Evil Dead Rise
Warner Bros. Pictures
The “Evil Dead” franchise has always been about just a few things: The Book of the Dead, chainsaws and badass kills. Writer and director Lee Cronin’s blood-soaked new installment “Evil Dead Rise” delivers all that and more.
This film proves itself to have its roots in a strong understanding of horror as a genre, as well as the history of its embedded tropes. Cronin’s dedication to horror’s roots as a way to tell a slick, gory and eye-popping final girl story is more than impressive in an era obsessed with subversion and twists.
“Rise” follows Beth (Lily Sullivan), a guitar technician who discovers she is pregnant while on a world tour with a band. In the hopes of finding some peace and normality, she heads to visit her sister and three nieces and nephews in LA for the first time in months. But as Beth arrives, she finds her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) is no longer living the picturesque life she used to. When an earthquake reveals a tomb containing a mysterious book, later revealed to be the Book of the Dead from the previous franchise, no one is prepared to deal with the consequences of messing with the damned.
Just like the previous installments, including the Sam Raimi trilogy and the 2013 soft reboot directed by Fede Alvarez, the action is more than just memorable, it’s inventive, exciting and beyond fun. One of the strongest portions of the film is the home invasion when the deadites — those impacted by the Book of the Dead’s curse and then killed — are trying to bust into the apartment. Like in any good home invasion scene, there is palpable tension between the protagonists trying to get out of a now-crumbling apartment building and the antagonists trying to get inside the apartment.
This and other high-tension scenes, like those involving a cheese grater and wood chipper, create a powerful momentum for the rest of the film, with much of the back half keeping audiences on the edge of their seats as it twists and turns through what can only be described as a brutal series of events.
From the get-go, Cronin tells the audience that motherhood is at the center of this movie, something the final girl trope often outright rejects. As the trope often goes, most final girls are made to be virgins, as a way to show their purity and innocence, which is then stripped by the killer throughout the course of the film. But after so many played out, barely different versions of this trope, Cronin’s deliberate narrative choice for Beth to subvert the final girl in this way is absolutely a welcome one.
The stylish cinematography by Dave Garbett also helps to keep the film exciting up to the final shot. The composition and use of fun stylistic choices — like fisheye lenses or bird’s-eye angles) — will keep viewers engaged, even if the dialogue is trying too hard to be cool or just too obvious at points.
When looking at the work as a whole, the experience of “Evil Dead Rise” is a bit of a rollercoaster. The quick pacing and tight runtime will make audiences feel as if they are hurtling toward the action from the beginning. And though some plot points may feel repetitive, Cronin gets to show off his filmmaking skill by creating such a kick-ass 98-minute thrill ride.
What makes “Evil Dead Rise” different from the previous franchise installments is its urban setting, with the rest of the franchise taking place either in a rural area or an ancient fortress. While some hardcore fans might not be as welcoming to this change of scenery, it helps “Rise” stand out among a slew of really strong films as a special one in its own right. “Evil Dead” fans can rejoice at another addition to the world.