8.5/10 As I stated in my recent review for the first season of “Ash vs Evil Dead”, I have been a fan of the “Evil Dead” franchise ever since I first watched the original trilogy (with “Evil Dead II” being the one low point in the franchise). I even rocked a framed poster of “Army of Darkness” for years in my bedroom. While I also enjoyed the 2013 installment (which still holds up well upon a re-viewing of the entire franchise before watching this film), “Evil Dead Rise” may very well be the best in the entire franchise, which is saying a lot. I was slightly skeptical of writer/director Lee Cronin taking the reigns since this is only his second feature length film and his first film, “The Hole in the Ground”, I found to be an overrated, unoriginal, uninspired horror movie that didn’t scare me as it borrowed from far too many other horror films. Thankfully, Cronin learned some lessons after making his first feature length movie as he keeps the good lessons he learned and discards many of the mistakes he made in his first outing. Coming a full decade after the last film (made all the more surprising considering the financial success of the 2013 installment), Cronin is able to inject a lot of adrenaline, energy, blood and gore into this newly refreshed franchise. For the first time since “Army of Darkness”, we get a new location as Cronin swaps a cabin in the woods for a condemned high rise apartment building in Los Angeles (although LA is certainly a cliché location that is far too overused in films). I was initially concerned about how Cronin would be able to confine his characters since they should be able to simply get into their cars and leave the building but Cronin, in an intelligent manner, is able to trap our protagonists in this spooky location in a realistic and believable fashion. Cronin is able to expand upon the “Evil Dead” lore/mythology by cementing the fact that there are three separate Necronomicons AKA The Book(s) of the Dead. This hypothetically means that the original trilogy, the 2013 installment and this latest story can all take place in the same universe, with each protagonist(s) being terrorized by their own, respective books. The film brilliantly pays homage to the original trilogy with everything from the misdirection of the cinematography during the opening credits to Bruce Campbell’s voice cameo to the use of a chainsaw (and what specific colors that chainsaw is) and even references to other horror films like “The Shining”, which is probably the most referenced horror film in history. Cronin’s love of the franchise is palpable as you can tell that he took his responsibility seriously, which is a breath of fresh air after seeing so many directors saying they love a franchise only to then ruin them (coughRianJohnson). The practical effects, which have been a highlight throughout the entire franchise, are again top notch and Cronin is even able to expand upon the Deadites, which are the demonic entities summoned from the book. The final Deadite was truly terrifying and original and upped the stakes/danger for the climax. Even subtle changes like once a character plays audio from the book and unlike other films, isn’t able to stop it, despite his attempts, felt original and refreshing. The running time is just over an hour and a half, which means the film is perfectly paced and flies by. I only had a fine minor nitpicks like the cliché location and the fact that after a character is killed and they are worried about them coming back to life as a Deadite, they don’t immediately throw their body from the building, which I immediately thought of as a far superior solution to the lesser one they go with which inevitably fails. The film does also follow the same general path of the other films in regards to what happens to supporting characters and who is left alive in the end. The film doesn’t deviate at all from the franchise in those terms, making that singular aspect a little predictable. Finally, a little girl named Kassie (Nell Fisher) is such a wonderful actress for someone so young but I didn’t believe that she would remain nearly as calm as she did throughout the film. She should have been far more horrified, screaming and crying than she was. That being said, I truly enjoyed my time with my 19th most anticipated film of 2023 and Warner Brothers was smart to change this from a straight to HBO Max release and give it the proper theatrical release that it deserved, made all the more intelligent by the fact that this is now the highest grossing film in the entire franchise. I’m happy that Cronin has grown as both a writer and a director since his debut and delivers a high point in this franchise and an early front runner for the best horror film of 2023.

#EvilDeadHighRise / #TheHoleInTheGround2 / #BodiLeeHorror / #CroninBerg / #DawnOfTheDeadite / #NecronomiCondemnedBuilding

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