Horror fans know that 2022 was a banner year for the genre, with successful titles like Pearl, Smile, X, Bodies Bodies Bodies, and my personal favorites: Speak No Evil and Incantation. If you’re like me, coming into 2023 the horror we’ve gotten is simply “ok”. While I believe that we still have months to improve for the genre, Evil Dead Rise is a good start.
The film is successful for a few reasons. One being that the performances are very effective, believable and just plain creepy. Part of that is definitely accredited to the writing and director Lee Cronin, but the actors provided stellar (and scary) performances without breaking the small bits of comedy and camp that the original Evil Dead movies are known for.
Alyssa Sutherland kills (literally) in her role as the newly possessed mother Ellie. I will forever be scarred by the kitchen scene delivered by Gabrielle Echols as Bridgette. Also, I am forever appreciative of the casting team for giving us Nell Fisher as Cassie – child actors are always hit or miss in movies with this tone (looking at you, Sinister) but Fisher’s performance was realistic, tense and at times extremely heartwarming.
The film is also successful because of its clever use of practical and VFX, the blend between the two is so seamless, that the gore looks almost too good. Some horror viewers may overlook the cinematography and score for Evil Dead Rise but both add to the eerie ambiance of the plot, the movie tells us exactly what to feel even when not much is going on. There’s a certain self awareness to Evil Dead Rise that a lot of fans will appreciate, aside from the overall “Sam Raiminess” of it all, the special nods to previous Evil Dead movies and even The Shining were a nice subtle touch.
As far as plot, what I can appreciate about this movie is that it gives us someone flawed to root for. It also pushes the themes of daily relationships and motherhood in the relationships between Ellie and her children, and later Beth (Lily Sullivan) and Cassie when we find out that Beth is pregnant. This surprisingly doesn’t feel like a trope, and by the end we’re rooting for the final girls as a family.
My biggest gripe is with Dani’s character, played by Morgan Davies. While I celebrate having queer coded characters do something other than exist to be queer in this movie, I wish Dani was just a more intelligent character. Dani’s discovery is the most trope-reliant part of the movie for me. This entire plot would cease to exist if Dani would have simply minded their business or practiced safe behaviors, which they are completely capable of making practical decisions later on in the film.
Ultimately, Evil Dead Rise is a solid film. It’s short run time gives watchers the perfect afternoon scare while being thoroughly packed with action, kills, and emotion. It’s sitting at around a 3.5/5 on Letterboxd as of publishing, and an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, although these are respectable ratings from the theater audiences, you could stand to watch it at home if it hits streaming as well.