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Evil Dead Rise ★★★★



Director: Lee Cronin

Cast: Alyssa Sutherland, Lily Sullivan, Morgan Davies

Release Date: 21st April 2023

You know how it is with iconic horror franchises, for all the unrelenting decapitations and emphatic banishing of those demons. They somehow find a way back through the trap door, hellbent on finding new victims. That was indeed the case for Evil Dead back in 2013, as Fede Alvarez was entrusted with the beloved Sam Raimi creation, revelling in the opportunity of presenting such a gory spectacle. 

A decade on and now in the possession of Lee Cronin as Evil Dead Rise continues its modern-day emphasis on its scream queens, wielding significant influence on the series’ storytelling. The result is a blood-drenched banger of an instalment that sees its key theme of motherhood coalesce with a motherload of grungy genre thrills.

It is making a swift departure from the twisted branches of its woodlands and desolate cabins, which have served these films so well. This time its sinister threat works its way up the levels of an imposing apartment block, fuelling anxiety within a fractured family unit. The monotony of touring as a sound technician is brought to an abrupt halt for Lily Sullivan’s Beth, leaving her drawn to the prospect of a potentially awkward reunion with estranged sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland).

The latter is struggling with her role as a single parent to a trio of sharp-witted kids Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and Kassie (Nell Fisher). Shaken by a sudden LA earthquake is a timely event to emphasise these women’s lack of solid ground. There’s only further disruption en route thanks to Danny’s unfortunate findings in a bank vault, potentially leaving all involved haemorrhaging any love left within them. Did someone say Deadite!?

Rise is a tightly wound tale of two well-crafted halves. Cronin’s calculated approach to fleshing out the conflict between Beth and Ellie is lean in detail. They are playing on the inner turmoil of being or potentially becoming a mother, with the director’s tight framing creating a sense of claustrophobia, befitting how trapped they feel by their circumstances. This quality only helps to crank up the impact of its impending sensory assault, with Cronin’s brand of terror here proving twisted bliss.

Offering welcome tweaks to its trademark foreboding camerawork through drones whilst almost following the playbook of the recent Scream films in fully leaning into the sheer intensity of its premise and antagonists, where you honestly believe anyone is disposable. Rise soon substitutes the slow-burner pace for full-throttle carnage. Inventively throwing every household kitchen utensil at its disposal into gleefully horrifying its audience, which, let’s just say, is far from ‘grating’ in the execution of its practical effects.

Just as penetrating is the entry’s sound design, with the booming use of vinyl only complimenting the piercing screams of those possessed, contrasting brilliantly with the particularly unsettling hush of a hallway massacre witnessed through a keyhole in some quarters of the fanbase. They may be left clamouring for the absurdity of the humour that previous films fully embraced, but Cronin nevertheless deploys it sparingly to significant effect.

Lily Sullivan’s Beth rocks as the emerging bad-ass heroine, building a believable rapport with Ellie’s traumatised children as she looks to develop that maternal instinct in an exceptional situation, fully earning her crowd-pleasing nods to the originals throughout. Whereas Alyssa Sutherland is deliciously deranged in the role of Ellie, whose deathly glare and killer delivery of dialogue genuinely have you on the edge of your seat as she wreaks complete havoc.

If there’s one stumble, Cronin’s inclusion of a prologue/epilogue, whilst entertaining in isolation, doesn’t necessarily add anything significant to the overriding plot. Otherwise, Evil Dead Rise is sheer gnarly brilliance, solidifying the belief this franchise has indeed rediscovered its groove.

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