2023 | rated R | starring Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Gabrielle Echols, Morgan Davies, Nell Fisher | written & directed by Lee Cronin | 1h 36m |

Lee Cronin’s (The Hole in the GroundEvil Dead Rise  comes with the producer blessing of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, but that doesn’t mean a it’s meant for those who think the only good horror movie is a horror/comedy and give Raimi a longer leash because they expect cartoonish slapstick and campy one-liners with their horror. No, this Evil Dead is deadly serious, like the 2013 remake (which this may or may not be a sequel to) before it. A film curated with horrific images of torture and body horror, unable to squeeze much fun out of the proceedings and letting potential laugh lines hit the floor under the weight of an oppressive atmosphere. But for those willing to go on a haunted house ride with no safety net, the film works well as a straight bone-crunching horror show.

Travelling band guitar technician Beth (Lily Sullivan) arrives at her sister’s run-down Los Angeles apartment to learn that sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) is now raising her three children, Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), Danny (Morgan Davies) and little Kassie (Nell Fisher) by herself. An earthquake in the building opens up an old bank vault where Danny finds The Book of the Dead and a record that when played backwards recites the words to summon the Deadites, who quickly infect Ellie. With the power out and elevators broken, Beth tries to keep her nieces and nephew alive while possessed Ellie rampages through the apartment brutalizing and infecting everyone in her path.

Like this year’s Scream VI, Evil Dead Rise livens things up with a change of scenery, moving the action from it’s trademark cabin in the woods to an equally cramped LA apartment. It’s the kind of low budget confined cinema that allows a filmmaker the freedom to pursue all sorts of bloody creative body horror and that’s just what Cronin dolls out. From glass shards to scissors to a cheese grater Rise deploys all sorts of household items with refreshingly unflinching brutality in the war between human and Deadite. Cronin ditches any sense of levity to craft a survival horror experience of childhood trauma where the movie effectively conveys the sense that nobody is safe and there is no way out without jump scares and the usual haunted house tropes. Rise is relentless, conjuring up enough nightmare imagery to fuel it to the finish line. During the first and third act while we remain in the apartment, the film doesn’t feel mechanical or strained.

Ironically enough, it’s when the film leans into the more familiar elements of the Evil Dead franchise that it starts to feel forced. The movie does a backflip to put a chainsaw in the hands of our hero and turn Beth from groupie to one-liner swilling Bruce Campbell hero. Motherhood is the theme here with Ellie taking on three kids alone and Beth worried about her own coming pregnancy. At one point Kassie tells Beth, she would make a good mom because “you’re good at lying to kids”. The film doesn’t quite tie the theme to the action. Again to Scream VI, which did a good job of bringing the theme that Sam needs to let go of younger sister Tara and let her make her own choices into the finale by literally being forced to let go of her to save her life. The motherhood theme doesn’t quite realize itself in the action here.

Still, Evil Dead Rise is a well-made, visually delicious film to delight gore-hounds, paced efficiently and trimmed of any needless fat and exposition. It puts us in a hopeless situation but doesn’t quite thrill. With the one exception of a wacky sequence involving a flying eyeball, the film lacks the over-the-top invention of the kills in favor of creating a bloody bath for volume’s sake. It’s satisfying, with a vicious streak that inflicts brutality on it’s characters rarely seen in a mainstream studio release. This Evil Dead is closer to Hereditary than Drag Me to Hell.