Scary On Its Own Terms | “Evil Dead Rise” (2023) Movie Review

It’s been a while since a horror movie actually scared me. I think this is mostly attributed to the fact that horror films over the last few years have been painfully predictable.

There are plenty of complaints online about the oversaturation of jump scares and while modern horror’s overreliance on them is part of why I haven’t been able to get into the genre, what does it for me is how formulaic and obvious they are. When the background music drones down to almost nothing, it’s like a giant red flag that something loud and disgusting is about to come on-screen.

I didn’t have any of those issues with “Evil Dead Rise,” particularly because “Evil Dead” throws the typical horror manual out the window and abides by its own rules. “Evil Dead” has always been known for its extreme, off-putting camera angles and in-your-face horror that’s extremely hard to predict. The last film I saw in this franchise, “Evil Dead II,” has a whole plot point where the hand of its protagonist, Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), is possessed, so he has to cut it off, after which point he fights his hand; that’s not necessarily something a first-time viewer can see coming.

The film follows a family that includes Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), a single mother who must grapple with the fact that the family has to move after their apartment building is set to be demolished; her son, Danny (Morgan Davies), who is really into sound mixing and audio engineering; Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), her teenage daughter who often takes charge; and Kassie (Nell Fisher), the youngest of the siblings.

Everything starts to go awry when they are visited by their aunt, Beth (Lily Sullivan), a guitar technician who is always on the road and has been absent from the family. She comes to get consolation from her sister, as she finds out early on in the film that she’s pregnant. Ellie sends the children away to get pizza so she can talk privately with her. On their way home, a massive earthquake hits their apartment, opening up a hole that leads to an old bank vault (their apartment building used to be a bank) near which the iconic Book of the Dead is found entombed. Not listening to Bridget, Danny foolishly takes the book and unleashes its evil upon the family.

For most of the film, Ellie serves as the primary antagonist, as an entity from the book possesses her, turning her into a Deadite. Deadites have superhuman abilities and are extremely hard to kill. They can posses their victims through scratches or when summoned by an incantation, and it seems in this film, even dismemberment doesn’t completely get rid of them — as long as some part of the bodies they posses are left alive, they can still come after you.

In general, the film keeps the viewer in the dark as to what Deadites can and cannot do and what their weaknesses are, which makes them terrifying. Modern horror often struggles to provide villains that represent an unstoppable force that need to be avoided, which is where effective horror films produce fear, though this film smoothly presents a great instance of this done right.

I did think that its its use of loud, sudden yells/screeches and overreliance on gore was a little unnecessary and could have been toned down. But outside of that, I thought this was an excellent horror film that firmly sets it apart from the norm in this genre. It’s a film that is scary on its own terms and that’s what makes it unique.

“Evil Dead Rise” gets a 9/10

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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