‘Evil Dead Rise’ successfully taps the mommy horror subgenre
Almost exactly five years removed from the unceremonious cancellation of the Starz series Ash vs Evil Dead, the latest film entry in the franchise breaks away from cabins (mostly), Oldsmobiles, and Bruce Campbell’s iconic Ash Williams. It’s time to break out the boomstick and chainsaw.
With Sam Raimi and Campbell on board as executive producers, Evil Dead Rise sets out to do a few things under the helm of Lee Cronin (The Hole in the Ground). First, it insists on treading new ground, in a new setting, with entirely different character archetypes. It also looks to push the envelope of gore and violence without eschewing the humor and vibe that’s endeared the franchise to fans. The lack thereof proved to be the downfall of Fede Álvarez’s remake Evil Dead (2013), though I’m particularly fond of it myself.
EVIL DEAD RISE ★★★ (3/5 stars)
Directed by: Lee Cronin
Written by: Lee Cronin
Starring: Alyssa Sutherland, Lily Sullivan, Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols, Nell Fisher
Running time: 97 min
Evil Dead Rise brings together two estranged sisters, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and Beth (Lily Sullivan). Beth’s been on the road with a band when she discovers she’s pregnant. This prompts her to head back home to LA to see Ellie, whose husband has recently left her to raise three kids by herself in a practically condemned apartment.
Beth gets an icy welcome from Ellie because she was completely unresponsive when Ellie tried to reach out to her during her breakup. Before that tension can break, a whole-ass earthquake breaks the tension of the apartment building. A sinkhole forms in the underground parking garage, revealing a sealed-away bank vault and what appears to be a tomb surrounded by crucifixes. Ellie’s kids investigate and uncover the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. This scenario is exactly why I’m not having kids.
Anyone who’s seen an Evil Dead film knows what comes next. Someone opens the book. Blood spills. They utter the familiar incantation, unleashing evil. The summoning draws an evil spirit into Ellie while she’s in her apartment elevator. She ends up becoming a sort of Deadite trojan horse, returning home to her children. She’s soon trying to kill everyone, and it’s up to Beth to protect the kids from their own mother.
Rise draws from such welcome inspirations as The Shining, Silent Hill 4: The Room, and, of course, the filmography of Sam Raimi. While it could never live up to Evil Dead 2, Rise forges a path forward for the franchise with a romp that’s sure to check the boxes of anyone looking for some laughs with their blood.
A certain kitchen utensil will likely get the most word of mouth, but Sutherland’s Deadite performance, which has already terrorized children and easily frightened adults just trying to watch the NBA Playoffs on TNT, lifts the movie. Sutherland gleefully plays in the territory afforded by a demonic mother figure, oscillating back and forth from menacing to inviting. It’s a performance that viewers won’t soon forget.
Where Rise fails is in its insistence on fan service and nods towards recognizable mainstays of the franchise. We don’t need a chainsaw and shotgun if Ash isn’t wielding them. We don’t need to see a cabin in the woods to get that this is an Evil Dead film. Hopefully, future installments will further set themselves apart from these impulses while keeping this tone intact. That would be groovy.