Evil Dead Rise (2023)


Lee Cronin


Lily Sullivan - Beth

Alyssa Sutherland - Ellie

Morgan Davies - Danny

Gabrielle Echols - Bridget

Nell Fisher - Cassie

Jayden Daniels - Gabriel

Anna-Maree Thomas - Jessica

Genre - Horror/Demons

Running Time - 97 Minutes


Two sisters find an ancient book that gives birth to bloodthirsty demons that run amok in a Los Angeles apartment building and thrusts them into a primal battle for survival as they face the most nightmarish version of family imaginable.


After ten years since a popular remake that was meant to relaunch a beloved franchise, we finally get a new EVIL DEAD movie in theaters. Ever since 1981, this cult horror franchise has been embraced warmly by the horror community through multiple films, several video games and even a television show that lasted for three seasons. Originally planned to be an HBO Max exclusive for 2022, the new owners of Warner Bros. Discovery decided it was worth releasing the series’ fifth installment, EVIL DEAD RISE, in theaters as a way to gain a profit by seeing how well it would perform at the box office. Considering the film has already made its budget back and just needs a few million to start building a profit for the studio, I say WBD made the right decision here. It’s also a good thing that EVIL DEAD RISE is a pretty good horror flick, despite that this installment may be the weakest of any EVIL DEAD film [and TV show] that has come before it.

First off, I think having a different location for the Deadites was a great decision. It’s been proven that it can work outside of a woods and cabin setting, like the refreshing take in ARMY OF DARKNESS and even on the Ash vs. Evil Dead television show. Having the demons take over a high rise building in Los Angeles is definitely a step in the right direction if they plan on continuing the franchise [which will obviously happen due to EVIL DEAD RISE’s success]. While I do wish more was done inside of the entire building when it came to the terror, I thought enough of the location was used to create a level of claustrophobia. Having most of the events happen within a single apartment was cool, while the elevator and parking garage moments were effectively used to heighten things a bit.

I also thought the characters were likable enough of the audience to get behind them, even if some of them do stupid things. I wish the characters had a bit more depth, but you get enough information about them to know who they are. Free-spirit Beth is hiding a pregnancy she hasn’t fully dealt with yet. Single mother Ellie who is trying to move on with her life, dealing with the abandonment of an ex-husband and having to raise three children while preparing a quick move out of the building. Bridget seems to be the oldest and environmentally friendly. Danny is a DJ and music lover who sees demonic books and reads them while playing records where the evil words of the Naturom Demonto are being read to unleash hell. Cassie is the youngest and seems to enjoy making weapons to protect herself. They’re a dysfunctional family who clearly love each other and get tested when Ellie becomes a Deadite. We also have neighbors who seem to have their own stories, but they’re never really focused on. Neighbor Gabriel seemed to have a thing for Ellie and vice-versa, but that never went anywhere really. I don’t think the film focuses on the relationships enough to feel their familial connection. But separately, the characters are enjoyable to watch on various levels.

I think the only reason why the characters worked better than what the script probably meant was due to the performances. Everyone in the cast did a great job with what they were given. In particular, Lily Sullivan was a strong lead as Beth. Sullivan manages to balance toughness with vulnerability, convincingly playing a woman who will do anything to make sure her and her family survive while trying to figure out how to stop the Deadites from completely taking over the building. Of the younger cast, Nell Fisher probably left the biggest impression as Cassie. Being the youngest main actress, Fisher carried herself very well and probably had the time of her life stabbing people in self-defense and getting drenched in blood. Her character made some real dumb decisions that kind of annoyed me, but Fisher’s likability softened those feelings a bit.

The star of the show though was, undoubtedly, Alyssa Sutherland as Ellie. Sutherland’s solid as a struggling single mother and sister who is trying to move on with her life for the sake of her children. But when she becomes the lead Deadite for the rest of the movie, Sutherland’s performance is borderline creepy and darkly comedic at the same time. She also changes up her body movements, transforming her character from human to this alien being that has no issue causing havoc for her host’s family. I hope to see Sutherland do more projects in the future because she really stepped up and elevated EVIL DEAD RISE for me.

