Arts, Movies

‘Evil Dead Rise’ Is An Unsettling Spectacle Of Peak Horror


Evil Dead Rise is undoubtedly a family film before anything else—and no, not the family film that you can take your kids to. 

Between the impressive costumes and makeup, jump scares, and unnerving plot, Evil Dead Rise is a show of horror in its prime. 

Evil Dead Rise is the latest entry in the cult-classic Evil Dead franchise, but it works as a standalone film as well as a franchise addition. The new film follows Beth (Lily Sullivan), who finds out she is pregnant and seeks out her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) for advice. On arrival at her sister’s Los Angeles, Calif. apartment, Beth is quickly forced to protect her nieces and nephew when Ellie is possessed by a demon. 

The idea of motherhood is a central theme of the movie, and it is a concept that Evil Dead Rises capitalizes on to leave the audience uncomfortable and a little spooked. Mothers are often associated with safety, and many people turn to their moms for comfort, help, or advice. That is why once Ellie gets possessed, the movie becomes creepier to watch.

“In this case, mom being the leader in the home, and the home being the place of sanctuary, if you pull the strength of that mother apart and turn her into something that’s dark, I think everybody starts to get pretty creeped out pretty quickly,” director Lee Cronin said in a roundtable interview with The Heights and other college publications.

Ellie’s kids expect their mother to return to them unscathed, as if the possession is just a bad dream. Instead, their reality is that their mother was replaced with an unsympathetic, manipulative, and vicious demon who would kill the kids without a second thought. 

One scene that was difficult to watch was between Ellie and her young daughter Kassie (Nell Fisher). A possessed Ellie is locked out of the apartment, and Kassie is left alone near the door while the other family members try to find a way to expel Ellie’s demon. Ellie calls to Kassie and tries to convince her that she is no longer possessed. 

To the viewers, Ellie is clearly unwell—her body is distorted, her voice is demonic, and her eyes are not even the right color. To young Kassie, however, the crazed creature before her is still her mother. It is torture to watch Kassie slowly but surely believe that the demon is Ellie. It’s a psychologically thrilling sequence mixed in with jump scares that keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

Some of the highlights of the film are the shots and angles that director Lee Cronin incorporates to elevate the violent and scary sequences. One instance is the use of the apartment door’s peephole, which is used to give the family inside a view into the chaos in the hallway. 

“I love sometimes like a set piece where your view is restricted, because then your imagination gets to run wild left and right of what you can see,”  Cronin said. “Yes, you see things but also you hear things at the same time. And I really liked … to give the audience an opportunity for their imagination to start to work on top of mine, to feed on my ideas and kind of think a little further. It’s great for creating tension.”

Another impressive point for the film was the special effects that shone through in the form of hair and makeup. 

After Ellie became demonic, the film focused on convincing the audience that Ellie was basically a rotting corpse. Her skin was deathly pale and pieces of it appeared to be rotting. It all looked so realistic and believable—Ellie’s new look was unsettling and disgusting, but also a perfect image of how a dead possessed woman should look.

The film’s culmination also saw Beth and Kassie covered in blood from head to toe. It was an interesting parallel to Ellie’s ghastly makeup. The blood didn’t bring out Beth or Kassie’s inner demon, but seemed to be a show of humanity, whereas the lack of color in Ellie showed how little humanity she had left.

Getting into character for Beth for the end scene, Sullivan said she was able to remain in a constant state of perpetual fear for her many horror scenes.

“We just found that a way which is I’d be like alright, let’s let out a big primal scream with everything you’ve got before the tag,” Sullivan said. “You know little wide eyes and covered in red, the two of us [Sullivan and Fisher] and then also like just push ups and like just entering the body from that point as opposed to entertaining the heightened sense of fear of death because that becomes too much for three months.”

The stellar makeup, creative camera shots, and unsettling themes all worked to make Evil Dead Rise a horror film that fans of the genre will die for. 

April 16, 2023