“Evil Dead Rise” Strikes the Perfect Balance of Gore and Fun


“Evil Dead Rise” is a terrifically fun horror romp and a genuinely solid film. (Courtesy of Twitter)

“Evil Dead Rise” is an absurdly cruel, nauseating barrage on the senses that slams down on the gas pedal and doesn’t let up until the very end. In other words, it’s a terrifically fun horror movie, and another sickeningly delightful entry into the iconic franchise. The film follows the same formula as most of the others: an ill-fated group of characters stumbles upon a Necronomicon and accidentally unleashes the demonic entities known as the Deadites onto the world, and an absurdly horrific sequence of events ensues. This time, the action moves away from the prototypical cabin in the woods and into a Los Angeles apartment complex. 

Directed by Lee Cronin, “Evil Dead Rise” manages to strike a successful balance between the gory terror of Fede Álvarez’s 2013 “Evil Dead” with the tongue-in-cheek silliness of Sam Raimi’s original run of films, and this tonal interplay greatly benefits the film. The horror is schlocky, intense and unrelentingly mean-spirited, yet not heavy enough to be soberingly grim. Simultaneously, the comedic aspects of the film are as slapstick as they’ve always been for the series, but they never take away from the palpable tension crafted by the narrative. The story itself follows guitar technician Beth (Lily Sullivan), who must protect the children of her estranged sister, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), after Ellie is possessed by a demonic force. While Raimi’s films push narrative aside to allow the audience to bask in their low budget cheesiness, “Evil Dead Rise” manages to craft an engaging, if not somewhat standard, story about family and motherhood. 

Still, it knows the appeal of these movies lies not in what they have to say narratively but rather in the cartoonishly violent style that’s become the series’ trademark. The change in setting, too, breathes new life into the “Evil Dead” formula, creating what is likely the most claustrophobic entry yet. A peephole provides an obstructed glimpse at scenes of carnage, an elevator becomes filled to the brim with blood and apartment windows facing the urban sprawl of LA tauntingly remind the characters how close yet how far they are from escaping the nightmare. The visuals stay mostly in line with camera movements and techniques that were established in the 1981 original — POV tracking shots that fly through the air spectrally, ominously angular establishing shots, cluttered close ups that highlight the steadily mounting insanity — and that’s okay; “Rise” never claims to be reinventing the wheel. 

Yet in spite of all its strengths, the film can’t help but indulge itself in cliche a little too freely. The ill-fated protagonists of “Evil Dead” always end up making comically misguided decisions that result in their demise, but their mistakes almost always arise from their inability to understand the gravity of their situation. The characters of “Evil Dead Rise” make mistakes that feel tired and worn out by today’s standards, too often diving headfirst into situations they clearly should have kept their nose out of. And there are a couple plot threads that go nowhere; an abandoned apartment and an adjoining fire escape are mentioned but inexplicably never manifest in the story again. But these shortcomings aren’t too egregious in the grand scheme of things, and you’re having too much fun to really care anyways. “Evil Dead Rise” is a solidly shot, darkly humorous, totally groovy thrill ride that never loses sight of what it is: a great time at the movies. Just don’t see it on an upset stomach.