I am not an impartial observer.
Evil Dead is my favorite film franchise and has been since I was sixteen years-old.
Yet, even a casual film watcher might be impressed—and slightly overwhelmed—with the quantity and quality of the franchise over the years: five films and a three-season Starz series. All good to great.
The secret to its success and longevity is one and two-fold, centering around creator Sam Raimi and his stable of willing collaborators. Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert, lifelong friends of his, operate on the director’s singular wavelength via alien-like telepathy, fully committed to a completely realized tone of comedy and horror, delivered through an unmistakable style of cinematic mayhem. Not one entry pulls a single punch in regard to Raimi’s zany imagination.
Then, as if seemingly handing over the reins to the next generation, Raimi found two up-and-coming directors that vibe on that same frequency: Fede Álvarez with the 2013 Evil Dead remake and Lee Cronin with 2023’s Evil Dead Rise.
But before we get into the synopsis of Rise, I want to address what I find to be a pedantic and inane conversation about these films, which is the question of whether they are remakes, reboots, sequels, etc..
Evil Dead 2 is a “remake” and “sequel” to Evil Dead. Army of Darkness has two canonical endings. Ash vs. Evil Dead decides per episode if it’s including Army of Darkness in its lore. The 2013 “remake” or “reboot” has a cameo by Ash in its post-credit sequence.
It’s more appropriate to think of these two latter films as Raimi giving young directors the keys to the Deadite kingdom and helping them craft their own vision of what they think a modern Evil Dead movie should be. Best not to overthink the rest of it.
(Okay, the old man is done yelling at the clouds. Let’s get to Evil Dead Rise!)
Like Army of Darkness and Ash vs. Evil Dead, Cronin’s film is an attempt to bring the franchise’s lore outside the cabin in the woods—though it begins with a cold open at a. . .cabin in the woods. Some partying young adults bite the Deadite dust, and then we move 24 Hours Earlier.
Yeah, eh. One of those.
I loved Evil Dead Rise, but it almost kills itself right out of the gate establishing the new universe and cast of characters. The idea is great, as the setting for the night’s shenanigans is moved to a condemned shithole apartment in downtown Los Angeles, inhabited by its few remaining residents.
However, the characters—and their introduction—are about as generic as can be. Beth (Lily Sullivan) surprises her sister Ellie and three kids, showing up pregnant and in need of help. Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) has her hands full trying to find a new apartment before they’re kicked out of their condemned one, while her children check all the necessary boxes: older teenage son who’s really into music, angsty middle teenage daughter who’s really into politics, and awkwardly young—compared to the other two—kid sister who’s there to deliver cute, funny quips.
We are even introduced to several of the neighbors, who are obvious fodder for later.
But that’s just getting the negative out of the way. As soon as the kids find the Necronomicon and recordings of its translations (about 20 minutes in), the film kicks major ass and never lets up.
Cronin understands the world of Evil Dead on a very instinctual level. Its style. Its chaos. Its fun.
Blood flows, eyeballs fly, cheese graters grate, chainsaws rev and grind. Similar to Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2, there is never a sense of safety. Anyone can turn into a Deadite at any time. Even the children.
While I would’ve appreciated some gags went even further (I’m such a jaded fuck), things were put into perspective for me, sitting in a theater full of people. A group of teenage girls seated near me were simultaneously on the edge of fainting and cheering. You could tell they’d never seen anything like this before.
And that’s awesome. Evil Dead Rise, after a decade of relatively bloodless Blumhouse films, could be the entry point into extreme horror for many of the Z generation. Therefore, while the older folks like myself who grew up with this stuff may have a quibble here or there, this could be some young filmgoer's favorite film of all-time.
Evil Dead Rise opens in wide release April 21,