Kalie and I saw Evil Dead Rise last night. She was torn between seeing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Evil Dead Rise, though she felt Evil Dead Rise would leave theatres first so it should be prioritized. As I had already seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 twice, I didn’t argue. I HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE WRONG NOR REGRETTED A CHOICE AT THE MOVIES MORE COMPLETELY. I hated Evil Dead Rise. I HATED IT. I thought it was horrible. Now, I don’t mean I thought it was horrifying, as horror films strive to be. No, it was horrible. The more I thought about the visceral hatred it moved in me, the more I realized something…Evil Dead Rise has to be a brilliant film. I wasn’t bored. I wasn’t apathetic toward it. I HATED IT and I can’t tell you the last time I had such a seething reaction to a film. So while the movie isn’t “for me” I can’t deny it’s a remarkably well made film and that – my deeply visceral reaction to a brilliant film I hated in the core of my being – felt like something worth exploring.
SPOILERS for Evil Dead Rise’s basic plot outline alone will follow.
For those unfamiliar with Evil Dead Rise (lucky you!), here’s the obligatory summary: Evil Dead Rise is the latest chapter in Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert, and Bruce Campbell’s horror series, following the films The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987), Army of Darkness (1992), and Evil Dead (2013) alongside the TV series Ash vs. Evil Dead (2015-2018) and expanded universe material like video games, comic books, and a musical (for real (I didn’t believe it either)). The trouble flows from an ancient Sumerian text called the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis (or the Naturom Demonto). Paging through this creepy book made of human flesh with sharp, menacing teeth while listening to recordings of people reciting creepy incantations out loud resurrects demonic entities, known as Deadites, which then possess otherwise lovely human beings. In Evil Dead Rise, Beth (Lily Sullivan) discovers she’s pregnant and takes a break from her life touring as a guitar tech to seek support and advice from her sister, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland). Beth is shocked when she learns Ellie’s husband left her and their three children; Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), Danny (Morgan Davies), and Kassie (Nell Fisher), all now living in a building weeks away from being condemned and demolished. An earthquake cracks open the floor of the building’s parking garage and gives Danny the opportunity to crawl down inside an old vault from when the building used to be a bank. There he finds the Necronomicon and, against Bridget’s sensible cautions, begins paging through the text and playing the demonic-incantation-laden records he found with it. Soon Ellie is dead, killed by this demonic entity raised by the book which inhabits her body (“Mommy’s with the maggots now,” it coos to Ellie’s family) and hunts Beth, Bridget, Danny, and Kassie. The earthquake left the stairs demolished and the elevator glitching in a very demon-ish way so Beth is trapped on the eighth floor of their building trying to protect herself, her unborn baby, and her sister’s kids from the demon now wearing Ellie’s skin.
Yeah, that? What I just wrote? That’s nothing. That’s a casual Sunday stroll along the waterfront with the sun shining overhead and a gentle breeze blowing in softly off the water compared to what watching the movie is like. As I said above, I hated this movie. Granted, before I met Kalie my horror experience was very limited. I saw What Lies Beneath (because it starred Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer (two actors I loved) and because this girl I was dating in high school wanted to see it) and I saw The Woman in Black (because I wanted to know what Harry Potter was doing now that he wasn’t Harry Potter anymore). After knowing Kalie for almost ten years, I’ve learned to sit through a horror film (oh so many horror films…) but I’ve also learned to appreciate and even enjoy them. I’ve learned to appreciate and even enjoy the horror genre as a whole too, albeit in my own way (though I could never be the expert and horror lover Kalie is). But I did not enjoy Evil Dead Rise. I hated it.
I fucking hated it. It was a miserable experience. What made it so miserable? This was the bleakest, darkest, most fucked up, grotesquely gory, soul-starving thing I’ve ever seen. As we drove home after the movie I tried to be positive and thought, “At least making the movie gave people jobs – all the crew, the people on set, people who made the props, the caterers, etc.” But that didn’t help. I was still angry it existed. How can a movie cause such a visceral reaction within me that I can be upset at the prop and costume designers, caterers, gaffers, and the like?
But I am. Or rather, I was last night. The more I’ve explored my reaction, I’ve had to acknowledge watching this movie did something to me I’ve never experienced with another film. I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed an experience at the theatre less (though Ari Aster’s Hereditary comes close and may’ve been worse (but I’ll never know because I’ll never rewatch either)). I told Kalie it was SO dark and SO bleak and SO hopeless and SO fundamentally fucked up that it felt like Evil Dead Rise murdered the light and joy in my soul. It ripped out, mangled, and fed on everything within me which makes life good, leaving me worse for having watched it.
I mean, can you imagine (and, if you’ve seen the movie, you can but, if you haven’t, I doubt your mind can take you to such a twisted place) what it’s like to watch Ellie’s demonic form, ever increasing in it’s grotesquery, probe Beth’s stomach with a lustful malice or gleefully hunt Bridget, Danny, and Kassie through their home-cum-hell?
