Evil Dead Rise review: Watch-through-your-hands horror at its finest
The fifth film in the franchise is a relentless bloodbath that provides scary, wince-inducing fun – both for Evil Dead fans and those who love a good cinema scare.
Buckets of blood, the Book of the Dead and a chainsaw? Yep, it must be an Evil Dead movie, of which there really are no bad ones in the horror franchise. The team that's been there since the beginning with 1981's The Evil Dead, producer Rob Tapert and executive producers Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell (who played original protagonist Ash Williams), reunite for Evil Dead Rise.
The fifth instalment is helmed by director Lee Cronin, who updates the cabin-in-the-woods format to an apartment in Los Angeles branded a "condemned dump" that will soon be demolished.
It's there where single mum Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) lives with her three children, teenagers Danny (Morgan Davies) and Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and her youngest Kassie (Nell Fisher). Her estranged sister Beth (Lily Sullivan) shows up out of the blue one day and – this is where the plot gets a bit convoluted – her arrival is shortly followed by an earthquake, which forms a giant hole in the parking garage. Danny goes down there and grabs some vinyl records and the Book of the Dead.
We learn that the building used to be an old bank, but there's loads of religious memorabilia in the rubble, including a giant cross of Jesus Christ. How does this all connect? We're not entirely sure – something to do with a safety deposit box. Do we care? Not really.
Danny opens the Book of the Dead and plays the records (listen out for an aural cameo from Campbell), which unleashes the demonic Deadites that come to possess Ellie.
After this, the film is a relentless bloodbath that provides scary, wince-inducing fun that makes you go, "This is what I came for!" It gives fans of the Evil Dead films something newly claustrophobic with the action taking place mainly inside the apartment, the corridor and the unreliable lift. Yet, you don't need to be a fan of the previous films – this is watch-through-your-hands horror at its finest.
There are some wonderful little nuggets that reference the original movies – like choking on an eyeball, creepy nursery rhymes, and even using silver duct tape to wrap up wounds. There's also a huge nod to The Shining's "elevator of blood" sequence, and how could anyone not love that?
While Evil Dead II is viewed as a comedy-horror, Evil Dead Rise is more of an all-out gorefest, although it does have its moments, like when the possessed Ellie says to her kids that she's now "free from you titty-sucking parasites"...
Sutherland is scene-stealing as Ellie, who only needed minimal prosthetic work to accentuate parts of her face. Her performance is monstrously good as she endangers her children and sister, wielding knives, a tattoo gun and a cheese grater for some of the most visceral attacks.
When it comes to the final showdown, Ellie is terrifying enough on her own and she doesn't need any of the "extras" she's given here. Less is so much more when it comes to horror. Yet, when Beth, played with real depth and a scrappy will to survive by Sullivan, revs that chainsaw and says, "Come get some," her own version of Ash's "groovy", all can be forgiven.
A strong audience response at a research screening has allowed Evil Dead Rise to receive a global theatrical release rather than a streaming launch and it is so easy to see why.
It deserves to be seen in the biggest, loudest cinema as possible to fully appreciate composer Stephen McKeon's immersive, jangly, cacophonous score (he previously worked with Cronin on his debut horror The Hole in the Ground). It lulls you into a false sense of security with long stretches of silence before hitting you over the head with clanging discord, the musical equivalent of grinding teeth.
Evil Dead has always claimed to be "the ultimate experience in gruelling terror" and the latest in the franchise that never misses proves it still is. You'll enjoy letting it swallow your soul afresh.
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Evil Dead Rise is released in UK cinemas on Friday 21st April. Check out more of our Film coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.
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