There’s a kind of shaggy glory to Evil Dead: Sam Raimi’s demonic scare film series born out of the writer/director’s triumphant 1981 indie horror marvel. Starring childhood friend Bruce Campbell, it was filmed in the wilds of Tennessee on almost no budget. Raimi’s Necronomicon (a.k.a. Book of the Dead) and the flesh-ripping Deadites — also known as the original film’s title, “The Evil Dead” — created a formula for four more films with immeasurable skin-peeling, tendon-popping, and chainsaw effects. – revitalizing pop culture as we know it.
In the first film, last guy Ash Williams (Campbell), his sister Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker), and friends Scott (Richard DeManincor) and Shelly (Theresa Tilly) head to a remote cabin. . A cursed book and tape summons a demonic presence that slowly begins to feast on the souls of the hapless travelers one by one. It was an unusual but surprisingly effective affair: enough to catapult Ash, the Deadites and Raimi to endless genre fame and set a pattern worth repeating four more times.
“Evil Dead II” (also known as “Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn”) thrilled midnight moviegoers in 1987, when the success of Raimi’s directorial debut earned him financial backing from an impressed producer and resulted in one of cinema’s biggest films. horror comedies. The increased budget allowed Raimi to burn through the beats of the first film at a blistering pace (a strange requirement of the convoluted IP dispute, which means the duology doesn’t make sense as a continuous timeline) and create an action-packed film. expansion that includes the most popular elements of the series.
Critically, this includes the first utterance of last guy Ash Williams’ catchphrase (“Groovy!”) and the supernatural time-jump jab that allowed 1992’s utterly silly second sequel, Army of Darkness, to be set in the Middle Ages . Times. (The movie was supposed to be called “Medieval Dead” until one of the completely annoying executive marketing decisions apparently killed that idea.)
Writer/director Fede Álvarez, co-writer Rodo Sayagues, and scream queen Jane Levy rebooted the series hard in 2013, then a decade later it paired with Lee Cronin’s newly released splashy “Evil Dead Rise.” All five Evil Dead chapters are ranked here, except for “Ash vs. “Evil Dead” TV series.
5. “Evil Dead Rise” (dir. Lee Cronin, 2023)
Some of the luckiest horror franchises have films that are usually rated this well and last the full five films. Lee Cronin’s “Evil Dead Rise,” which the writer/director describes as a sequel to other events in the universe, relocates the Necronomicon to a Los basement. Angeles apartment building. Hidden there is a recording pressed on vinyl with its contents being read aloud: it is quickly revealed to be played by two teenagers (Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols) who unwittingly unleash their demonic powers on their mother (Alyssa Sutherland). Together, they must face the consequences with their little sister (Nell Fisher), the incredibly brilliant prop Staff-anie, and their infernal guitar tech aunt (Lily Sullivan) in a gorefest drenched in blood and vomit enough to make extreme horror fans nostalgic. Despite its clever looping structure, “Evil Dead Rise” feels empty compared to Fede Álvarez’s surprisingly clever 2013 reboot, though it mimics and heightens the dread admirably. And it doesn’t compare to the ingenuity of Sam Raimi’s frenetic trilogy. Still, it’s a solidly enjoyable IP resurrection that sees someone grate some straight cheese. I wouldn’t offend you by saying more. – AF
4. “Army of Darkness” (dir. Sam Raimi, 1993)
As with many great horror franchises of its era, the “Evil Dead” series was clearly screwing up as it went along. You poured every idea you had into every single film you made, and then started from scratch when it came time to write the next one. No sane person who saw the original “Evil Dead” could have predicted that he was about to embark on a medieval time travel adventure, but why not? “Army of Darkness” remains a polarizing title for this very reason. Originally titled “Medieval Dead,” the film follows Ash as he is somewhat inexplicably transported to the Middle Ages (with a chainsaw, thankfully) and is forced to track down the same Necronomicon that tormented him so much in order to find his way back. into the present. The charmingly goofy film has plenty of gory deaths that fans of the franchise have come to expect, but it’s a lot campier than its predecessors. It’s a good time at the movies, even if it ultimately prevented the franchise from going in a more serious narrative direction for 20 years. — CZ
3. “Evil Dead” (director Fede Álvarez, 2013)
Fede Álvarez rebooted Evil Dead in 2013 with the kind of gore-is-more spirit that Rob Zombie brought to 2007’s “Halloween,” and he generally managed to justify his film’s gritty horror with grounded (if sometimes shallow) friends struggling with addiction. with his drama. Jane Levy breaks out of her post-Suburgatory sitcom image with a perversely perfect lead performance as Mia: the first person possessed when an onslaught of the dead breaks loose in a remote cabin where Mia’s friends are trying to help her detox. “Evil Dead” (2013) is most similar to the original in its conceit, but with just enough chainsaw antics and cheesy one-liners (“Go for it, mom!”) from the campy sequel to read like a reboot of the movie. full franchise. It’s a smart film, cleverly crafting the metaphorical box its characters are trapped in, while using mostly practical means to constantly push them into the extremes of 2010s terror. It’s worth it for the tongue-in-cheek knife scene alone, and it remains the crowning glory of scream queen Levy. – AF
2. “The Evil Dead” (Director: Sam Raimi, 1981)
“The Evil Dead” is an indie film legend. A 20-year-old Sam Raimi and his childhood friend Bruce Campbell took a ragged crew into the Tennessee wilderness for a hellish shoot that ended with them burning furniture to stay warm in the cabin they both filmed and lived in. The low budget of The Failure resulted in an aptly punk film that compensates for its rough edges by filling every frame with in-your-face malice. Raimi chooses a simple premise: a group of friends visit a cabin in the woods, only to find a tape recording of the Necronomicon unleashing a bunch of demons – and drive a train through it, defying every practical effect he can find. the audience. Even with his inexperience and budget constraints, Raimi directed with a creativity far beyond his years—how many filmmakers have the guts to shoot from the perspective of the villain himself? For all its faults, “The Evil Dead” had all the bones of the franchise we’ve grown to love. In retrospect, it’s not at all surprising that so much greatness eventually followed. — CZ
1. “Evil Dead II” (Director: Sam Raimi, 1987)
Perhaps the biggest rollercoaster in movie history is “The Evil Dead,” but with an actual budget. That’s exactly what Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell delivered in “Evil Dead II,” the best representation of the undead horror franchise. . The film follows a similar formula to its predecessor, following Ash Williams as he treks to a cabin in the woods and finds a tape recording that literally unleashes all hell. All the ingredients—Campbell’s charisma, Raimi’s creative camera movements, the endless gore—are still there, but the lack of logistical constraints makes the time all the bloodier. While the original film’s indie charm will always be charming, it’s a joy to watch Raimi bring his gory vision to life with cinematic toys and a few more years of experience under his belt. For that reason alone, “Evil Dead II” is the pinnacle of the series. — CZ