“Evil Dead Rise” – A Fresh, New Take That Doesn’t Forget the Gore and Dark Humor [Review]

Admittedly, there was a great deal of apprehension when Evil Dead Rise was first announced.  Fans of the iconic franchise adore its lead character Ash Williams, and it was hard to imagine a movie without his character in it.  Technically, this was done already in the 2013 “reboot”, but even that was technically a sequel and fit in with the overall continuity.

This latest installment is a reboot in every sense of the way.  Trading the iconic cabin in the woods for a decrepit, condemned high rise apartment building, Evil Dead Rise throws everything it has at the audience.  It gives us all that we want in an Evil Dead film while doing a few new and creative things.

Morbid Mother
Sisters Beth (Lily Sullivan) and Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) reunite as Beth pays her older sister a surprise visit in the rundown apartment building she and her three children are living in.  Reeling from the recent news of an unplanned pregnancy, Beth isn’t sure what to do, so she seeks out her sister, who unfortunately is dealing with massive issues of her own.

Ellie’s husband has recently left her and their three children, and due to the building being condemned, they have a month to find another place to live.  However, their mere mortal problems seem miniscule as Ellie’s teenage son stumbles upon the infamous Necronomicon and plays a vinyl recording of a priest reciting the wicked incantations.

Evil Dead 5
The Necronomicon gets a really cool makeover that makes it look more animalistic (not unlike the textbook from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).

One extremely fast camera zoom later and Ellie is taken over by the Deadites and quickly becomes a terrifying creature hellbent on grotesque displays of body horror and killing everyone in the apartment.  Beth must quickly go from cool aunt to protective mother as she defends the children against this deadly supernatural force.

Malicious Malevolence
For those who were worried about how “Evil Dead” this movie would be, their minds can rest at ease.  Right from the out of nowhere cold open, Evil Dead Rise is filled with over the top gore, in your face scares, and enough blood that it makes the original look PG by comparison.

Evil Dead 3
There’s plenty of blood to go around!!!

In a lot of ways, it does everything that a reboot/remake is supposed to; taking elements and ideas from the original but doing something new and unique with it.  As much as fans praised the 2013 Evil Dead reboot for capturing the right tone, it kept the same setting and beats of the original.  It proved that it could do a cabin in the woods movie well, but this new one takes everything to new levels.

The urban setting is a welcome change as a dark, rundown building in the pouring rain creates the perfect mood for the terror that unfolds.  Another thing it does is isolate the characters in a more practical sense by putting them on the top floor and having the staircase fall apart and the elevator stop working, thus forcing them to choose between fighting the Deadites or jumping to their death over 10 stories below.

We also have to mention the fact that Evil Dead Rise has the guts (no pun intended) to put children in danger.  The previous movies mostly focused on a group of college aged young adults, but here, two of Ellie’s children are teenagers, and the youngest appears to be no older than 7 or 8.  Seeing the Deadites attack and dismember people was disturbing enough before, but it takes on a whole new level when teenagers and even a little girl are in danger.

Evil Dead 4
The stakes feel all that much higher, knowing what could happen to the kids

It manages to strike the balance between horror and comedy that the 2013 version struggled with.  Granted, it is first and foremost a horror film, especially with the disturbing element of children in danger.  But every now and then, you find yourself chuckling at just how over the top things can get, as well as the creative insults Deadite Ellie hurls at her children that are genuinely funny.

Evil Dead 2
Alyssa Sutherland absolutely owns in this role! Sure she’s aided by makeup and occasional CGI, but the Ellie before and Ellie after feel like two completely different actresses.

Merciful Motherhood
At its core, Evil Dead Rise actually makes a pretty strong case for being a Mother’s Day themed horror movie.  Before any supernatural shenanigans begin, we see Ellie struggling with her recent transition to being a single mother and Beth struggling with the very idea of becoming a mother, despite her on the road musician lifestyle that doesn’t seem too conducive to child-rearing.

Granted, Ellie is no longer herself once possessed by Deadites, but in a strange metaphorical manner, she becomes the epitome of the overwhelmed, overworked, over-judged mother who has reached her breaking point.

Obviously, mothers aren’t out there trying to kill or possess their children, but when she refers to them as “titty-sucking parasites”, that’s a sentiment that at least some parents have definitely felt, even if only for a moment at their most frustrated and stressed out.

Enter Beth, whose entire arc is based around learning to become a mother after fearing she was unable to do it.  She’s just as terrified as the kids are, but makes it a point to keep a brave face.  Young Cassie even tells her that she’ll make a great mother one day because of how good she is at lying to kids (after Beth tells her that they’ll all be okay).

Evil Dead 1
By the end, Beth is a badass Mama Bear wielding a chainsaw!

While she’s terrified herself the entire time, Beth finds an inner strength and will stop at nothing to protect those children.  She goes from being shocked and horrified at being pregnant, to her motherly instinct keeping her going as she fights to protect not only the children of her sister, but her own unborn child against the forces of evil.

It’s unclear whether or not writer/director Lee Cronin intended Evil Dead Rise to be an anthem of Mother’s Day, but you can’t deny that the theme of motherhood is ever present, even if only in a subtextual manner.

Overall, Evil Dead Rise is an excellent addition to the franchise that does everything a reboot should.  It makes changes to the setting, characters, and themes, while keeping the same gore and absurdist horror humor that we’ve come to love from the series.  It’s also a great movie to see in a theater with a large crowd, just to feed off the energy of the room!

What do you think of Evil Dead Rise?  How did it compare to the rest of the movies in the franchise? Let us know in the comments!

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