Evil Dead Rise review: darker, nastier and crunchier

Alyssa Sutherland in Evil Dead Rise.
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Lee Cronin steps in to direct Evil Dead Rise, the fifth film in this horror franchise – and he’s not spared any fake blood. 

Excellent opening credits. That’s a good start. The fifth Evil Dead movie, and the second to not be directed by Sam Raimi (with the series creator instead taking on an executive producer role), instead recruits Irish filmmaker Lee Cronin (The Hole In The Ground) to write and direct, in a film shot in New Zealand, that moves the franchise into the midst of an American city. Hopefully New Zealand had a ready-made supply of fake blood, because Cronin is not shy about washing the inside of the screen in a particular texture of red.

After a brutal and effective prologue then, this Evil Dead film hones in on a single mother – Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) – and her three children. What’s this, though? Her sister, Beth (Lily Sullivan), has come along for a visit, and fairly quickly we learn that the building Ellie lives in is about to be knocked down, and also, several pizzas are wasted. 

But it’s an earthquake opening up an underground chamber of sorts that gets the blood pumping. Cleverly, one of the children pops down, collects some stuff, finds a book with some claws on it, and – not really metaphorically – all hell soon breaks loose.

And for 40 minutes or so, it’s good stuff. There’s an effort to put characters with a bit to them at the heart of the story. There’s no shortage of crunch, and a fair amount of creaking door action as well. Threats ramp up loudly and brutally, and Cronin – admirably – has little desire to get anything less than an 18 certificate. We’re still at the back end of an era where horror-tinged films are being toned down for a wider certificate, and they’re having none of that here.

Personally, though, I wouldn’t have minded a bit more of the humour of the earlier Evil Dead films. Evil Dead Rise is well made, well played, and well-constructed (perhaps save for one bit where it seemed to take ages to make a decision to run for a lift). It’s also relentlessly bleak though, and there’s not much to offset it getting darker, nastier and crunchier. If that’s what you seek, though, you owe Lee Cronin a drink. He’s not let you down.

Evil Dead Rise is in cinemas now.

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