‘Evil Dead Rise’ is a Gnarly, Gruesome Amusement Ride of Terror

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

It isn’t every day that the fifth movie in a horror franchise can feel fresh and like it belongs right here and right now. 2013’s Evil Dead reboot was a pretty solid horror flick with some memorably shocking imagery and brutality. But it was lacking the comedic edge that the Evil Dead franchise is known for. But now, we’re back on track. Evil Dead Rise is exactly what 2013’s Evil Dead wasn’t. This is a horror flick with hideously gruesome terror, but with a campy approach and a sense of humor about itself, with some real drama about a family in peril and the horrors of motherhood.

Evil Dead Rise follows Beth (Lily Sullivan), a tattoo artist described as a “groupie”, who goes to visit her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), a single mother to Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and Kassie (Nell Fisher). They all live in a pretty close to dilapidated apartment building in Los Angeles. The kids come across the famous Evil Dead book that houses angry spirits that attack and possess Ellie, leading to a series of nightmarish situations where Beth and the kids must fight for their lives against their own mother.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Sullivan and Sutherland are two actresses with top billing whom I didn’t recognize, and they’re both perfect in these leading roles. Especially Alyssa Sutherland, who is giving one of the all time great horror performances as the mother that becomes the proverbial Deadite. She’s scary as hell, but also sells the moments where she isn’t. She’s nailing the big scary moments, and the makeup and visual effects aren’t doing all the work for her. Lily Sullivan must serve as the emotional anchor here, a character who just discovered she’s pregnant and went to her sister’s house, presumably for emotional guidance. She nails the inexplicable terror and fear, but also the hard emotional choices this character is forced to make. Even the child actors are pretty great here.

But the reason you’re here is for the outrageously bloody kills and fight scenes that seem to go on forever. But these scenes have to have stakes rooted in some kind of emotional truth to work, and those stakes are present throughout this movie. This one has a twisted sense of humor that adds levity to the horror, and that’s definitely welcome, especially as the situation grows more tense and dire as we proceed. And there’s some instantly iconic visuals involving someone eating glass and someone using a cheese grater as a weapon, and those are instantly imprinted on my brain and I can’t unsee any of it, and these scenes will haunt my dreams forever!

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Evil Dead Rise is a lean, mean amusement ride of terror. It runs at a short 90 mins and never overstays its welcome. I wouldn’t have minded an epilogue to check in on the surviving characters, say a year or so later. But this new installment in the Evil Dead world is just about everything I think fans could hope it to be. I’m sure we’ll get another one of these at some point, since this has done well at the box office. However, at the assured hand of director Lee Cronin, I’d welcome a few more of these.

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