Hail to the king! The Evil Dead franchise is back and serving up this year's best horror film.

With all the expressions of national cinematic pride recently it feels remiss to not throw some bualadh bos in the direction of director Lee Cronin. After just one very impressive feature film (The Hole in the Ground) the Irish director was handpicked by Evil Dead creator Sam Raimi to take the reins of the beloved franchise. But it gets better…

Evil Dead Rise was originally due to be released last October, straight to HBO Max. But then a shake-up in Warner Bros. caused some concern. Batgirl, a fully completed film also slated for a HBO Max premiere was pulled and binned to save on costs. What was going to happen to Evil Dead Rise? Horror fans everywhere chewed on what was left of their fingernails.

Well, you're reading a review of Evil Dead Rise, so you know what happened. It was upgraded to a 2023 cinematic release. A good sign of quality if ever there was one. And we’re happy to say the signs are true. Evil Dead Rise is a riot.

This trailer is intended for mature audiences

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Set well away from previous locations such as a cabin in the words or a castle in medieval times, Evil Dead Rise takes place in a soon-to-be demolished high-rise apartment block. There’s a good reason this setting is familiar to the horror fan, from David Cronenberg’s Shivers to Ciarán Foy’s Citadel the high rise provides a setting that can be extremely populated but also equally isolating for our protagonists plus, there’s usually only one exit. Perfect for horror and Rise uses it well

In this building, we meet an instantly endearing family unit, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three children. On the night Ellie’s younger globetrotting sister, Beth (Lily Sullivan) pays a surprise visit, a brief earthquake cracks open the floor of the building’s car park, revealing an old bank vault. Ellie’s son, Danny, ventures inside to discover a mysterious book.

Not the Book of the Dead that Evil Dead fans will be familiar with but it is a Book of the Dead. Eagle-eyed viewers, who had primary school history may notice that this book contains the ancient Celtic language of ogham, is this volume from Ireland? For fun, let’s say it is. When the accompanying vinyl record is played an evil, possessive force is unleashed, the book’s first victim is the mother, Ellie, who is turned into what fans will know as a "deadite", a possessed, lucid zombie of sorts, hellbent on causing mayhem, inflicting violence and possessing anyone it can get their hands on.

What follows is a stand-off as Aunt Beth and co piece together what’s going on as a truly ghoulish Ellie is desperately trying to get into the apartment.

It’s worth noting that the previous films featured adults, of college age and up. This is the first time we’ve seen actual children have to deal with the demonic force. Adding a whole new level of terror and menace as the very young Kassie (Nell Fisher) navigates a situation where her mother is no longer her mother but will happily exploit the maternal relationship to achieve her horrific goal. It’s not just terrifying, it’s upsetting and heartbreaking.

Saying that, it still ticks the boxes it needs to tick for an Evil Dead film. Lots of dark humour, shocking gore and violence, the cheese grater scene has become iconic from the marketing alone. It’s not as wacky as Evil Dead 2 but also not as sardonic and grim as the 2013 reboot, tonally it sits nicely in the middle. And while it’s scary, it surprisingly has very few jump scares, which is refreshing. Even more unexpected however, it has a lot of heart. The cast are a likeable bunch and while this is indeed a rollercoaster thrill ride, you still feel bad for the people trapped on it. Which is again, refreshing.

Slick, stylish, funny and genuinely emotional with a third-act surprise that’s just the right level of bonkers.

See it with a packed crowd and you’ll have a groovy time.