Evil Dead Rise looks to keep its Deadites as menacing as possible in latest movie still
Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise comes with a certain level of expectation that makes experimentation a very tricky thing to pull off. Bruce Campbell, for instance, crafted a horror legend with his interpretation of Ash, especially in the sequels, making him synonymous with the brand. The cabin in the woods, the catchphrases, the stylized and often slapstick humor, the dark fantasy, it all combines to create that which we call Evil Dead. Stepping away from those things can very easily compromise its identity, which is something the upcoming Evil Dead Rise has to contend with being that it takes place in an apartment building instead of a cabin and that Bruce Campbell will not be appearing in it.
Thankfully, the first image that WB/New Line decided to release promoting the next entry (releasing on April 21, 2023) does feature something that firmly puts the film in Evil Dead territory: a psychotic Deadite with a sinister smile plastered on its face. For context, the fifth film in the franchise (directed by Lee Cronin) will follow two sisters that find what could be the Necronomicon in the basement of their apartment building. This inevitably leads to a potentially accidental summoning of demons that puts the sisters and their three kids in immediate danger, propping up a discussion on motherhood and the nightmares that can tag along with the role.
The picture does a good job of putting fans in a familiar place, in an Evil Dead headspace. Raimi’s demonic entities are perhaps one of the most recognizable elements of the Dead formula and they can be enough to set different types of stories within its world. They’re sarcastic, loud, they utterly enjoy verbally oppressing their victims, and they turn those they possess into hellish minions that relish every single moment they spend trying to eat your soul.
That last detail sets these possessed monstrosities apart from the rest, giving them that special Deadite quality. They’re usually overtaken by a dark euphoria as they enact their evil deeds. Nothing about them subtle. Deadites turn possession and soul eating into a cruel game they visibly revel in. They laugh, sneer, and contort their bodies in impossible ways. They’re nasty and they stand out for it. The Deadite in the Evil Dead Rise image hints at this type of characterization, especially by spotlighting its twisted smile and expressive bloodshot eyes. In this department, Rise looks very much like an Evil Dead movie.
The 2013 Evil Dead remake, directed by Fede Álvarez (Don’t Breathe), for instance, is a fine horror movie with some effective nods to both the original and its formula, but it does go for a more serious tone that keeps its Deadites from fully embodying the things that make them unique. The same applies for the type of horror that ended up on the screen. It has the cabin, a very loose interpretation of the Ash character (very different in personality and presence), and the demons, but it missed out on their nuances to really help it stand as an Evil Dead movie. Sometimes covering things in the broadest sense doesn’t translate to capturing the spirit of the source. At least it did result in a truly unnerving and vicious horror movie.
The picture shared by the studio behind Rise does show promise, and I am of the belief that an honest to god Deadite can bring out the best in the Evil Dead franchise. The new setting and focus on family rather than on a group of friends on a trip to the woods might cause doubt among fans, but sometimes it’s more about how the little things combine to create an experience worthy of the name its flying under. For now, the new Deadite is looking mighty impressive and very, very Evil Dead.