“Evil Dead Rise:” Surviving without a Head


Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Beth (Lily Sullivan) brandishes a chainsaw against the deadites that threaten her estranged family in “Evil Dead Rise.”

In the genre of horror, there’s been a recent trend of long-standing franchises coming out with new entries that are lacking the stars that have been with them since their inception. This was seen recently with “Scream 6,” which lacked Neve Cambell as the franchise lead Sidney Prescott, and brings forth a lot of questions about whether or not these intellectual properties can be successful without the actors who essentially served as their faces for so long. Though I’d say that “Scream” was able to successfully carry on the legacy of its predecessors, there’s a new release that puts forth a similar question: can an “Evil Dead” movie succeed without Bruce Cambell?

“Evil Dead Rise” is the 5th “Evil Dead” film, releasing on April 21. The series is known for its goofy, over-the-top style of horror, with one-liners and body horror galore. For years, actor Bruce Cambell has served as the face of the franchise in his role of Ash Williams, an unfortunate college student who finds himself repeatedly facing off against demonic creatures known as “deadites” that possess the bodies of the living whenever someone reads from the Necronomicon, or the book of the dead. “Rise,” like the 2013 soft reboot “Evil Dead,” chooses to take the focus away from Ash and instead follows a group of new characters, with estranged sisters Beth and Ellie and Ellie’s 3 kids having to contend with the evil spirits when one of the kids accidentally releases them into their run-down apartment complex. However, I feel that the movie is able to make this work quite well. After the family is stranded on their floor and Ellie becomes possessed, it’s up to Beth to try and save those that remain.

The most obvious thing that “Rise” has going for it over the rest of the series is the setting. Every other “Evil Dead” film takes place at a cabin deep in the woods, with the exception of the strange time-travel shenanigans of 1992’s “Army of Darkness.” Being set in such an urban location as an apartment complex gives “Rise” a unique edge, one that leads to some very cool scenes that can’t be found anywhere else in the series. It’s not as well-executed as it could have been, with the film only prominently using 2 floors of the entire building, but it still has a lot of fun with the location. The film also has a ton of cool effects and awesome visuals, with practical gore galore and one of the coolest title card drops of any movie I’ve ever seen.

Probably the weakest aspect of the film as a whole is the acting. Though no one does a terrible job, there are several of the characters, most notably the children, who are noticeably weak. As a protagonist Beth is certainly no Ash Williams, but she does a serviceable job. It’s just a bit disappointing when the series is known for over-the-top acting. This is thankfully more than made up for by Alyssa Sutherland’s performance as Ellie after she becomes a deadite. Her mannerisms and demeanor completely shift, becoming both unsettling and extremely terrifying in a way that can only really be captured by a mother being used to kill her family.

Though it goes in a different direction than the rest of the series, I’d say that “Evil Dead Rise” is a worthy successor.or. It adds just enough new while still incorporating the old in a way that any fan of the series, or horror in general, will love. Those interested in “Evil Dead Rise” can currently see it in theaters.