Review: ‘Evil Dead Rise,’ starring Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols and Nell Fisher

April 21, 2023

by Carla Hay

Gabrielle Echols, Nell Fisher, Lily Sullivan, Morgan Davies and Alyssa Sutherland in “Evil Dead Rise” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Evil Dead Rise”

Directed by Lee Cronin

Culture Representation: Taking place in California, the horror film “Evil Dead Rise” features a predominantly white group of people (with a few Asians and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A guitar technician/roadie goes to Los Angeles and gets thrown into the middle of supernatural terror when she visits her sister and her sister’s three children. 

Culture Audience: “Evil Dead Rise” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the “Evil Dead” franchise and have a high tolerance for gory but effective horror movies.

Alyssa Sutherland in “Evil Dead Rise” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Evil Dead Rise” is a very back-to-basics horror story that is neither terrible nor outstanding. But there’s nothing basic about the overload of blood in the movie. People who easily get squeamish from the sight of bloody gore: You have been warned.

Written and directed by Lee Cronin, “Evil Dead Rise” had it world premiere at the 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival. It’s a continuation of the “Evil Dead” franchise that began with 1981’s “The Evil Dead.” Sam Raimi, who wrote and directed “The Evil Dead” and 1987’s “Evil Dead II,” is an executive producer of “Evil Dead Rise.”

One of the best things about “Evil Dead Rise” is that it doesn’t waste time with a lot of boring and useless scenes. The horror starts within the first 10 minutes of the movie. The story is set in California, but “Evil Dead Rise” was actually filmed in New Zealand.

“Evil Dead Rise” begins by showing three people in their early 20s on a getaway trip at a remote cabin near a lake. Yes, that sounds like the most cliché of horror story clichés, but “Evil Dead Rise” makes this opening scene memorably gruesome.

The three people on this trip are named Teresa (played by Mirabai Pease); her cousin Jessica (played by Anna-Maree Thomas); and Jessica’s boyfriend Caleb (played by Richard Crouchley), who is a bit of a prankster. Richard has a toy drone with him that he uses to scare Teresa while she is relaxing on a deck near the lake.

Teresa isn’t just annoyed with Caleb. She’s annoyed because she really didn’t want to be on this trip in the first place. Several friends of Jessica and Caleb were supposed to be a part of this trip, but they cancelled their plans to be there. And now, Jessica has been acting weird, by staying in bed when she should be in a party mood.

Teresa goes in the bedroom where Jessica is hunched over on the bed. Teresa begins reading Emily Brontë’s classic Gothic 1847 novel “Wuthering Heights” while complaining to Jessica that this party is dead and she wants to leave. And then, Jessica eerily starts reading the words from the book out loud. Jessica has a “possessed by a demon” voice, so you can easily figure out what will happen next. Viewers will find out at the end of the movie how Jessica got to be that way.

“Evil Dead Rise” then does a flashback to one day earlier. Beth (played by Lily Sullivan) is a guitar technician/roadie for an unnamed rock band that has been on tour of grungy clubs. Beth, who is a freewheeling bachelorette, is seen in a restroom of one such dumpy club, where she’s about to find out the result of a home pregnancy test. You can easily predict the result there too.

After Beth finds out if she’s pregnant or not, she makes an unannounced visit to her estranged older sister Ellie (played by Alyssa Sutherland), who is a tattoo artist in Los Angeles. Ellie has three children: Danny (played by Morgan Davies), an aspiring DJ, is about 15 or 16 years old. Bridget (played by Gabrielle Echols), an aspiring political activist, is about 13 or 14 years old. Kassie (played by Nell Fisher) is about 9 or 10 years old.

The tension between the Beth and Ellie is immediately apparent. Beth resents that Ellie, who likes to call Beth a “groupie,” doesn’t take Beth’s job seriously. Ellie resents Beth for dropping in and out of her life whenever Beth pleases.

It’s also a very bad time for Beth to visit. Ellie’s husband Jay abandoned the family two months ago. And to make matters worse, the apartment building where Ellie and her kids live is about to be torn down the next month. Ellie, who is struggling financially, has not found a new place to live yet.

Shortly after Beth arrives, an earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale happens while Beth and the kids are in the building’s parking garage. The family survives this earthquake, but the earthquake has opened up a hole in the parking garage of the building, which used to be a bank. The hole exposes a hidden bank vault, where Dan finds what “Evil Dead” fans will immediately recognize as the Book of the Dead.

And you can easily predict what happens next, even if you don’t know it’s already shown in the trailer and poster for “Evil Dead Rise”: Ellie gets possessed by a demon. Some of the building’s other residents—including a helpful young man named Gabriel (played by Jayden Daniels) and a shotgun-wielding, middle-aged man named Mr. Fonda (played by Mark Mitchinson)—encounter a possessed Ellie. The earthquake has destroyed the building’s stairs, while the elevator is unsafe. Who will survive and who will die? That’s the only real spoiler information for this movie.

“Evil Dead” makes a few major departures from previous “Evil Dead” movies, which include the 2013 “Evil Dead” reboot. First, most of the action takes place in an apartment building instead of a remote wooded area. Second, most of the characters involved in the action are female. (Original “Evil Dead” actor Bruce Campbell has an uncredited voice cameo as a priest heard on an old vinyl album that Danny plays backwards.)

“Evil Dead” borrows some ideas from the 1986 sci-fi horror movie “Aliens” but it’s not a complete ripoff. The performances are serviceable in “Evil Dead Rise,” which doesn’t have much suspense when it comes to jump scares or terrifying surprises. The movie’s real horror is about seeing a loved one transform into something demonic and knowing that it’s a “kill or be killed” situation. And that blood. So much blood. After seeing “Evil Dead Rise,” some viewers will feel nauseated and/or feel like taking a long shower.

Warner Bros. Pictures released “Evil Dead Rise” in U.S. cinemas on April 21, 2023.

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