Writer/Director Lee Cronin Talks EVIL DEAD RISE Gore Quotient And The DEMONS 2 Question

Plus more ahead of the SXSW premiere.

By Michael Gingold · March 15, 2023, 3:30 PM EDT
Evil Dead Rise bath

When it came to selecting a filmmaker to tackle Evil Dead Rise (debuting tonight in a special SXSW Film Festival screening and hitting theaters April 21), franchise creators/Rise producers Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert chose Lee Cronin, who had impressed them and many others with his debut chiller A Hole in the Ground. Cronin changes things up in the latest Evil Dead film, setting the action in an apartment building where sisters Beth (Lily Sullivan) and Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), along with the latter’s kids (Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols, and Nell Fisher) run afoul of the vicious, possessive spirits unleashed by one of the Naturom Demonto books. It’s a true bloodbath of a movie, and one whose trailer put some fright devotees in mind of a past urban nightmare…

Some online fans, when the trailer dropped and revealed the apartment-building setting, were comparing Evil Dead Rise to Demons 2. Have you seen that film, and was that ever part of your thinking?

I’m really glad you asked this question because I have to admit I’ve never seen Demons 2—and I know that’s an easy answer. I know of it, but I actually haven’t seen the film—and I want to remedy that! It’s definitely on my watch list. But it’s not something I had seen when I was approaching this movie.

How much creative freedom did you have on Evil Dead Rise? How much of a brief did Raimi, Campbell, and Tapert give you, and how much did they turn you loose to do your own thing?

The guys were fantastic. I believe that very early on in the process, they saw that I had a very distinct and clear vision for the movie. Something Sam specifically said to me was, “Use the book, and make there are bad-ass Deadites.” That was pretty much the guideline, but beyond that—and I think this was part of the reason they hired me to make this movie—they wanted me to freshen it in a way, and bring a new perspective and a new vision to the table. The joy of working with these guys is, they all have a variety of different strengths in terms of their experiences—what they’ve done both collectively and as individuals in the world of film. So they were there to offer guidance when I needed it. Of course, as producers on the movie, they had opinions; everybody had them, and we seemed to marry them all together very, very well. For the most part, I was shown a great amount of trust, from the scripting stage right on through into postproduction, and locking the edit. Ultimately, they wanted to help me complete and maintain my vision of the movie, which was something they were allied with from early on.

Clearly there were no restrictions placed on you in terms of the gore, for ratings reasons or otherwise; it’s hard to believe you got away with an R for Evil Dead Rise. Was there anything you wanted to do in that area that you weren’t able to?

Not for ratings reasons. Look, the development of a movie is always really challenging, and there was ambition beyond what I was able to put on the screen. But the big job of directing a movie is very much that: It’s directing all of your resources into the right places to create the best version of the spectacle you can. But we pushed it pretty hard, and I believe even the green-band trailer is straining the limits a little of what a green-band can be. Overall, I was afforded the opportunity to maximize a lot of what my vision was, and interestingly, knowing I was going to be speaking to you about the movie, I just pulled out the first draft of the script and had a quick scroll through, just to kind of refresh my brain. And it was quite exciting to see the direct connectivity between what was on the page and what we managed to put on screen. I believe it was Sam who said, “The gore the merrier” back in the day, so you can never have enough. And although I’m very happy with the amount that we have, deep down inside I’d love to have even more!


How did you find actors who could handle all the prosthetics and blood you were going to put them through? Especially the little girl, who I can’t believe made it through the shoot without being traumatized!

Yeah, she was amazing. I suppose starting with young Nell Fisher, I’ve worked with children before, I’ve cast kids in a variety of different things in my career, and it is a little bit like looking for a needle in a haystack sometimes. But we were shooting in New Zealand, and the casting director just happened to be based there, a guy called Stu Turner. He just raised his hand about this girl, Nell Fisher, very early on, and sent in a video of her. She was pretty spectacular right away; you kind of knew she was the one.

What I was really looking for with everybody was—as a director, I’m not a person who brings people into a room and says, “OK, let’s warm up and make like a tree.” I try to get to know who people are, and to see if that can jibe with the journey I need to bring them on as characters in the story, as well as the personalities behind them in terms of how they’ll take it. I was very candid with everybody I approached on this movie, from the young performers to the more experienced actors, about the grind they would be going through. It’s kind of like building your band to go on tour, you know? It’s about trying to select those people—the amazing guitarist, the incredible drummer—and knowing they’ve got the ability to last through it all. It was a long shoot, it was a complicated shoot, it was a very practically driven shoot, and there were a lot of time requirements for concentration with long setups and maintaining performance. But I was so, so happy with the people I found. The thing I did when I brought them together was, I basically made them all hang out and get to know each other like a family, so by the time we walked on set, there was a warmth and a familiarity there. And if I could capture that warmth and familiarity, it would make the horror all the more effective when everything starts to fall apart.

To read more from Cronin on Evil Dead Rise, pick up FANGORIA #19, coming soon!