‘Evil Dead Rise’ Director Lee Cronin on Hidden Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi’s Advice and The #1 ‘Evil Dead’ Rule [Interview]

Horror

Writer/Director Lee Cronin’s (The Hole in the GroundEvil Dead Rise relocates the terror from a cabin in the woods to a high rise Los Angeles apartment building, bringing a new style of Deadite mayhem to the franchise.

Evil Dead Rise is coming exclusively to theaters on April 21, 2023, and it brought the house down during its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX last week. Bloody Disgusting spoke with Cronin after the premiere; the filmmaker confirmed the Bruce Campbell cameo he recently teased, while also discussing what it was like to work with Sam Raimi, and dishing the details on the most important rule when making an Evil Dead movie.

But first, that cameo. Ahead of the fest, Cronin offered money to the first fan to find Bruce Campbell’s hiding spot within Evil Dead Rise. We can confirm that he’s already been found.

Slight Spoiler Warning: If you’d like to avoid a hint on where to find Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead Rise, skip ahead past all of the red text you see below…

Someone has come to me and got the answer right before you so I can reveal yes, that is where Bruce is hidden. That is where Bruce is hidden,” Cronin verified when we pointed out the cameo. As for the specifics of his hiding spot, it’s not visual but aural.

Hint: Listen carefully to the audio recording that unleashes the new evil.

Cronin also discussed what it was like working with Sam Raimi and Campbell and producer Rob Tapert, who gave the filmmaker plenty of creative freedom but offered advice when needed.

“I probably met with Sam on about three or four occasions before I went to New Zealand to make the movie, and we would’ve had other Zooms around script time,” Cronin explains. “At each stage we met, I would reveal more about where we were going and what the process was. Sam would always have advice. He’s a movie making hero of mine. But Sam shows me respect and that I’m equal to him in terms of what I’m trying to do. But that’s really smart because Sam, Rob, and Bruce have been around. They’ve made movies and had successful careers, and they understand because they’ve been put under pressure where someone’s trying to twist their arm in a way they don’t want to go. That doesn’t lead to good results in movie making at all.”

Cronin continues, “Movie making ultimately has to be filtered down to a point through one vision, one voice, one mind, or whatever. But Sam was always there to remind me, ‘Make sure the Deadites are scary,’ or ‘use the book well.’ It was those kinds of simple things. Then deeper in post-production, when we started to share some edits, Sam’s so technically proficient that he’d say, ‘just cut one frame out there,’ and it would make a difference or impact. So, he’s a master filmmaker and a great producer to collaborate with.

The guys were there when I needed them. But other than that, they said, ‘Go do your thing.’ They wanted to give me the freedom and the rope to go and run. And then when you’re out there exploring and going crazy, if you want to lean over your shoulder and ask a piece of advice, they were there to answer a question.”

Evil Dead Rise review

Evil Dead Rise comes with a new Necronomicon volume and a new set of rules, including a different Deadite in Alyssa Sutherland’s Ellie. Ellie’s character arc helped Cronin develop his film’s Deadite look. He told us at SXSW, “I thought about what I needed for this movie because there’s quite a lot of character. One of my favorite things about the Evil Dead movies is the psychological warfare that the Deadites put on innocent people because they’re powerful. They could just come in, wipe you out, and it’s game over, but they want to play. They’re like a cat toying with a mouse. So, from that point of view, and with the mother being a character in the story, it was very, very important that there was that little bit of humanity left behind.

“For example, if we’d just gone OG all white eyes, the amount of conversing and communication, and even just eyelines between Deadites and a person, those creepy moments, we would’ve lost a point of view. We would’ve lost perspective on those demonic characters. Then working with my prosthetics and makeup team, it was important that we maintain this little uncanny edge in the air with these so that they’re obviously rotten and screwed up and horrific, but at the same time, that [small] percent of humanity behind it all makes it all the more sickening.”

Entering an established, enduring franchise comes with a specific set of rules, from the Deadites to the Book of the Dead. Cronin gave himself a distinct, vital direction when embarking on this production, and it’s arguably the most important.

‘Evil Dead Rise’

Has to be entertaining,” Cronin said of his crucial rule to follow. “That was the key. Within that, obviously, there was the horror, the dread, the madness, and all of those things. But it was really important to me that people would get on the ride and not be bored. That, to me, would’ve been the ultimate sin when making an Evil Dead movie. And yes, we take a little bit of time because, as a filmmaker, I’m not going to come in and just serve a narrative. I’m going to come in and tell the sort of story that I want to tell. It was important that we spent a little bit of time getting to know the characters, which was part of the motivation for having this wild cold open to the movie, which was to prime everybody. And then once the movie turns, it goes, and it goes, and it goes, and it keeps on doubling down on stuff.”

Fans went wild for the cheese grater moment in the trailer, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ingenious and creative weaponry in Evil Dead Rise. Cronin pulled from everything when coming up with the items to be used against humans and Deadite alike, even from simple mundane tasks.

I followed my nose when I was working on it. I remember often just going into the kitchen, and that’s where the cheese grater came from. I’d be writing, go to get a drink in the kitchen, and it’s like, ‘I need something brutal,’ and see the cheese grater or whatever. I wanted to have fun,” Cronin explained. “But yeah, you look at the tools in the domestic house and the things that you can do with them. The scissors are fun as well because [they’re] put there early, and then used to great effect later on.”

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