Despite former Evil Dead frontman Bruce Campbell parting ways with the franchise, which has fissured into various strands (sequels, TV series, computer games, comic books and a remake) over the years, the film series battles on with Campbell now on exec-producing duty alongside the original film’s director, Sam Raimi, to deliver this frenzied, gore strewn reboot/sequel/equal/something, that feels more connected to Fede Alvarez’s 2013 remake than Raimi’s original trilogy.

Helmed by The Hole in the Ground writer/director Lee Cronin, Evil Dead Rise is a feisty, ripped limb lobbing, scatter-gun whirlwind of guts, blood, demonic possession and pregnancy horror that doesn’t muzzle gusto for characters or story, and suffers as a result.

After a goosebump budding prologue, the story zaps backwards and relocates to LA (doubled by New Zealand due to Covid restrictions), where single mother, Elle (Alyssa Sutherland) lives with her kids in an urban high rise. Elle’s technician sister Beth (Lily Sullivan) visits, but when a local disaster causes the building car park to crack open, Elle and co venture below and discover the dusty old Necronomicon (book of the dead) which perpetually plighted Ash Williams throughout the original trilogy and subsequent TV series. Incantations are recited and evil unleashed in the guise of the great invisible nothing that roars through the building, attacking residents before possessing them then making them kill others.

Writer/director Cronin worked wonders with his feature debut, demonstrating a matchless knack for sending shivers up the spine. For Evil Dead Rise, the director does his best with a shrill screenplay that unravels like a prolonged set piece before ineloquently trudging to a lacklustre finale. Characters with little time to evolve (despite potential for an interesting dynamic) are hurled face first into paranormal mayhem as people get possessed then do their best to massacre all and sundry with whatever household implements are closest.

While direct references to Raimi’s originals feel corny and shoe-horned, Cronin inadvertently captures some of the magic which made them so great via subtle eye squints, glints and splinters-under-the fingernail, fly-on-the-eyeball terror. Despite these few creepy scenes, and unique deaths (hello cheese grater), Evil Dead Rise treads mulchy, old ground.

The fresh to the franchise urban setting doesn’t make much of a difference, as it recently did with Scream VI and not so recently in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, because Evil Dead Rise is still mostly set in one apartment/location. It also lacks the heart of the original due to the absence of Campbell’s Ash: the everyman protagonist whose klutzy charm gave the viewer someone to connect with and root for. Plus, the original Evil Dead had depth and texture. You could feel Ash’s pain, descent into madness and deteriorating mind-set thanks to Raimi’s directing, Joel Coen’s on the nose editing, Joe LoDuca’s disorientating score, and the cast/crew’s anguish due to a notoriously arduous shoot and working conditions.

Cronin’s reboot tries to be/do too much at once and mostly falls short, resonating as a barnstorming, hollow, corporate regeneration that is far too superficially furious, unhinged, contradictorily choreographed and paradoxically dull. The fractured family at its centre spend more time dodging power tools, flying body parts or buckets of claret than convincingly connecting with us and each other. Without a strong story, appealing characters, depth or scope it’s hard to give a hoot about this gutsy, soulless and anarchic sequel/recall/equal that, while visceral, lacks the charred heart and frantic passion that fired Raimi’s originals.

Evil Dead Rise
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Daniel Goodwin is a prevalent film writer for multiple websites including HeyUGuys, Scream Horror Magazine, Little White Lies, i-D and Dazed. After studying Film, Media and Cultural Studies at university and Creative Writing at the London School of Journalism, Daniel went on to work in TV production for Hat Trick Productions, So Television and The London Studios. He has also worked at the Home Office, in the private office of Hilary Benn MP and the Coroner's and Burials Department, as well as on the Movies on Pay TV market investigation for the Competition Commission.
evil-dead-rise-reviewThis is a gutsy, soulless and anarchic sequel/recall/equal that, while visceral, lacks the charred heart and frantic passion that fired Raimi’s originals. A frustrating disappointment.