Evil Dead: recapping the franchise so far ahead of Evil Dead Rise

Take shelter beneath your cinema seat and cower behind your popcorn because Evil Dead Rise is out this week, sporting a ripping blend of full-on gore and shrieking terror. The flesh-eating 'deadites' are back in this continuation of the notoriously gruesome horror-comedy saga, which to date has pawned one complete trilogy and a gruelling 2013 reboot.

To bring you up to speed, here's a quick canter through all the Evil Dead movies so far, beginning with the Sam Raimi-fronted original and encompassing all the classic elements from Bruce Campbell's unflappable hero Ash to the demonic text the Necromonicon.




The Evil Dead (1981)

  • The first Evil Dead movie introduces franchise lynchpin Bruce Campbell as the seemingly invincible Ash Williams

  • In the movie, Ash accompanies his fellow Michigan State University friends to a remote cabin in rural Tennesse

  • In the basement of the cabin, Ash and his friends uncover the cursed, flesh-bound book called the Necromonicon (aka the Book of the Dead)

  • Upon reading the incantations in the book, Ash and co unleash an evil curse that progressively turns them into flesh-eating ghouls known as 'deadites'

  • Come sunrise, Ash is the only survivor, having been compelled to dismember his pals, his girlfriend Linda and his sister Cheryl



  • Evil Dead sprang from the mind of co-writer and director Sam Raimi who had known Campbell from a young age

  • Raimi and Campbell had long desired to make a horror movie, so they created a short film entitled Within the Woods to attract financing for a feature film

  • Eventually, Raimi cobbled together a budget of $375,000 to make The Evil Dead a reality

  • The shoot was an arduous DIY trial by fire involving much technical improvisation, including a camera attached to a plank of wood that would then be carried around to simulate a demonic floating point of view through the woods

  • Raimi likened the movie to his take on the Three Stooges, reasoning that outrageous comedy and outrageous horror share the same principles



  • Gallons of Karo corn syrup were used to drench the actors during the bloodiest sequences

  • The memorably gruesome prosthetic and stop-motion gore effects were created by Tom Sullivan who would work with Raimi on the two Evil Dead sequels

  • Raimi's close friends Joel and Ethan Coen aka the Coen brothers helped supervise the edit of the movie

  • The completed film attracted the interest of producer Irvin Shapiro, who helped screen the film at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival

  • A rave review from horror author Stephen King secured the backing of distributor New Line



  • Released in 1981, the movie was a box office success, grossing upwards of $2.5 million against its budget

  • Upon viewing the movie for UK release, the BBFC mandated 49 seconds of cuts in a bid to preserve both its humour and its horror

  • However, The Evil Dead became notorious as an emblem of the 'video nasties' scare in the UK

  • The lack of a sufficient age ratings system for home video release led to copies of the movie being seized en masse, and video shop owners were compelled to plead guilty to supplying a so-called obscene article 

  • Only in the year 2000 was the movie finally passed uncut with an 18 rating, and the uncut DVD was released in 2001



Evil Dead II (1987)

  • While the original The Evil Dead was being pulled left and right by the UK censors for home video approval, Raimi and Campbell alighted on an idea for a sequel

  • Raimi's publicist compelled him to make an Evil Dead sequel following the failure of Raimi's 1985 comedy Crimewave, on which Raimi collaborated with the Coen brothers

  • With the help of Stephen King, Raimi managed to secure the backing of noted Italian producer Dino de Laurentiis, leading to a vastly increased budget of $3.5 million

  • Evil Dead II is somewhat unusual in that it utilises the location of the first movie albeit with a stripped-down cast and a slightly different narrative focus

  • Despite bringing back Bruce Campbell's Ash, all of the previous movie's characters are absent save Ash's girlfriend Linda, who is now played by new actress Denise Bixler



  • This was due to budgetary concerns (initial script drafts had all of the original characters returning)

  • There are other narrative discrepancies as well, including the surviving copy of the Necromonicon, which was destroyed at the end of The Evil Dead

  • Raimi's longtime collaborator Scott Spiegel, a filmmaker in his own right, encouraged Raimi to fashion the movie more like a comedy as opposed to a flat-out horror

  • Spiegel's own short film Attack of the Helping Hand inspired the classic slapstick sequence where Ash is attacked by his own disembodied hand

  • As before, the comedic influence of The Three Stooges was evident, this time bolstered by a more extensive make-up effects department that included Greg Nicotero of KNB EFX Group (whose later credits would include The Walking Dead)



  • Sam Raimi's brother Ted, who had appeared in the first film, stars in Evil Dead II as the undead Henrietta, compelled to wear a full-body latex costume in sweltering conditions

  • Evil Dead II was shot in the same vicinity as the locations for Steven Spielberg's The Colour Purple, and the white farmhouse from that movie was used as a production base

  • There are many visual in-jokes in the movie including Freddy Krueger's clawed glove that can be spotted hanging in the background of the cabin

  • To create Ash's chainsaw hand, effects artist Verne Hyde modified a real chainsaw, replacing its gasoline engine with a small, 12-volt electric motor, leaving space for Campbell to insert his hand into the body of the saw

  • The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) was concerned that the movie was too violent for its proposed R-rating and that releasing it with a higher X-rating would limit the movie's commercial potential

