REVIEW: Evil Read Rise (2023)

Evil Dead Rise is a couch potato of a movie. It sits there like a lump, never moving, never surprising, preferring not to think, tuning in to reruns so it can clap in all the expected places. In real life, I have great respect for the couch potato; in cinema, I’d prefer the filmmakers to do some work to entertain me. In a horror movie, that’s a death knell because limp scares don’t work, and unless you have some excellent, lovable characters – and this doesn’t – you got nothing. It stings even worse here because this is supposed to be an Evil Dead movie, and while it goes through the motions of the previous films (and one TV series), it’s nothing but a blurry copy.

Rock group sound engineer Beth (Lily Sullivan) visits her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), a newly single mother, in her dilapidated apartment building in Los Angeles. When an earthquake tears apart the parking garage and lower floors of the building, Ellie’s kids find a broken safety deposit box with a copy of the Necronomicon (or a Necronomicon, because there are three of them now, or some such invalidating nonsense), and after the opening scenes of The Evil Dead are copied in a different setting, the demonic forces are loose once again.

Since I brought it up, I may as well start with the lore. If you’re a big Evil Dead fan – and I mean a fan as in you care about the story and the characters (by which I mostly mean Ash), not as in you saw the movies and enjoyed them as minor diversions – Evil Dead Rise will probably piss you off. Starting with the discovery of the Necronomicon, this film lifts entire scenes from that movie, only they’re much less interesting because they’ve been done before, they’re not filmed nearly as well, and they involve much lesser characters. Some of the repeats are necessary; there has to be a steady cam shot or two of the evil force as it makes its way to its next victim, for instance. But we’re really going to sit through another version of an idiot playing a recording of the Book of the Dead incantation? The other films avoided that by having the events of the first one inform the second and having Army of Darkness take place in the Middle Ages, when the book’s powers had already been loosed. But this is a reboot/sidequel/whatever, so it has to go through the motions and bore us.

When it tries to recapture the horror of The Evil Dead and its sequels, Evil Dead Rise blows it. For example, there is an attempt to recreate the infamous tree and vine scene from The Evil Dead, but it falls flat because Evil Dead Rise isn’t willing to go where The Evil Dead went, meaning the scene has no point other than to be a ‘member berry. The result is supposed to be someone getting possessed, but nothing is shown except her being restrained, leaving you to infer what happened because you’ve (hopefully) seen The Evil Dead. They also do a new version of the Deadite being trapped in the basement, but it doesn’t work either because the setting is all wrong. That’s one of the larger problems with Evil Dead Rise: an apartment building simply isn’t as creepy as a cabin in the woods. Ash and his friends were trapped by a natural world modern man has mostly escaped; it may as well be an alien landscape, something otherworldly because, to us, it’s another world. An apartment is commonplace, with modern conveniences we don’t fear the same way. Loose wires aren’t as scary as vines, an apartment door isn’t as ominous as a hastily-locked cellar, and being trapped in an elevator isn’t as terror-inducing as being surrounded by spooky trees and mist.

Evil Dead Rise

What’s odd is that Evil Dead Rise makes the wrong choice virtually every time in what it copies from its predecessors and what it doesn’t. You know those cool shots in the old Evil Dead movies where someone would very quickly turn to the camera and, suddenly, they were a Deadite? There’s none of that here; the reveals are slower than slugs, and there’s no suspense because we know what’s coming from the voices. Part of the problem is also the makeup; it’s not bad – it’s actually quite well done – but it’s too subtle, so the reveal of a Deadite isn’t all that creepy. It doesn’t look like a demonically possessed corpse but a human with a slightly scarred face, so these slow reveals have no impact. The same is true of the Deadite attacks, which are also slow and so heavily telegraphed that you know they’re coming before they gradually happen. Part of what made the Deadites in the Sam Raimi films scary was that they were fast, on you before you even knew what was happening and tearing your flesh off with a ghoulish cackle. Evil Dead Rise is so lackadaisical in its Deadite action that these scenes are just boring.

Good characters can save almost any mess of a movie, but Evil Dead Rise punts on that score too. It isn’t the actors’ fault; they’re all fine, and they fit their roles. But it’s hard to care about any of these people outside of superficial reasons, like the little girl being a little girl. The opening scenes, which are meant to establish their relationships and endear them to us, are so cold and perfunctory that once the horror starts, they still feel like types more than people. Beth is a sort of Peter Pan who, despite her protests that she isn’t a groupie, is basically a groupie, living the rock and roll lifestyle. That’s what we’re told, anyway; it sure would have been nice to get a glimpse of that outside of seeing her pee in a club bathroom. Ellie is a devoted mother who loves her kids with all her heart, but she only interacts with one of them before the Deadite action. (I can’t tell if the line “I love you more than pizza” is supposed to be funny or heartwarming, but it’s neither.) The two older children are a doofus who listens to loud music and a woke feminist who talks down to everyone. (That doesn’t mean the movie is woke, because it isn’t; I believe this is meant to show that she’s a contrarian teenager, but it doesn’t add up to much.) And as for the glaring omission of a character, Ash is invoked, and it’s annoying and insulting.

Evil Dead Rise

Evil Dead Rise isn’t all bad, though. While most of the characters either suck or fade into the background, the little girl is pretty good. Her role is to be a scared little girl, but she works better than anyone else does. There’s a lot of blood flying all over the place, and while this is a base reaction, it’s pretty cool. I also really liked a creature design that comes about at the end; it’s one of the few original things the movie does, and it’s creepy. The music is good, too, operatic and portentous, as it should be. And the fatalism of the Evil Dead movies, especially the first two, is here, which surprised me. Maybe this is unfair, but I expected it to take a turn and be sunshine and roses by the end, but Evil Dead Rise sticks to its guns on that score, which is to its credit. If you don’t much care about the series, this may be an okayish horror movie, a bland diversion for hardcore fans of the genre. If you are a fan, though, just grab your hard copies and hail to the King, baby.

Evil Read Rise (2023)

Plot - 4
Acting - 6
Directing/Editing - 5
Music/Sound - 8
Horror - 4



Evil Dead Rise is a scareless horror movie with empty characters that copies previous Evil Dead movies with diminished returns, but it has some good creature designs and makeup effects.

Comments (4)

April 21, 2023 at 11:09 am

Yet another thing, I probably would skip if not for the fact I have a youtube channel so it’s my duty to see it and review it haha.

    April 21, 2023 at 6:04 pm

    This site is why I’ve seen a lot of the movies I’ve seen this year.

    Looking through Twitter, other people seem to like this a lot more than I do, so maybe it won’t be so bad for you.

      April 23, 2023 at 2:14 pm

      Lol, you were right. I actually ended up enjoying it. And I have to very politely disagree that it wasn’t scary’; the scene with eating glass was super disturbing to me; I think it’s a matter of experience really.

        April 24, 2023 at 8:56 pm

        Heh, it’s cool; I’m glad you liked it. Most of what I’ve seen makes it look like most people enjoyed it. Part of it might be that I’m not a huge horror fan, outside of a few exceptions.

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