Buckets of Blood and Gallons of Gore — ‘Evil Dead Rise’ Rises to Its Name

Written and directed by Lee Cronin, the film follows a mother possessed to murder her children.

Content warning: Violence, gore and death

“Evil Dead Rise” is an enthralling, demonic time.

Written and directed by Lee Cronin, the film follows a mother possessed to murder her children.

Set in Los Angeles, tattoo artist Ellie lives paycheck to paycheck in a decrepit high-rise with her three kids of various ages. When a series of storms and earthquakes rock the foundation, an underground safe buried beneath the building reveals itself and its devilish contents — a hellish text of ancient rituals known as a “Book of the Dead” and a priest’s voice-recorded journals.

In the hopes the book might be of value, Ellie’s son Danny utilizes a turntable to play the journals and understand the text. As the incantations play aloud, Danny inadvertently conjures the souls of the damned.

Called forth from the recordings, zombified spirits of hell rush to the building and overtake Ellie. Now possessed, Ellie’s visiting sister Beth is forced to be a guardian for the children in her stead. 

As the elevators and stairs remain destroyed by the storm, Beth and the kids are confined 8 stories up with an undead, murderous mother.

Based on the 1981 film series “Evil Dead” by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, “Evil Dead Rise” isn’t a direct continuation or reboot but a re-imagining that reconfigures the original’s premise to horrifying results.

Creatives Raimi (“Spider-Man,” “Army of Darkness”) and Campbell (“Ash vs Evil Dead,” “Burn Notice”) took the classic cabin-in-the-woods horror trope and amplified it with bloody violence and campy humor. “Evil Dead Rise” replaces the cabin with an apartment secluded from the world but retains the series’ vicious violence and twinge of dark humor. 

“Evil Dead Rise” is not for the faint of heart. Dismemberment of limbs, intense impalements, projectile vomiting of various liquids, consumption of glass and eyeballs, and a brief but unforgettable sequence with a cheese grater all decorate this cacophony of carnage. 

Even the most die-hard of horror fans may squirm in their seats.

Cronin (“The Hole in the Ground,” “Ghost Train”) pairs obscene levels of violence with impeccable direction. Unabashed of the brutality and unafraid to pull back, the tension-building scenes are just as memorable as the bombastic bouts of bloodshed.

The movie is a back-and-forth between methodical horror and traditional jump scares. It’s a process that keeps the viewer on edge with no clue of what direction “Evil Dead Rise” might take with each scene.

As compellingly sadistic as Cronin’s direction is, it’s the sharp sound design that cements the film as a new icon of horror. Each snap of bone to the buzz of a fly is given painstakingly detailed volume. It’s a purposefully nauseating experience designed to make a viewer’s skin crawl.

For all the violence and gore in “Evil Dead Rise,” the film has a cunningly dark sense of humor to match. 

Many of the savage feats Ellie commits are conducted absurdly. As other residents in the building become possessed by the spirits, the taunts they direct towards Beth and the kids are oddly amusing for their brashness and ferocity. 

It’s a strange tone but one that harkens to the original “Evil Dead” films from Raimi and Campbell.

Alyssa Sutherland as Ellie is utterly heinous. Sutherland (“Vikings,” “The Mist”) gives an incredibly two-sided performance as both an empathic mother and a vessel for hellspawn. 

Sutherland’s hypnotizing smirk of mockery summarizes the film’s malicious tone in a single expression.

Lily Sullivan as Beth is likewise a captivating watch. Sullivan (“Mental,” “Jungle”) matches Sutherland’s over-the-top antics with a grounded performance. Thrown into the role of a mother-like figure, Sullivan portrays a guardian who’s struggling with their confidence but relentless in their defense.

Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and Kassie (Nell Fisher) as Ellie’s children exhibit their own traits of tenacity, anxiety and childlike hope. The trio’s youth also makes it easier to apologize for accidentally releasing the undead. Every time a tragedy befalls the three, it’s a gut-punch of emotion and a robbery of innocence.

“Evil Dead Rise” is a rollercoaster of pulse-pounding horror. It’s a story of an estranged sister being forced to kill her family to protect her family. The film’s a perversely sleek re-imagining of an ‘80s classic — without losing its rising sense of insanity and humor.

“Evil Dead Rise” is in theaters now.

Featured image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Brendan Parr

Brendan Parr

Brendan Parr is a fourth-year majoring in Film and Digital Media and minoring in Political Science. Since joining The Phoenix during his first-year Brendan's been a consistent presence. Covering film, television, comic books and music, his pension for review writing motivated his column, 'Up to Parr.' Brendan joined staff as Arts Editor in fall 2024.
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