Evil Dead Rise

Review by Shane McKevitt

Since its premiere at South by Southwest in March, much has been made about the latest installment in the Evil Dead franchise, directed by Lee Cronin. Originally slated for a release on streaming, positive early responses earned the film a full theatrical release. With all of this in mind, my expectations were high going into Evil Dead Rise (2023)  and, unfortunately, I can’t say they were met.  

The story follows Beth (Lily Sullivan), a guitar technician who visits her sister, single mother Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three children, Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), and Kassie (Nell Fisher). However, when Danny finds a familiar, leather-bound book stashed away underneath the apartment building, a supernatural force is unleashed, and the family must fight to survive. 

The film is paced well and, at around 90 minutes, doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s also cleverly bookended by two scenes which, without giving anything away, really worked for me. For the most part, the special effects are handled excellently, and creatively too. The filmmakers never pull punches when it comes to gnarly violence, and it pays off. The closing 20 minutes or so really stick the landing, fully embracing the gory absurdity that defines the franchise. Considering everything the film does well in the blood and guts department, I have no doubt that many genre fans will appreciate Rise for that alone. 

As fun as the over-the-top violence is, it can’t save a film that’s completely lacking suspense and an engaging narrative. Despite the tight runtime, the film settles into a lethargic formula; a gory set piece unfolds, the characters run into another room to hide, give some exposition, rinse and repeat. Furthermore, there’s an effort made to pack in a sliver of backstory and character development for each family member. This never really lands in any meaningful way, leaving you with a half dozen characters whom, quite frankly, you don’t care all that much about. The relationship between Ellie and Kassie is the only dynamic that feels genuine, and I can’t help but feel the film would have worked better if the focus was kept solely on them.

All in all, delightfully gory special effects can’t hide the film’s lack of suspense and clunky attempts at characterization. Nevertheless, an extremely satisfying final twenty minutes provide some respite from what is otherwise a surprisingly dull affair.


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