I also enjoyed the homages and easter eggs that the film provided to fans of the franchise and to fans of the genre. We have references to previous EVIL DEAD films, like the mention of swallowing souls, reciting “Dead by Dawn” and even the eyeball gag into someone’s mouth like in EVIL DEAD II. Plus, we get the classic chainsaw making an appearance.

There are also tributes for other horror films. The peep hole stuff reminded me of classic Dario Argento, especially 1986’s OPERA. We get blood pouring out of an elevator like 1980’s THE SHINING. And the final boss seems to be inspired by 1982’s THE THING. It’s obvious Lee Cronin is a horror film fan and I felt a lot of these callbacks felt more inspired than fan service.

The gore and effects were also very good. A mix of both practical effects and CGI, they looked pretty impressive considering the movie had a $15 million budget. The Deadites looked great. The blood looked convincing. While the film could have been a bit edgier like the 2013 reboot/remake, some of the violent moments were cringe worthy in the best way. That cheese grater moment in particular - *shivers*.

The direction by Lee Cronin is super solid, as he understood the assignment and managed to connect EVIL DEAD RISE to the rest of the franchise while maintaining its own identity. I thought there was a lot of style in terms of shots and I felt what was used when it came to the building was done really well. I liked that the Raimi sweeping shots for the Deadites were retained and that the gruesome moments weren’t shied away. I think Cronin could have possibly pushed things further and actually made the movie scarier than it actually was. But the film was shot well and Cronin managed to keep the essence of the franchise intact.

There are issues with EVIL DEAD RISE though. While I understood the need for the pregnancy angle as a plot device to make Beth more maternal as the film progressed, it doesn’t really add much to the movie by its end. I think the character could have still hit similar beats without it, considering she cared about her sister’s children prior to the Deadites appearing.

I also thought some of the characters really did some dumb things that frustrated and annoyed me. I get that it’s a horror trope and that’s how things move forward in these films. But as I get older, the more my eyes roll at some of these characters’ antics. Even at a young age, I was never that naive at the presence of danger.

Despite a cool prologue and some awesome title cards, I thought the last few minutes felt oddly placed within the structure of the film. I get why it’s there as a way to explain what we saw first and how this will probably lead to more installments. But it fell kind of flat for me, especially that jump scare at the end. 

And like I mentioned earlier, the film doesn’t really push the envelope enough and feels the tamest and safest of the EVIL DEAD films. I was expecting something more violent and gorier and it just played out like your standard horror flick. What we get is great, but the other EVIL DEAD movies stand out due to the insane amount of blood, Deadite action and energy when it comes to the hero against the Deadites. When the energy does pop off, I feel it’s a bit late getting there and there’s not much time devoted to it. I just feel EVIL DEAD RISE doesn’t take enough chances.


Although it’s my least favorite entry in this franchise, EVIL DEAD RISE is still a solid addition to the EVIL DEAD series. Director Lee Cronin understood the assignment, including things that fans of the franchise would expect or enjoy, while still keeping this installment as its own thing apart from the rest. Having the events started by the
Naturom Demonto take place inside a high-rise building within an urban environment is a great fresh take for the series, even though I think more could have been done with the location. Same goes for the characters, who while likable, could have used a bit more depth and aren’t as memorable as Ash or Mia before them. But the cast is wonderful, especially Lily Sullivan as heroine Beth and Alyssa Sutherland as one of the more memorable Deadites in the franchise in Ellie. While I wish this installment had pushed the envelope more in some aspects, it’s still a fun movie and a worthy entry in the world of EVIL DEAD. Let’s see where they go with things in the next one, if that box office is any indication.


3 Howls Outta 4

(8 out of 10)


The Pope's Exorcist (2023)

Julius Avery

Russell Crowe - Father Gabriele Amorth
Daniel Zovatto - Father Esquibel
Alex Essoe - Julia
Franco Nero - The Pope
Laurel Marsden - Amy
Peter DeSouza-Feighoney - Henry

Genre: Horror/Mystery/Thriller/Possession/Demons

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Based on true stories. Father Gabriele Amorth, Chief Exorcist of the Vatican, investigates a young boy’s terrifying possession and ends up uncovering a centuries-old conspiracy the Vatican has desperately tried to keep hidden.


