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SPONSORED CONTENT: Deadites Delight! “EVIL DEAD RISE” Is Coming to Swallow Your Soul

Monday, April 17, 2023 | Sponsored Content

Editor’s note: The following is a paid promotional post on behalf of Warner Bros. Pictures Canada.

In November 1979, 20-year-old aspiring Michigan filmmakers Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, Bruce Campbell and special effects artist Tom Sullivan, along with a ragtag crew of friends and an ensemble of largely inexperienced actors journeyed to the backwoods near the small town of Morristown, Tennessee, to shoot a low-budget horror film titled The Book of the Dead. Raimi and company, hoping to break into the film business, envisioned the project (aspirationally described as “the ultimate experience in grueling horror”) as fodder for the waning drive-in market. Recognizing that horror was (and remains) a perennially profitable genre in which a small investment can yield quick and substantial profits, the newly formed Renaissance Pictures saw the ambitious but decidedly low-rent production as a calling card that could provide funds for bigger cinematic opportunities. 

The shoot turned out to be a notoriously difficult twelve-week slog plagued with injuries, hideous environmental conditions and a host of unforeseen obstacles. Retitled The Evil Dead at the behest of legendary distributor Irvin Shapiro, Raimi’s film made it to the 1982 Cannes Film Festival where it was seen by author Stephen King who raved in Twilight Zone Magazine that it was “The most ferociously inventive horror film of the year.” King’s endorsement and extensive coverage in the fan press made The Evil Dead a sleeper theatrical hit and a bonafide smash when it hit home video in 1983 (in a 2011 interview with Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope special effects artist Tom Sullivan revealed that in the 1980s, The Evil Dead had the dubious distinction of being “the most stolen videotape in the [rental] industry”). Little did Raimi and company know then that they were building the foundation of a pop-culture phenomenon that would lead to two direct sequels that would see Campbell’s hapless “final boy” Ash Williams morph into a wise-cracking but hopelessly inept horror hero, video games, comic books, a successful but (mostly) Ash-free 2013 reimagining, and a spin-off TV series that brought Campbell (and a fearless cadre of “Ghostbeaters”) back to the forefront.

On April 21, ©Warner Bros. Pictures, ©New Line Cinema and original Evil Dead creators Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert will unleash the latest chapter in the Evil Dead saga. Written and directed by Lee Cronin (The Hole in the Ground), EVIL DEAD RISE removes the gruesome mythos of the Necronomicon from the isolated cabin of its forbears and brings the sinister Deadites into an urban setting. And this time, lantern-jawed, boom-stick-wielding knucklehead Ash won’t be around to save the day. 

Abandoning the bloody slapstick of previous entries, EVIL DEAD RISE returns to the franchise to the grim and gory tone of Raimi’s original film. With Cronin’s focus on character development, the emotional stakes of EVIL DEAD RISE promise to be much higher, adding a depth atypical of the franchise’s trademark frights. 

“I think Lee went deeper with the characters than we did previously,” Raimi says. “In the first three Evil Dead movies, we would concentrate on comedy – Bruce’s natural ability to do slapstick and do really great broad performances, which I loved. We grew up doing that type of comedy together. And now Lee is taking it to the next character level.”

Echoing Raimi’s sentiments, Bruce Campbell adds, “Bringing something back all depends on the success of previous projects. And whatever we ended up doing in the past, the fans were always like, ‘Where’s more?’ You could never satiate Evil Dead fans. It’s not possible, and that is a beautiful thing. Once we got the go-ahead and brought in Lee [Cronin], he wrote the script, and we were in on the development … That was our job as producers: ‘Don’t tie his hands, let the boy run!’ It was such a great experience. I mean, it was time to get out of the cabin.”

EVIL DEAD RISE stars Lily Sullivan and Alyssa Sutherland as estranged sisters Ellie and Beth. Free-spirited Beth, longing for the stability of family, pays a long overdue visit to Ellie and her kids Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and Kassie (Nell Fisher) at their cramped Los Angeles apartment located in a former bank building scheduled for demolition. However, all is not well in the home. Facing the dissolution of her marriage, Ellie must soon find a new home for her family. What’s supposed to be a happy reunion turns tense, but the worst is yet to come with the discovery of a copy of the dreaded Book of the Dead. When Ellie falls prey to the evil of the Deadites, Beth and the children find themselves locked in a desperate battle for survival. 