It was too much for me. The Shining (1980). The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Sinister (2012). The Exorcist (1973). The Thing (1982). Halloween (all of ‘em). The Ring (2002). Don’t Breathe (2016). Midsommar (2019). Barbarian (2022). Goodnight Mommy (2014). The Eyes of My Mother (2016). I was able to get through all of them, though I dry heaved through much of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and swore never to watch it again, and trying to rewatch The Eyes of My Mother left me quietly sobbing at how terrible it was and questioning why anyone would ever watch it (once Kalie noticed my sobbing she suggested we stop our rewatch and I agreed). Though none of those films viscerally disturb me the way Evil Dead Rise did nor did any of them (though The Eyes of My Mother and Hereditary came close) move within me what Evil Dead Rise did.
Do you see why I’ve continued to ponder my reaction to this movie? I love the movies. I’ve always loved the movies. I’ve seen a lot of movies in my life and I watch a lot of movies over and over again. Nothing – even the most twisted horror films I’ve seen – has affected me the way Evil Dead Rise did. While The Eyes of My Mother made me sad and I felt my soul crying for release from its oppressive tone, it didn’t make me angry that it was made. It didn’t make me slightly resentful of the people who worked on it (though I’m not anymore ;D). It didn’t leave parts of my mind actively seeking plot holes that I could use to further deride the movie. Though all of these things happened after I saw Evil Dead Rise last night (and I only found two plot holes which only made me more upset that the story was so tightly crafted XD). Any film that can cause such a massive emotional reaction within me has to be brilliantly made. How else could it affect me in such a pervasive way?
I have often heard it said the opposite of love isn’t hate but apathy. This feels very true here. I didn’t love the film. Nothing could be further from the truth! But even if I didn’t like it – even if it was too much for me – it was too much because of how effectively it used the darkest corners of the horror genre. Clearly, writer/director Lee Cronin knows his craft. His film moved me in a way no other film ever has.
And I guess I want to resent him for that, too XD. But I can’t! It wouldn’t be fair and it would deny the reality of the film he made. Social media creates these polarizing camps around everything and I think that helps us forget our not liking something doesn’t mean it’s not any good. Everyone is always so vocal about loving (or hating) every facet of a particular movie/show/book/comic/etc. – it’s always the best or the worst thing ever – that we can forget we are all made up of many parts and our responses to any particular work can be as infinitely varied and layered as our parts will allow.
So for me, Evil Dead Rise was a desolate, unforgiving, horrible experience in which I was miserable watching it and left feeling miserable for a long time after seeing it. But it made me so miserable because it was so well done. It was a perfectly made film…even if it wasn’t made for people like me. If you’d asked me last night, when my anger and hatred of this film were at their zenith, I’d’ve never been able to imagine I could ever write anything like this. But now, as the emotional dust has settled a bit, I’ve come to realize the clearest expression of my feelings towards Evil Dead Rise comes from paraphrasing what Wes Mantooth tells Ron Burgundy at the end of Anchorman, “Deep down in my stomach, with every inch of me, I pure, straight hate you Evil Dead Rise. But goddamn it, do I respect you.”
If you’d like to read Kalie’s piece about the brilliance she saw in Evil Dead Rise – and I totally think you should! (you also get a little aside written by yours truly when my hate and anger were at that aforementioned zenith XD) – you can click here to read her piece, “POINT-COUNTERPOINT: DIVERGENT TAKES ON EVIL DEAD RISE.”
4 thoughts on “Evil Dead Rise Maliciously Murders the Light and Joy in My Soul and I HATE IT…Though It’s Brilliant All the Same”
I’ve not had a chance to see Evil Dead Rise, but I’ve heard people say similar things about it in the way you’ve described. The thing with the Evil Dead movies is they’ve always had a vein of dark humour flowing through them, and that seems really lacking in Evil Dead Rise. It sounds like it’s just full on gore and horror. Not my thing either really. I like horror movies, but not when it’s just hack, slash, and in-you-face gorfest. Funny enough, the only time I usually watch horror films is when I’ve god a cold or something and am having a duvet day, then horror films make me feel better LOL.
Well the takeaway frim this experience was you should have seen GOTG3 for the third time. 😉
I’ve heard mixed reactions to Evil Dead Rise and may watch this on streaming. I tend to like these films though I prefer the Raimi ones since he can skillfully balance horror with humor and this film looks completely humorless.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this film and go see GOTG3 again to cheer you up.
I’m sorry to hear you had such a bad reaction! For me, I didn’t find Evil Dead Rise to even be the most dark of the series. There’s more humour and light here than in Evil Dead 2013, which is even more gnarly and dark – reading this, I’d recommend you don’t watch the 2013 one, aha…
Your reaction is valid though, and like you say, in a way, it reflects how well-crafted the movie is. There are definitely some horrifying scenes in this movie that take advantage of the new urban setting.
I hope that it doesn’t stay with you negatively for too long. Maybe watch a delightful film such as Kiki’s Delivery Service, to restore balance to your soul? 🙂
I am weirdly drawn to this movie even though I know I should not and need to stay away from it. I think it’s Alyssa Sutherland’s weirdly entrancing look. Must be strong. Nightmares abound.
And I got to say eighth floor or not I think I might have taken my chances out the window.