The original electrifying Evil Dead burst onto the horror scene in 1981 and wrapped its spindly tendrils around the throat of passionate horror fans worldwide, keeping us on the edge of our seats and our hearts racing. Since then, the franchise hasn’t given up steam and has continued to prove its deserved stake in the horror hall of fame with each new installment that’s been released. Each movie is an unmatched blood-soaked carnival of fun, gore, and charisma that promises to take the audience for a wild ride, dripping with litres upon litres of blood.

The captains at the helm of the powerhouse franchise are director Sam Raimi and lead actor Bruce Campbell. Raimi’s deranged artistic vision along with Campbell’s immense charm and charisma resulted in a chemistry that catapulted the franchise into cult classic territory. This time around, for the first film release in a decade, Raimi and Campbell have passed the torch onto Lee Cronin to direct the Evil Dead Rise (2023) reboot and joined themselves as executive producers. Many fans have waited with bated breath to see what Cronin would deliver due to the Evil Dead franchise becoming a fixed and important feature in many of our lives.

Fans need no longer fear the outcome of Evil Dead Rise, as it paid a clear homage to the original trilogy. In doing so, it took a completely different direction from the 2013 predecessor. Whilst Álvarez’s Evil Dead stuck to the sinister and isolating staging of a cabin in the woods, thematically it was a stark change from the original trilogy, much grittier and darker than fans expected. None of the camp and comedy was present in Evil Dead 2013, instead an unrelenting barrage of visceral gore smacked the audience in the face.

Evil Dead Rise focuses on newly single mother Ellie, played by the captivating Alyssa Sutherland, who receives a surprise visit from her distant sister Beth, who is played by the formidable Lily Sullivan. Beth is visiting the family after a stint traveling around Bangkok and the globe as a sound technician (not a groupie…) after she struggles with the prospect of being pregnant and becoming a mother herself. She reacquaints herself with her sister’s children, who are nuanced characters themselves interested in human rights and anarchy, whilst she struggles internally with the ability to be nurturing. The niceties don’t last for long, as soon the building is struck with a demonic spirit unleashed from the Necronomicon; Ellie herself becomes possessed and transforms into a chilling Deadite intent on destroying her own children.

Cronin includes the beloved camp and dark humour of the original trilogy whilst crafting scenes of gore to give the audience a balanced diet of horror – the filmmaker reportedly included 6,500 litres of fake blood throughout filming. Whilst the movie weaved impressive special effects throughout, the gory scenes were more anxiety-inducing than visceral and grotesque. The violence included felt aimed towards a wider audience with scenes of self-mutilation from the dastardly Deadites resulting in a cringe-inducing feeling instead of shock and horror. As a seasoned horror fan, one thing I wanted more of were graphic gore scenes that weren’t watered down for a larger, more commercial audience.

2023 has seen a revitalisation of locations within reboots, with iconic films like Scream being set in metropolitan areas such as New York City. Production designer Nick Bassett’s new spin on the location was a welcome change as he was able to create a suffocating sense of claustrophobia that permeated throughout the hellish high-rise flat. Easter eggs littered the screen giving hardcore fans a sense of enthralment and nostalgia at the sight: the audience experienced elevator innards transform into grasping appendages, the demonic Necronomicon and insidious tape recordings which featured Bruce Campbell’s voice, an eyeball being gratuitously swallowed, as well as iconic lines from the original films being honoured (“Come get some” / “Dead by dawn”/ “I’ll swallow your soul”) and Ash’s legendary chainsaw being wielded by Beth.

Alyssa Sutherland portrays a powerful performance as Ellie, the main matriarch of the family. Motherhood is presented as a dangerous double-edged sword, being responsible for the protection and nurturing required to save the children’s souls, but also being responsible for one of the most terrifying Deadites who taunts her children and uses her position as their mother to her advantage, pulling at their heartstrings and emotionally manipulating them. Alyssa’s features, along with impressive make-up, are able to twist and contort to reveal the true horrors of the Deadite possession. Although Ellie and Beth are foils, with Ellie starting as a dedicated mother who puts her children before all, and Beth running from being confronted with the prospect of becoming a mother, their chemistry on screen makes for a memorable sibling duo and delves more into the complicated nature of familial relationships which is showing itself to be a running theme throughout the reboots. By the end of Evil Dead Rise, Beth taps into her own matriarchal power to overcome the Deadites with the searing aim to protect her nephew and nieces, as well as her own unborn child.

Lily Sullivan appears to embody Ash in the final showdown and the camera shots connect herself with Campbell as the director employs point-of-view shots weaved throughout the film to create a unity with the Evil Dead original trilogy. Beth’s face is focused on extremely up close as she bares a threatening grin, bracing herself for her blood-thirsty battle with the deformed Deadite creature. Not only does Cronin use these POV shots to outline the link between Beth and Ash as the heroes, he uses multiple iconic perspective shots to represent the evil spirits forcing themselves into the building and bodies of the doomed characters. These shots serve to outline the ferocity and power of the Deadites and at points Beth.

Due to a myriad of captivating performances, a suffocating set location, intense sound and special effects, and loving homages, the whole experience of watching Evil Dead Rise felt like a warm welcome-home hug from a passionate filmmaker who has honoured the original franchise and respected what Evil Dead is at the core: camp, charisma, and an overwhelming bombardment of blood.

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