Review: Evil Dead Rise


What is an Evil Dead movie? Probably a deeper question than you thought you were going to get in a review for Evil Dead Rise, a film where an eyeball flies across a blood-soaked hallway into a person’s mouth and then they choke to death, but it is relevant. As Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, director and star of the original films and now executive producers on the new ones, look to turn Evil Dead into a more consistent and ongoing horror franchise the question becomes important because it’s going inform the kind of films we get in the future and people’s expectations.

Is an Evil Dead film a horror movie? A gore-fest? A camp piece of slasher cinema? An action/comedy? A film in which at some point a Deadite gets dismembered by a chainsaw? A movie where someone eventually quotes the original trilogy in some way? I think the answer is a very obvious yes to all of these thanks to the franchise’s four movies and TV series all being radically different in tone. That raises the problem that it’s really hard for one film to be all those things and that everyone has a different desire about what Evil Dead should be.

Evil Dead Rise – Official Trailer (Green Band)

Evil Dead Rise
Director: Lee Cronin
Release Date: April 21, 2023
Rated: R

Given that, and before you read this review, let me tell you that when I think Evil Dead I think more Evil Dead 2, gory campy comedy than straight horror. Don’t get me wrong, I love the first film, but I want my deadites to have their rotting tongues firmly planted in their cheeks and my heroes to be overplaying everything to the hilt. That’s why I loved the rebooted Evil Dead in 2013. So, when I tell you that Evil Dead Rise was great but not as great as it should have been, you may want to take that with a grain of salt as I could be coming at this from an angle you don’t give two shits about.

Evil Dead Rise brings the franchise out of the cabin in the woods and away from the chainsaw-toting Ash into an entirely new realm: an apartment complex. Despite the scenery change, however, the premise is still pretty much the same. A group of people, this time a family, read from the Necronomicon (one of three now) and awaken evil. Despite playing out in the middle of a city this is still a “closed room” horror story. We’re introduced quickly to Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three children, Bridget (Gabrille Echols), Danny (Morgan Davies), and Kassie (Nell Fisher), who are visited by Ellie’s sister Beth (Lily Sullivan). Ellie promptly, and fantastically, gets turned into a Deadite and the rest is a gory, horrific, cringe-inducing, horror-filled sprint to the end. 

Courtesy of New Line Cinema

This is, without a doubt, the scariest film of the franchise, though Fede Alvarez’s 2013 rendition probably wins out for better gore. It also follows the “rules” of an Evil Dead film to a tee: there are gallons and gallons of blood, vomit, and bodily fluid thrown across the screen; evil is overly dramatic and with a sense of drama that any storyteller would kill for; there’s a chainsaw and a shotgun. What’s different is that director and writer Lee Cronin is clearly focused on making the gore truly scary, not just over the top. There are moments in this movie that will set your hair on end with how they’re so pain/fear-inducing. It is an absolute horror ride from beginning to right near the end when things start getting wonderfully absurd.

My problem is that the absurdity doesn’t start until near the end. Yes, the gore is immense but it doesn’t feel as playful (if bodily dismemberment can ever be called that) as Evil Dead usually feels. There’s no undertone of comedy or fun to the proceedings until the final showdown when Sullivan finally starts channeling her inner Bruce Campbell. Still, it’s a little disappointing that this feels more like a great horror film than a great Evil Dead film — though, even I will admit, that the movie has some killer one-liners from both the deadites and the heroes.

Courtesy of New Line Cinema

A whole ton of that horror comes from Sutherland’s performance as the possessed mother. The only deadite on screen for a large chunk of the film, she is without a doubt the scariest one yet. The Oscars don’t pay attention to horror but this is a tour de force performance in a grueling film that should be recognized. Her performance alone makes the film scary, with or without the blood. Props also to newcomer Fisher, who must have gone through some serious shit to film this movie, including being coated in fake blood for hours on end.

Evil Dead Rise is a fantastic horror film and Raimi and Campbell have once again discovered a fantastic up-and-coming horror director who will surely become an even bigger name. There’s no argument that the film is a success but it’s not the success I wanted. It also raises the question of what the future is for the franchise itself. Campbell has repeatedly said that the films will move away from Ash and his idiocy to instead be like stand-alone horror films about people finding the book and deadites terrorizing them. It seems that straighter horror is the end goal, but the film is also full of callbacks and references. Is that what we’ll be seeing from here on out or will the genre and callbacks vary moving forward? Those are bigger questions than I can answer and, I suppose, for now, good horror should be enough.




Evil Dead Rise is definitely great horror and a total bloodbath of epic proportions but it's not the Evil Dead you might be looking for.

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.