‘Evil Dead: Rise’: Mayhem and Motherhood


“Evil Dead Rise” (Courtesy Warner Bros. Discovery)

By Andre Montoya, Arts Writer


Two rapscallion film students, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell made the short film “Within the Woods.” This film was used to secure the rather modest $90 thousand that would be used to make “The Evil Dead” in 1981.

This small movie would go on to become a cult classic and the ensuing franchise has proven to be quite versatile and successful. It has spawned sequels, comics, video games, a 2013 remake and a television series that all offered up the groovy guts and gore horror fans have come to expect.

The majority of the installments star Campbell, and his chin, as Ash Williams battling deadites from the silver to small screen.

All this is to say that there is a lot riding on “Evil Dead: Rise,” the latest installment. Rest assured that the original creators are on board given that they produced the film and Campbell himself even defended it from a heckler at the March SXSW premiere. Now, the ball is in the audience’s court.

(From left to right) Gabrielle Echols, Nell Fisher, Lily Sullivan, Morgan Davies and Alyssa Sutherland in “Evil Dead Rise” (Courtesy Warner Bros. Discovery)

Demon Mother Knows Best

The story follows two sisters Beth (Lily Sullivan) and Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), mother of three Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), Danny (Morgan Davies) and Kassie (Nell Fisher) as they are besieged by a night of mayhem after a demon is let loose from the pages of the necronomicon in their dilapidated Art Deco L.A. apartment.

Sutherland carries the entire movie, from the struggling and sympathetic mother in the beginning to the hair-raising harridan from hell. It serves as a testament to the actress’ performance that all it took to market the movie was a picture of the sneering deadite mother leering through a peephole.

Sutherland revealed in an interview with Cherry Picks that she based much of her performance on Jim Carrey in “The Mask,” saying, “I liked the joy of Jim Carrey’s character and wanted to incorporate that into Ellie as well as a rageful side.”

Alyssa Sutherland in “Evil Dead Rise” (Courtesy Warner Bros. Discovery)

Sullivan has a pretty standard horror-heroine role as the movie begins. However, when she takes it upon herself to defend the family from the thing that was once her sister, she becomes the blood-soaked, chainsaw-wielding figure the franchise is known for. At a time when horror is opening itself up to more female-focused stories which have often been ignored in the past, it’s genius that both antagonist and protagonist are sisters and the primary theme between them is motherhood.

Not a single person in the cast is safe, not even the children, as they are put through an absolute ringer of chaotic deadite hijinks that are most certainly not for the faint of heart.

Frights and Filmmaking

Originally slated to go directly to HBO Max (now just “Max“), a theatrical release was the right choice. Director Lee Cronin uses intense sound design, coupled with impressive camerawork and editing that made the theatrical experience worth the price of admission.

One example is watching and hearing what just one deadite can do to a hallway full of people from the perspective of a peephole. Another is when the first passage from the necronomicon is read and the voice, creepy score and sound effects combine to compliment the absolutely wild camera work. Fun fact, the voice of the reader is actually Campbell, still lending his talents to the franchise.

Similar to “Scream VI,” the change in setting in “Rise” advantageously adds a refreshing feeling to a familiar story that has mainly been set in a remote cabin in the woods.

Lily Sullivan in "Evil Dead Rise"
Lily Sullivan in “Evil Dead Rise” (Courtesy Warner Bros. Discovery)

Although the movie featured a ton of supernatural mayhem, there are a few moments near the end that do strain the audience’s suspension of disbelief. Without spoiling anything, it seems noise doesn’t carry to other floors or rooms in an L.A. apartment building.

One missed opportunity is not including more humor — sounds odd, but bear with me. Outside of an inventive use of a cheese grater and an eyeball, as well as a few lighthearted moments earlier in the movie, there’s not too much of the “campy” humor that used to be a staple of the franchise. What a future installment could use is a figure to fill the void Campbell used to occupy with all his groovy one-liners and overall campiness.

The movie was made on a modest budget of $15 to $20 million and in its opening weekend earned an impressive $23.5 million domestically and $16.8 million internationally, putting it at $40.3 million in total. It easily outpaced other horror-fare “Renfield” and “The Pope’s Exorcist” and initial box office projections that put it in the $20 million range.

Currently, it has a certified fresh 84% Critical Score on Rotten Tomatoes and an 80% Audience Rating. On IMDB it has a 7.4 user rating and an unusually high B CinemaScore.


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