The Evil Dead franchise is one of horror’s most beloved, meaning new franchise director Lee Cronin had a lot of pressure on his shoulders to make sure that Evil Dead Rise lived up to the spirit of the franchise while carving its own path. The story follows Beth (Lily Sullivan), who has finally made the long-overdue trip to see her sister, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), and her three kids, who are living in a tiny apartment in Los Angeles. However, when they discover a strange book in Ellie’s building, the sisters soon find themselves besieged by demons.
While the beats are similar, the context in which the story unfolds is dramatically different than what has come before in the Evil Dead franchise. But that is, quite honestly, what makes Evil Dead Rise great.
Evil Dead Rise Changes The Setting
The Evil Dead franchise has popularized a number of tropes in the horror genre, most notably the “cabin in the woods” setting. The first two movies, written and directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell, both take place in the quintessential rustic and secluded cabin in the middle of a deep forest. While it wasn’t the first movie to utilize the cabin in the woods trope, it was inarguably the one to cement it. The 2013 remake of Evil Dead also took place in a rustic setting. The only movie in the Evil Dead franchise that doesn’t exclusively take place in a cabin is 1992’s Army of Darkness, which takes a hard turn away from the horror of the first two movies into something closer to parody. While it’s beloved as a cult movie, there’s a reason a number of non-hardcore horror fans forget it’s part of the Evil Dead franchise.
Evil Dead Rise, however, puts a fresh spin on the story and moves the action to an urban setting. Instead of a secluded forest, it takes place in L.A. Instead of a ramshackle cabin, it unfolds in a small apartment. While the claustrophobic feel of a contained location is similar, placing it in a city brings a whole new spin. Lee Cronin does a good job of making the characters’ inability to escape seem reasonable, despite the fact they’re in an apartment setting and could ostensibly just run downstairs and outside. The apartment in which Ellie and her kids live is falling apart, scheduled for demolition. Though the horror is unfolding in a city, Evil Dead Rise underscores how people can go lost and fall through the cracks unnoticed, even with a number of others around just as easily as they could in an empty forest in Michigan.
The Spirit Of Sam Raimi & Bruce Campbell Is Still There
That’s not to say Evil Dead Rise completely upends what makes the Evil Dead franchise so beloved. It helps that both Raimi and Campbell were producers on this one, but Lee Cronin fully understands the spirit of what has come before and honors it. Not the least of those nods is that Cronin remembers to inject Evil Dead Rise with some humor. Even the first Evil Dead movie, which was by far the most straightforward horror of Raimi’s trilogy, had moments of levity with Raimi’s penchant for leaning into the absurd. At its core, the Evil Dead franchise has always infused its horror and bloody gore with a tongue-in-cheek insouciance. Evil Dead Rise embraces that zany, unhinged glee, particularly in Alyssa Sutherland’s possessed performance.
In other words, Evil Dead Rise pulls off the near impossible. It manages to deliver a movie that will please fans of the original Raimi trilogy while providing a fresh take that will lure in a younger audience. And in doing so, it manages to completely reinvigorate the Evil Dead franchise.
Get tickets to Evil Dead Rise, in theaters this week.