  • To circumvent the issue, a shell company (a corporation without active business operations or significant assets), run by Dino De Laurentiis' son-in-law Alex De Benedetti, was set up to handle the film's US release, allowing it to be released unrated by the MPAA

  • Despite the distribution difficulties and middling box office returns, Evil Dead II was praised by critics as a spirited and imaginative improvement on its predecessor



Army of Darkness (1992)

  • The third and final movie in the OG Evil Dead trilogy was backed by Universal Studios who had partnered with Raimi on his 1990 comic book movie Darkman

  • It sported the biggest budget in the series so far ($11 million) and showcased the work of two special effects companies

  • Original make-up artist Tom Sullivan returned, as did Greg Nicotero from Evil Dead II

  • Army of Darkness allowed Raimi to realise his initial plan for Evil Dead II: send Ash Williams back to the Middle Ages

  • Many narrative elements remain including the dreaded Necromonicon, which in this instance has the power to transport Ash back to his original timeline



  • Raimi and his sibling co-writer Ivan drew on a multitude of inspirations including Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels

  • $1 million was put up by Raimi and his regular producer Robert Tapert to reshoot the ending, which originally had Ash returning to a post-apocalyptic future where he finds everything destroyed

  • Universal objected to this and demanded Raimi shoot a lighter, more optimistic finale where Ash delivers his iconic line, "Hail to the king, baby"

  • In fact, Raimi originally intended to reshoot the ending of Evil Dead II when the Oldsmobile lands in medieval England, but the idea was vetoed owing to rights issues

  • Raimi deployed a front-projection effect known as Introvision as an homage to the revered stop-motion effects creator Ray Harryhausen



  • Bruce Campbell had difficulty simulating fight sequences with non-existent opponents, being compelled to follow a number system to get his choreography correct

  • The movie was shot in difficult conditions during a long summer in the Mojave Desert, resulting in scorching days and bitterly cold nights

  • Composer Danny Elfman, who had provided the score for Raimi's Darkman, composed the 'March of the Dead' theme heard in the movie

  • The bulk of the score was composed by Joseph LoDuca who had scored the previous two movies in the series

  • Prior to its release, Army of Darkness inspired a comic book spin-off from Dark Horse Comics (best known for the likes of Sin City and Hellboy)

  • Despite being released to middling reviews, Army of Darkness won the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film in 1994 and is now regarded as a stylistically adventurous conclusion to the series



Evil Dead (2013)

  • The Evil Dead remake was produced by Sam Raimi via his Ghost House Pictures label and directed by Uruguayan filmmaker Fede Álvarez

  • Billed as a "re-imagining" of the original movie, it ditches much of the humour and amps up the sadistic gore and terror

  • Álvarez described the movie as a continuation of the events of the first Evil Dead film

  • Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody revised the script by Álvarez and his production partner Rodo Sayagues

  • The movie was shot in New Zealand on a budget of $17 million

  • It re-stages the essential concept of The Evil Dead, presenting a boyfriend and girlfriend who arrive at a remote cabin where they meet their siblings and friends



  • They discover that the cellar of the cabin houses the possessed book the Necromonicon and that reading from it invites demonic possession

  • Many character traits are updated with the character of Mia (Jane Levy) being presented as a recovering heroin addict

  • Bruce Campbell appears uncredited in the post-credits scene as Ash Williams

  • Archival recordings of original actors Bob Dorian (Professor Raymond Knowby) and Ellen Sandweiss (Cheryl Williams) also feature

  • Álvarez confirmed that none of the gore effects were done with CGI but instead were undertaken practically, leading to a demanding shoot

  • In keeping with the spirit of the series, Evil Dead was slapped with a top-level NC-17 rating by the MPAA for its gore and horror, prompting cuts to get it down to a more commercially friendly R-rating

  • In the UK, the movie was passed uncut at 18 by distributor StudioCanal

  • The movie generated mixed reviews but was a box office success, eventually grossing $97 million against its budget



Evil Dead Rise (2023)

  • Evil Dead Rise is a sequel to the 2013 Evil Dead remake and therefore technically not canon with the original movies

  • It's directed by Lee Cronin who helmed the well-regarded Irish supernatural horror The Hole in the Ground (2019)

  • The movie relocates events to a Los Angeles department where the discovery of the Necronomicon causes people to transform into flesh-eating 'deadites'

  • Centrally, the movie focuses on two adult sisters, Beth (Lily Sullivan) and Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), whose families are beset by the terror that unfolds

  • The film is produced by longstanding Evil Dead producer Robert Tapert

  • Bruce Campbell appears in a cameo role as the voice of an unnamed priest on a record

  • Evil Dead Rise had its world premiere at South by Southwest (SXSW) on March 15th, 2023

  • The movie has been met with critical acclaim and currently sports a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes

  • Empire Magazine critic Al Horner raves: "With a brilliantly unhinged performance from Alyssa Sutherland, and a note-perfect ending that unlocks more tales to come, Evil Dead Rise revives the dormant franchise more effectively than the Necronomicon itself."



Are you feeling groovy? Then hit the link below to secure your tickets for Evil Dead Rise. The movie bursts into Cuneworld on April 21st.