If you watched the trailer to THE POPE’S EXORCIST and thought that you’ve seen this film time and time before, you would be correct as this 2023 movie is as generic as they come where it concerns possession films. All the tropes are there - an innocent child getting possessed by a demon, the family taking the possessed victim to doctors to realize it’s not a medical issue, two priests with flaws trying to vanquish this demon to save the child and protect the victim’s family, and even a priest begging the demon to possess them in order to save the child. I swore I’ve seen this movie before. Did Sony really try to upstage David Gordon Green’s THE EXORCIST reboot/sequel before its release this October? Sneaky sneaky, Sony.

Seriously, THE POPE’S EXORCIST could and probably should have gone straight to streaming since it doesn’t really add anything new to this type of horror sub-genre, especially when a more hyped film with a similar theme is coming out later in the year. The only reason it didn’t is because of Oscar winner Russell Crowe, who is the best part of this movie with an entertaining performance as the title character. The actor is clearly having fun playing a priest who gets to face off against demons [both physical and personal], performing all the tropes with a smile on his face and a wink to the audience. He gets to speak multiple languages. He gets to play both good and evil. Crowe could have really coasted with THE POPE’S EXORCIST, but he totally has his heart in the role and he elevates a by-the-numbers horror film into something more watchable than it deserves.

And even though the film is obviously about good triumphing over evil through faith and love in God, I appreciated that THE POPE’S EXORCIST criticizes some aspects of the Church at certain points. Superiors want to eliminate the process of exorcisms, feeling they’re old hat. But Father Gabriele questions that if they do that, what’s the point of spreading the word of good against evil? Also, the two lead priests have things in their past that affect their progress during the exorcism, giving us a look that even these so-called “saints” struggle and succumb to sin just like the rest of us. It’s refreshing to see a movie that’s focused on religion and faith being this powerful thing to let in some negativity on the Church and some of the people that work for it. So the film gets points for that.

Unfortunately, since the film is mainly focused on Father Gabriele and Father Esquibel, the story doesn’t allow the audience to really know the family of the possessed child. Other than the fact that the family is dealing with grief over the death of their husband/father and are in Spain to sell inherited property [that just happens to have been part of the Spanish Inquisition], not much is really known about them. Unlike the McNeils in THE EXORCIST, The Montellis in AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION, or even Emily Rose in THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, the audience has no real attachment to the victims. That takes away tension and suspense because I honestly didn’t care what would happen, while at the same time knowing that good would triumph because that’s what these films tell us. It’s a shame because their performances were pretty good, especially Alex Essoe as the mother and Peter DeSouza-Feighoney as the young possessed boy, Henry. But I’ve seen these similar roles performed better in other films, and that’s due to the script.

The direction by Julius Avery is fine, but nothing memorable. If you’ve seen other possession horror films, you know what you’re getting here. There’s nothing new in terms of style or presentation. Tension and suspense isn’t really there. Jump scares don’t really work, at least not on me. The CGI gets pretty heavy during the final act and that’s actually used quite well for the most part. But to be honest with you, I watched THE POPE’S EXORCIST two days ago and I barely remember anything that stuck out from the visual presentation. Pretty on-the-nose stuff here.


A pretty generic exorcism movie, THE POPE’S EXORCIST only really manages to stand out due to a fun Russell Crowe performance as the title character. While the rest of the cast are decent, Crowe steals the show in every scene he’s in and truly seems to be enjoying himself since he knows what type of movie he’s acting in and embraces it. The film is also elevated by a not-so black and white look at the Church, the flawed priests and the superiors’ stance on exorcisms back in the day that makes one question if they believed evil could possess good people or not. Other than that, every trope you need in an exorcism story is here and you won’t be surprised by the lack of suspense, tension and scares because you know exactly where things are going. Even the visual presentation by Julius Avery is by-the-numbers, despite a good use of CGI in the film’s final act. THE POPE’S EXORCIST is watchable fluff not worth getting possessed over.

2 Howls Outta 4
(6 out of 10)

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