Back in 2013 the remake for Evil Dead came out. I enjoyed the film, but it just didn’t feel right not having Bruce Campbell on the screen fighting off the deadites in that crazy cabin in the middle of the woods. But I could still appreciate the gore, and I felt the filmmakers did a decent job at capturing the tone of the franchise. The film has kind of grown on me over the years. Then fans got hit with the Ash Vs. The Evil Dead series, which was three seasons of bliss that really did a fantastic job honoring the trilogy that Sam Raimi had created. Now in 2023 we have a new film, Evil Dead Rise, a film that ignores pretty much everything fans of the franchise have known and loved for 40 years. It did great at the box office, but where does the film stand on its own and in relation to the legacy before it?
The film shifts its location from the middle of the woods to an apartment in the city. This was a nice, refreshing change in my opinion, kind of like how Scream decided to leave the small town of Woodsboro this year and move things to the Big Apple. The location shift simply opens up so many new possibilities, and when you consider the havoc that some deadites can bring to this new setting, it is something worth getting excited about. Instead of a group of friends, this time the film is centered on a family. There’s the newly single mom of three, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), her youngest daughter, Kassie (Nell Fisher), and then the other two siblings, Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and Danny (Morgan Davies). As an unexpected surprise to the family, they get a visit from Ellie’s sister, Beth (Lily Sullivan), who has to stepped away from her rock-star life after discovering that she is pregnant. There are other people who share the same floor as Ellie, but the film’s focus is on this family, and for the most part just this floor, which is one of my problems with the film. It offers so much potential with a bigger location, but chooses to isolate itself, which defeats the whole purpose of leaving the cabin.
How they introduce the Book of the Dead in this film is a bit of a reach, mostly because too much time was wasted on the pointless cold open and getting to know the characters. The book is being stored in a bank vault hidden away in the basement of the apartment, and it is found along with old recordings when Danny goes exploring inside the vault. There are so many untapped possibilities with this, and the execution just seems so lazy. As for the moments of getting to know the family, maybe it’s just me, but I felt all the characters were just flat and forgettable, and the only reason to feel any kind of sympathy for some of the them was because they were kids or pregnant. I went into this with an open mind and was more than eager to welcome this into the franchise. Thirty-plus minutes into this film I was feeling pretty disappointed, but I still held out hope.
When the horror kicks in, basically when Ellie is taken over by the evil and starts to create havoc for everyone in the apartment, things do pick up, but still I can’t help but have this nagging feeling that something is off. The gore is solid; there is plenty of blood to go around. As for the “infamous” cheese grater scene, yeah, I’ll say it, LAME. Then it hits me, the deadites just don’t hold up here. Part of what makes Evil Dead what it is are the deadites and their sick and twisted humor and that just isn’t here. Sure, the film has some winks and nods to the previous films, but it is missing its wicked charm.
When I had seen the trailers, I had to admit they gave me a Demons 2 vibe, and honestly if it went more that route, I could have enjoyed this film more. The last 30 minutes or so the film does pick up, and it is quite fun at times, but then there is a moment where they reference The Shining, and I can’t help but roll my eyes. There is so much source material from the movies and TV series, and yet they go to this low-hanging fruit just to add gallons of fake blood that doesn’t serve any purpose to the film. Seriously, make the moment suspenseful at least; have characters drowning and struggling to survive rather than just make it a moment to just dip them in gore.
Writer and director Lee Cronin did a good job at making a fun horror film with some fun kills and decent gore, but I have a hard time calling this an Evil Dead film. If you remove the title and call it just about anything else, I feel I could appreciate this more and just accept that it referenced a lot of cool horror movies. Because of its box office success, I’m sure we’ll get more sequels, and I’m not against that so long as they can explore the back story of what that book was doing in an old bank vault and how an apartment came to be there. Also the creative energy needs to be ramped up a bit. There needs to be more fun camera movement, more perspective from the Evil. This is a franchise where excess is expected, and feel free to go over the top. I don’t expect someone to just step up and hold the same gravitas as Bruce Campbell, but at least have a likeable personality, unlike this cast of victims on display here.
Evil Dead Rise is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The ultra-high-definition image presentation is arrived at with an HEVC codec at an average of 70-80 mbps. That bitrate climbs to near 100 at times. There is no question this is a fine, sleek presentation, but that’s what troubles me. Is it crazy that I miss that old 16mm look? OK, there’s room somewhere in between, and for the younger fans, this is one shiny image. Black levels reign supreme here, as most of the film happens in the dark. You need that sweet shadow definition to keep the image from turning into a mess of vague shapes and motions. You get that here. The detail even in the dark is impressive. All of that dark blood doesn’t stand a chance otherwise. This is the kind of film that I can’t imagine could work on DVD. Not sure what kind of experience you streamers are having, but I’m afraid it can’t be great. This is where UHD along with HDR can truly allow a filmmaker to hide his action in those dark corners and maintain the atmosphere without losing that much needed detail if not clarity. There are moments with flashes of color. That greenish yellow eye glow stands out strikingly throughout. The detail in the newly designed book itself is another detail that is better explored with this kind of detail.
The Dolby Atmos audio presentation defaults to 7.1. The audio presentation grabbed me right from the start. There’s a tradition in these films to open with the sound of a fly buzzing. It’s never been as accurate or well-placed as it is here. I was literally looking to swat the non-existent creature in my theatre. It moved behind me with such realism. There’s some good sub response here, and it’s wonderful when the kid is playing those records, sometimes at too slow a speed, so a rich bottom enhances the incantations that inevitably bring on the evil stuff. Dialog cuts through just fine, and I loved the vocal changes from the possessed deadites. Surrounds may not be considered aggressive, but the experience is truly immersive, and I think I was more impressed by the audio of the film than I was the video. You get tons of rich atmosphere from an audio presentation that is much more scary than anything you see on the screen.
There are no extra features.
If you go in just expecting a fun horror film with gore, I think you will have a good time. If you are a fan of the franchise, I feel you’ll be a bit conflicted with this film. I’m hoping this film can grow on me. I’m sure there is potential of that. but if I had to rank this with the other films or the series. this is honestly at the bottom of the list … but still, the films and series before were pretty impressive, so it’s hard to hold up to that caliber of horror.
Parts of this review were written by Gino Sassani