Evil Dead Rise takes place almost entirely in an apartment complex where a pregnant guitar technician taking a break from touring with a band Beth (Lily Sullivan) reunites with her estranged sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three children.
Following an earthquake, one of the children, Danny (Morgan Davies), finds the Book of the Dead in an old bank vault under the car park of the complex, along with two vinyl records containing recordings of the incantations within the book. When Danny plays the recordings in his room, a demon (Deadite) is awakened, possessing Ellie and leading to her terrorising Beth, the children, and their neighbours.
Rise is the latest instalment in the Evil Dead franchise, the first in a decade, and while I haven’t seen 2013’s Evil Dead, I really love the original trilogy of The Evil Dead, The Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness, so I had high expectations going into Rise. Thankfully those high expectations were met and possibly even exceeded.
I think the main difference between Rise and the rest of the Evil Dead films is the type of horror this goes for; instead of opting for mostly body horror, Rise creates genuine tension fantastically. Some shots feel very inventive with regards to lighting and framing, specifically sequences that take place on either side of the door to Ellie’s apartment, with a shot through the peephole looking outside creating some great implied horror.
That being said, the makeup and gore effects really are the highlights of this film, Ellie at points looks absolutely terrifying, thanks to a combination of both the makeup and Alyssa Sutherland’s impressive emoting ability. They also pulled no punches whatsoever with the gore, and all of it looks great. Some of the imagery really will be sticking with me for a long time, really cringe-inducing stuff, in a good way of course. The emphasis on visuals also lends itself to the narrative, with one particular moment of visual foreshadowing combined with dramatic irony to create an immense amount of tension. There is also a blatant visual nod to The Shining, which I really appreciated.
The plot structure and the pacing were great as well. The first scene essentially works just as an expectation setter and from then on things are constantly happening to either progress the plot or flesh out the characters, and not one scene ends up feeling like it’s outstayed its welcome. By the end, everyone who needs depth as a character has it, making you all the more invested in the finale, which is impressive considering how much action is in there too, and the short runtime of just under 100 minutes. Also, while some of the dialogue can come off as cliché, whenever the film wants to be funny, it manages it. I do think that the comedy isn’t as pronounced as it is in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films, which is my biggest flaw with Rise, but it still worked for me in spite of this.
What really makes Evil Dead Rise stand out when compared to other reboots of older horror franchises is that from minute one you feel like you have been thrown back into a familiar environment. This is achieved here with the signature floating shot from the perspective of the Deadite, which was used in the original The Evil Dead. If you’re familiar with the Evil Dead films, it really sets your expectations for an authentic experience in line with Sam Raimi’s trilogy, and the rest of the film continues to deliver on that front.
This really boils down to being an ‘update’ to the original The Evil Dead, with a slightly tweaked plot, different characters and dynamics between them, and modern aesthetics, which really hit the spot for me because I love The Evil Dead. If you aren’t into almost excessively gory, not entirely self-serious horror, then I’d recommend giving Rise a miss, but if you’re a fan of the other Evil Dead films or if you like more in the moment, adrenaline-fuelled, bloody horror then I cannot recommend this enough.
Evil Dead Rise is out in cinemas now.
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