead…well…Evil Dead.

Evil Dead Rise follows Beth (Lily Sullivan) as she, following an unexpected pregnancy, goes to stay with her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three kids Kassie, (Nell Fisher), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and Danny (Morgan Davies.) After an unexpected earthquake unearths a copy of the Necronomicon (the Book of the Dead) and the cause of the chaos in the series, sure enough, the book is read and demons run rampant in the apartment, taking over Ellie and using her to torment her sister and three children.

For those looking to see series headliner Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), you won’t get much of the character apart from a brief cameo. One of the fascinating aspects of the Evil Dead series is it’s one of the few horror franchises where the hero is far more iconic than the villain. Could the series function without Ash and simply focus on the nefarious demons conjured up by the book? People often forget that the original Evil Dead was absent the quips and the over-the-top gory humor that became a series trademark. The original Evil Dead was about a scared teenager who slowly watched his friends die one by one and is forced to defend himself against the legions of the undead. Evil Dead Rise takes a merciless approach with this formula, throwing this evil at a family in distress.

One problem the film faced was changing its setting. Evil Dead is most classically associated with a cabin in the woods, a setting used for three of the films, the TV show Ash vs Evil Dead, and even as the setting for the satirical horror film Cabin in the Woods. Sometimes the series has tried to change, such as taking the setting to medieval times in Army of Darkness and around the entire country in the series. I must admit I was skeptical of the high-rise apartment setting for Evil Dead Rise at first until I got a good look at it. The setting of the film is a converted bank that is falling apart, The building is dark and uninviting, almost as if the entire building was comprised of the dark basement from the original film’s cabin. The film makes good use of this, with a number of creative sequences from an effective set piece in an elevator, to an entire massacre viewed through the lens of an apartment door eyehole.

The Evil Dead series has characters that are atypically strong for what most expect from the genre, even the remake. Now, the characters aren’t exactly deep. Even the well-loved original doesn’t have the most well-rounded cast, but the characters nevertheless work. The same goes for Evil Dead Rise. Beth is feeling insecure about the challenges of motherhood, and her efforts to protect her sister’s kids are the ultimate trial by fire. She’s also, not atypical of horror but unusual for the Evil Dead series, a heroine rather than a hero. She may not be as well realized as Laurie Strode or Ellen Ripley, but she gets the job done and manages to bring the same manic fear Bruce Campbell brought to the original back to screens in 2023. Like Campbell before her, she gets drenched in her fair share of the red stuff.

Alyssa Sutherland’s Ellie is a good character both before and after her possession. Prior to Ellie being taken, she is a sympathetic character struggling with her own challenges. She is at times short-tempered and stress, but she genuinely loves her children so we feel for her. Once she is taken, Ellie becomes the main antagonist for the film, a bastardized version of a loving mother and a manifestation of Beth’s own fears about how well she can handle the job. Ellie is easily one of the signature Deadites of the Evil Dead series, and is perhaps the best leading villain since Cheryl from the original 1981 classic.

Don’t expect the film to show any kindness to its characters. Evil Dead is well known for its mean streak, and Evil Dead Rise is very mean. All the cruelties you saw visited on Ash and his friends in the original, from stabbings to burnings to various demonic taunts and jeers are now in this apartment with this family, and the film pulls no punches. It is every bit as bloody and cruel as Evil Dead at its nastiest, with little of the comedic wit to offer levity. Some of the most difficult scenes to watch are the scenes involving the kids. The film warns the audience it won’t be pulling any punches early on when Ellie beats to death a young preteen neighbor. From there, there’s little reassurance that the movie will offer any mercy. It’s a threat the film follows through on in gory fashion.

The film is relentlessly paced, much like the original film, and it’s here where the film and the characters are strongest. While the characters aren’t the most well-developed before the scares begin, they are pretty well-defined once the action gets going. Once it gets going, it doesn’t stop. Gorehounds welcome. Evil Dead Rise continues the proud tradition started by the original movie and manages to keep the red stuff flowing throughout. The movie is overflowing with raw brutality that manages to be both unique to this film and recall some of the more macabre moments of the series. You’ll get everything from a possessed person being forced to swallow mouthfuls of broken glass, to someone choking to death on a stray flying eyeball in a reference to one of the classic gross-out moments of Evil Dead II.

Even though this film is the darkest the series has been since the original, it still feels right at home in the series. That’s not only a testament to this movie’s strengths, but also a compliment to the overall quality of the Evil Dead series. It’s a series that constantly changes and reinvents itself, while still holding onto the essentials of what made it so great to begin with. Evil Dead, despite all the odds stacked against it, has never produced a bad entry on the big screen or small. It’s also yet another example of a legacy sequel that proved to be surprisingly effective after decades of soulless follow-ups. Perhaps this is because, despite the series’ long run, Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi have never been far away. They and everyone else involved in this film have a lot to be proud of.


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