Evil Dead Rise review – blood-soaked franchise soars to great heights
Writer-director Lee Cronin shifts the action to a Los Angeles apartment block for this gruelling and absurdly gory revival
Beth (Lily Sullivan) has finally come home to her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and Ellie's three kids, Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), Danny (Morgan Davies) and Kassie (Nell Fisher). Beth, who works in the music industry, is hoping for a happy family reunion, a safe place to shelter as the world falls apart around her. But when Danny discovers a dusty old book in the wake of an earthquake, something dark – and familiar – is unleashed that can’t be undone. With it, Evil Dead Rise marks a franchise reborn.
Just as the cursed Necronomicon is passed on to each unsuspecting victim, writer-director Lee Cronin has inherited this heinous torch from previous directors Sam Rami and Fede Álvarez, tasked with resuscitating the goriest horror franchise ever to exist. From the outset, Cronin demonstrates his awareness of the franchise’s beginnings with an opening, cabin-set sequence that warns audiences of the brutality in store. It is a respectful nod to Evil Dead’s birthplace, but we're moving on, as Cronin sets out to make his own mark with a new setting, shifting the violent to the claustrophobic confines of a Los Angeles high-rise.
The cabin, of course, is not the only franchise reference: the thorny branches we once saw twisting around limbs in the great outdoors become electrical wires in this new urban setting, as Cronin finds interesting ways to remix the classic elements. The possessions, however, still take root in the same way. This is a film for die-hard fans and new-comers alike; the trusty chainsaw and cursed book are back, but Evil Dead Rise stands alone, requiring no previous knowledge to gorge on the creative carnage its director has to offer.
It is a mark of Cronin’s skilled storytelling ability that everything we need to know it spelled out in the meticulous set-up. We watch the family interact prior to the bloodbath, and their actions are all accounted for in the terrifying second half. Every moment of this nightmarish experience is considered, from the placement of the myriad of sharp objects littered throughout the apartment, to the use of red that marks the person fated for the initial possession. As the film ramps up, it becomes difficult to find moments to breathe between all the wincing and gagging.
Evil Dead Rise may follow the franchise formula in many ways, but it also makes room for new surprises, always keeping audiences on their toes with regards to the next victim (read as: nobody is safe). Each sickening moment is quickly topped by the next. Each death sequence as uniquely devised as the last. No previous experience will prepare audiences for the sound of grating skin, or the sheer amount of blood that fills the hallways. It's in the absurd abominations of reanimated limbs that enjoyment of this universe prevails once more. This reboot is certain to birth a whole new legion of fans, riding high on the graphic pandemonium that awaits them.
Evil Dead Rise is released in UK cinemas on 21 April.Where to watch