Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three children live in a derelict apartment building in Los Angeles. It is scheduled to be demolished and very few of the building’s residents remain. Ellie’s estranged sister Beth (Lily Sullivan) turns up out of the blue, and just as old wounds are reopened, an earthquake destroys part of the building and the broken foundation leads to the discovery of a book that should have stayed buried.
Just like in the previous EVIL DEAD films, a curious individual finds a way to open that book and have the passages read. Ellie immediately gets possessed by a demonic force and well, shit goes sideways really, really quickly.
If you are a fan of the EVIL DEAD franchise, then you are in for a gratuitously groovy good time at the movies. Writer/Director Lee Cronin does not necessarily deliver a remake like Fede Alvarez did in 2013, so much as he creates a sinister story of his own that incorporates and homages certain elements and cues from its predecessors. And once Ellie starts unleashing hell on her family and her neighbours, Cronin’s picture does not let up until the End Credits start. While the Film does have a hefty dose of CGI effects, it wisely blends them with astounding practical work – delivering on the brutal promises the trailer only begins to hint at.
Some may call this the bloodiest of this already excessively bloody series. I am not quite sure that is true (one specific scene certainly helps amplify those claims), yet the ruthlessness and ferocity of what Cronin puts his Cast through is absolutely unreal. People in my audience were terrified and screaming at some of the things that go down. Cronin injects a little bit of humour along the way, though not nearly enough to flip the menacing tone that engulfs the Film whole.
While it is not a huge stumbling point, I think Cronin’s characterizations could have used some work. Outside of some choice details and removals, everyone here is one-dimensional and hard to root for. That may be the point of course, but some of the robotic, inflectionless and stilted line deliveries only exacerbate how easily expendable this Cast is. Sullivan as the Final Girl is nowhere near as compelling or interesting as Jane Levy’s Mia in Alvarez’s remake nor the legendary Bruce Campbell’s Ash in Sam Raimi’s holy trilogy. The young Nell Fisher is much more effective as Kassie, and Gabrielle Echols and Morgan Davies get some fun moments.
Sutherland, on the other hand, knocks this one sailing out of the park. She is positively unhinged as the possessed matriarch, embodying the nastiness of her character in a way that you may mistake for evil incarnate. I did not think much of her performance initially. Once Cronin lets her take the wheels off and go absolutely feral however, you will not be able to take your eyes off her. Her horrific line deliveries, her perverse movements, the way her eyes move, all of it is instantly iconic and the kind of performance that is going to give people nightmares.
EVIL DEAD RISE is a bloody satisfying film for Horror buffs and fans of the series. What it lacks in characterizations, it more than makes up for in gore, practical effects and Sutherland’s insane performance. This just may be the most vicious horror film of 2023.
Warner Bros. Pictures Canada bring EVIL DEAD RISE screaming into theatres Friday, April 21, 2023.
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