According to Cronin, the film’s success hinges on the characters being “breathing, real” people. To that end, leads Sullivan and Sutherland worked extensively with Cronin to add nuance and believability to sisters Ellie and Beth.

“Lee, Alyssa and I wanted to really anchor our characters before chucking them in the blender,” Sullivan explains. “We explored and we gave [a] backstory that is sort of private to us. Both Beth and Ellie are total battlers. There’s this real survivor streak to them. They’re this rough, not needy, kind of fiercely independent duo.”

(L to r) MORGAN DAVIES as Danny and LILY SULLIVAN as Beth in New Line Cinema’s horror film “EVIL DEAD RISE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

That family dynamic is essential to EVIL DEAD RISE. For inspiration, he looked to his own family, basing the kids in the film on his nieces and nephews. In keeping with Cronin’s no-holds-barred approach to the genre, not even children are exempt from the terrors of the Candarian demons.  

“When I thought about the story being about family, I knew that children had to be in the story. And being an Evil Dead movie meant that, no matter what, some of those kids had to get possessed, and that would lead to even greater consequences. I really wanted to see what would happen with ‘Deadite’ kids. I mean, you rip a kid’s limb off and throw it across a space and, for the audience, all bets are off at that point and anything could happen.”

Sure to satisfy the franchise’s dedicated fanbase, EVIL DEAD RISE is no watered-down retread of Sam Raimi’s original vision. The scares come hard and heavy with a gore quotient that rivals anything seen the previous films. Horrorphiles can also rejoice that EVIL DEAD RISE keeps CGI to a minimum, with Australia’s Oscar-winning Odd Studio providing the film’s stomach-turning practical effects. Approximately 1,700 gallons of stage blood were spilled during production, which required the services of an industrial kitchen to produce the copious volume of the red stuff. The effects blood in EVIL DEAD RISE is a far cry from Tom Sullivan’s recipe of corn syrup, food coloring and coffee employed in The Evil Dead

ALYSSA SUTHERLAND as Ellie in New Line Cinema’s horror film “EVIL DEAD RISE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

“The blood recipes have evolved quite a lot,” special effects supervisor Brendan Durey explains. “We’ve done a bunch of jobs where we’ve had all sorts of different types, including vampire blood. Over the years we’ve crystallized it down to quite a good formula, which makes a strong, rich, dark color, but we also have a mix for a brighter color, for something supercharged and very visceral. Going into EVIL DEAD RISE, we found that our formula didn’t quite meet up to the demands of the film, so we had a research and development session and came up with a new dedicated recipe.”

Along with an all-new urban location, EVIL DEAD RISE also features a previously unseen iteration of The Book of the Dead. Using Tom Sullivan’s iconic original as a jumping-off point, property master Elise Kowitz revamped the cursed tome. Still “bound in human flesh and inked in blood,” this all-new Necronomicon Ex-Mortis lacks the familiar gape-mouthed face seen previously in the franchise.

“We went with the idea that it’s been made from a victim struck by a lightning bolt, and the spine is based on the creepy dried skin of a petrified cat,” explains Kowitz. Other ghastly additions to the book include a clasp of sharp fangs, ghastly illustrations inspired by the work of Leonardo DaVinci, and text based on an ancient Celtic language. “[It]looks like it’s been devised by someone that’s super-obsessive, so every corner is covered in text,” Kowitz adds.

Cronin adds, “I knew I wanted the book to have a fresh identity. I liked the idea that it felt a little bit more alive. So, the idea that the book itself, the skin, is created with a lot of veins and arteries, gives the sense that it was once alive or active in some way.”

ALYSSA SUTHERLAND as Ellie in New Line Cinema’s horror film “EVIL DEAD RISE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Summing up EVIL DEAD RISE and its place in the beloved horror series, producer Rob Tapert states, “The cast is fantastic from beginning to end. Lee has written a script that really utilizes their unique talents and lets them shine on many levels, from horror to humor to heart to just straight family drama … [EVIL DEAD RISE] occupies its own lane in the Evil Dead universe, and I think the world will really enjoy this take on the franchise. And actually, it was the strong audience response at a research screening that propelled the distribution pivot, away from streaming to a global theatrical release, to give the fans the best possible experience with the scariest, bloodiest and most gory ride imaginable. This is a film best seen in a dark cinema, for that visceral roller-coaster ride.”

EVIL DEAD RISE premieres April 21st, only in theaters.

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