SxSW Film Review: Evil Dead Rise [Lee Cronin, 2023]


To write a synopsis of the plot of an Evil Dead movie would be a disservice. A plot is not why one goes into a theater swimming in the exhaust of a couple of hundred other human beings. One wants entertainment. And the crowd response for the premiere of Evil Dead Rise at SxSW certainly confirms that.

Production budgets have steadily risen along with inflation and other lamentable things since I last saw a horror b-movie. Of course, set designs and computer generated graphics have also risen to replace on-location shoots and stop-motion animation. So, this is certainly not your fathers’ Evil Dead. Character motions are now more subconsciously unsettling than ever thanks to the resolution afforded to this new outing.

Artistically, Ash’s cabin was a crumbling pile of sick ominously waiting for disgusting things to dress it up. But the setting for Lee Cronin’s Evil Dead Rise is a stylish gothic high-rise apartment, oddly clean for the many filthy demonic creatures it gestates and gave birth to over the film’s 1.5 hr run time. The apartment door around which much of the tension revolves has art deco detail and moulding, and even the bank vault shutting The Book in for safety was saturated in deco designs. It lends an insidious vibe to the film that even the minimalist places can be readily tainted.

And covered they were. Gore has never been more abundant since the days of Super-Soaker blood canons under the armpits. But as with the setting, Rise is measured in its treatment of gore. There is no lack of it, just not a gratuitous flood of the red stuff every time someone’s knee was nicked by an ant mandible. What Rise has in spades is a twisted (spoiler: motherly) malice to back up the gore. One of the quirks of the Evil Dead franchise has always been the absurd comedic moments – previously we had animated but temperamental disembodied parts. Here, lighter elements come in the form of dispatching of the supporting cast. It is also incredibly light-footed with a swift story progression, and before we knew it, The Book had moved on to the next victim.

The Q&A heckler aside, by the end of credits this was a rapturous and gore-fed crowd. Time will tell if the pace and presentation change is to the benefit of the franchise, but I dare say the trusty chainsaw now has a worthy nemesis in the innocuous and mundane cheese grater. Let’s see whether it makes it into the next film that picks up the torch, ahem, I mean chainsaw.

Posted on by Gary in Reviews, South By Southwest