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Evil Dead Rise SXSW Review: A Satisfyingly Gruesome New Vision for the Series

evil dead rise review

The Evil Dead franchise has had quite the evolution, from Sam Raimi’s original and fiercely independent B-movie, to the newest entry — Evil Dead Rise — being one of the most anticipated studio horror movies of the year. This newest entry delivers on the promise of bloody carnage, making it one of the most unsettling horror films in quite a while.

The movie follows a family who is thrown into turmoil when they discover the book of the dead, thrusting them into a battle against vicious evil forces that refuse to relent. It’s interesting that this film eschews the traditional woodsy setting for an urban high rise, and director Lee Cronin makes the most of this unique setting.

The first thirty minutes of the movie are set-up, and the remaining hour is non-stop tension and brutality. It pretty much follows the same formula that the rest of the films in the franchise have stuck to, but the gore is so amped up that audiences will remain invested nonetheless. It’s a quick, yet extraordinarily stressful hour and a half — but fans expect no less.

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ALYSSA SUTHERLAND as Ellie in New Line Cinema’s horror film “EVIL DEAD RISE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Also Read: Appendage SXSW Review: A Frustratingly Unsubtle Horror-Comedy

Of course, the main reason that fans see these movies is to see some gruesome effects, and Cronin’s vision of the franchise delivers in this regard. Admittedly, many of the best moments were revealed in the trailers, but there are still parts that will elicit an enormously visceral reaction out of viewers. The only real disappointment is the cheese grater scene which, while hyped up by marketing, is not long enough to make a significant impact.

The only big shortcoming of the film is that it feels thematically shallow. Of course, this is nothing new for the franchise, as these movies have always been an exercise in shock value more than they have been about substance. Still, whereas the 2013 reboot at least took an ambitious swing-and-a-miss to explore the theme of addiction, Evil Dead Rise explores familiar themes of motherhood and femininity.

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LILY SULLIVAN as Beth in New Line Cinema’s horror film “EVIL DEAD RISE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

The argument could also be made that the film, however unintentionally, has an anti-feminist angle to it. The protagonist’s heroism is largely defined by her motherly abilities in her quest to protect her nieces and nephew. There was the potential for her to become the next badass heroine, but the whole thing feels slightly reductive.

That being said, both of the lead actresses give performances in the leading role that rank among the best in the genre. Lily Sullivan radiates a charisma that suggests she has the potential to become the next icon of punk culture. And Alyssa Sutherland gives an absolutely menacing performance as the possessed victim.

Evil Dead Rise might be a bit shallower than one would hope, but other than that, it’s extraordinarily satisfying. For horror fans looking for a gory good time at the movies, Evil Dead Rise delivers, infusing the franchise with much-needed life and hopefully opening the door for even more deranged carnage.

Evil Dead Rise screened at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival, which runs March 10-18 in Austin, TX.

Rating: 8/10

Like a Dragon: Ishin

Also Read: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves SXSW Review: An Unexpectedly Fun Dive Into a Rich Fantasy World

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Written by Sean Boelman

Film Critic and member of the CACF.