Lee Cronin Talks Evil Dead Rise’s Unique Challenges, Expanding Deadite Lore & More

Horror fans’ favorite playful demons are making their way to shelves with Evil Dead Rise. The latest installment in the Sam Raimi-created franchise centers on a world-weary woman who visits her single-mother sister and her children while in the midst of a crisis, only for the discovery of the infamous Naturom Demonto to unleash the haunting Deadite curse upon them and the crumbling L.A. apartment they’re in.

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Lily Sullivan and Alyssa Sutherland lead the cast of Evil Dead Rise alongside Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols, Nell Fisher, Noah Paul, Richard Crouchley, Mirabai Pease, and Anna-Maree Thomas. Written and directed by The Hole in the Ground‘s Lee Cronin, the movie marks the second Evil Dead to not be helmed by Raimi, and yet the new voice behind it finds a way to hold its own against its acclaimed predecessors.

Related: 24 Evil Dead Rise Easter Eggs & Hidden Details

In honor of the movie’s home release, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with Lee Cronin to discuss Evil Dead Rise, the unique challenges of making the acclaimed horror sequel, how he sought to break open the Deadite lore, his hopes of returning for another sequel, as well as another fresh voice at the helm.



Lee Cronin on Evil Dead Rise & the Franchise’s Future

Evil Dead Rise teaser trailer 2023

Screen Rant: Congrats, first and foremost, on Evil Dead Rise, it is another amazing entry to the Evil Dead franchise. How does it feel now, after all that work and all the blood that you had to go through, to be able to see fans like myself embracing the movie?

Lee Cronin: Yeah, it’s great. I couldn’t be happier with how it’s gone. Making a movie is not easy, ever, making an Evil Dead movie has its own unique challenges, as well. One of those being making sure, me being one of them, that fans would be happy. You can’t please everybody, all the time, but I think for the vast majority, people have really embraced what this movie is.

I think Evil Dead fans love experiencing something new within the familiar, or within the universe that they love, and with that tonality, and all of those things. So, yeah, it’s been great, it’s been great to excite and engage what is a really super fan base, and then also to bring in some new younger fans that maybe haven’t experienced Evil Dead before. This is their gateway, and then they can travel backwards in time and experience the foundations that allowed me to make this movie.

I couldn’t agree more. Much like with 2013’s Evil Dead, I love that this does sit on its own just enough that it can be an introduction to the franchise. You’ve talked about this movie with so many different publications, including myself, what is one element of the movie that you’ve really wanted to talk about, but nobody’s asked you up to this point?

Lee Cronin: Oh, one element of the movie that no one’s asked me about — I’m trying to shuffle through, I’m trying to jump through the chapters in my head right now, you’ve got me on the spot a little bit there. I think something — this is a small detail, but people often talk about how hard it is to make a movie, and maybe I’ve touched on this a little bit before, and it is tricky making something so technical and so practical, but what’s really tricky is having a nine-year-old on set doing that. And not in terms of — people have asked me about, “Does she get scared?”, etc., it’s not even that, it’s just some of the practicalities of the amount of time you can have somebody on set.

Even with Gabby Echols, who plays Bridget, she was of a certain age where you were constantly having to find clever ways to use and include them in scenes, but not blow your schedule up. This was a very, very tricky movie from a scheduling point of view, to actually knit together in a format that allowed us to go and get all the things that we did. In a weird way, it’s a boring aspect of filmmaking, scheduling, but it’s actually also highly creative. Maybe I haven’t had a chance to speak about would be my first assistant director, Daire Glynn.

I’m good friends with him and he worked on my previous movie, The Hole in the Ground, and I brought him to New Zealand to work on this movie with me. But his job had to be so creative in finding ways of using doubles, and using ways of creating and having access to those younger performers on set as much as possible, so that you can go and do all of that crazy stuff. It’s kind of fun, because Evil Dead exists in the world as well, where there was the old fake shemp, and we had to do a lot of fake shemping in this movie, as well. [Chuckles] So, the spirit of what went on 40 years ago was very much alive in how we had to approach and make this film as well.

Alyssa Sutherland in Evil Dead Rise-1

If there’s not at least a little bit of DIY and improv involved in an Evil Dead movie, is it truly an Evil Dead movie?

Lee Cronin: There was a lot, I’m glad it happened. I remember going in, because I had a bigger budget on this movie significantly than my previous film, and thinking, “Well, I hope this isn’t easy in the sense that I hope it’s not just all slick and glossy, and everything’s perfect.” And again, it never really is on a movie set, but we had to pull every trick in the book as if we had no resources, even though we had resources. At times, we nearly had to shoot and behave as if we have very, very few.

One of the things that I really appreciate about this film is just its visual language, whether it be the camera angles or the lighting. What was it like finding that visual style that honored Sam Raimi’s iconic style while bringing your own approach?

Lee Cronin: I’m very driven, when I write, I’m writing to direct, so a lot of those ideas were formulated during the development and the writing process of the movie. I’m not a filmmaker who — of course, coverage is part of filmmaking, but I try and look for unique viewpoints and aspects and ways of telling a story and continually refreshing the visuality, giving you a new experience, not just scene to scene, but shot to shot. All of those details really, and this is a film that is littered with so many detailed close-ups and moments.

I wish I could remember the number, because I knew and I’ve forgotten it, but I think we’ve got something like — someone is gonna go and figure this out, and post it online, I hope, or maybe I have to call my editor — I think we’ve got like 2000 cuts in the movie where we cut from one picture to the next from the volume of that kind of kinetic visual energy that we wanted to capture. I try and pride myself on it’s not about just how things look, it’s about how that look creates a tonality, and feeds into the overall experience of the movie.

Because it’s quite —we get the great outdoors in the opening, but once we go inside that building, it’s pretty claustrophobic and locked down. Something myself and my director of photography spoke about a lot was we still wanted it to feel like it was kind of on an epic canvas, the choices we made with lenses, and how we wanted to approach that, and to still give you quite a kind of widescreen cinematic feel. We talked about Alien, you’re trapped inside this contained spaceship, yet you kind of feel that width, you feel that sense of spectacle, and that was something that we worked in prep on very, very hard.

Ellie attacks Bridget in Evil Dead Rise

Another thing that I find really interesting about this film is something that continues to baffle me about the franchise overall, which is just how the Deadite curse spreads. Often in the early films, it was through an injury, but with this film, we see Beth get stabbed in the hand, and yet she doesn’t get the curse at all. Was that something that you discussed with Sam beforehand, about trying to nail down the exact rules, or was that something you just approached through your own mind?

Lee Cronin: I tried to follow my nose. Of course, I have spoken to Sam about many, many things in relation to what makes an Evil Dead movie tick, but I kind of tried to follow my own nose in terms of what it was, and wanted to have moments. I think, to me, it’s about intent in a lot of ways. The way that I looked at it in my mind, first of all, you get to play with nightmare logic, which is great.

Evil Dead exists in a world where there is a chunkiness to the rules, which I also kind of love because it allows you to be as creative as possible. But also, and it’s something why I loved Alyssa Sutherland and her performance, she understood from her first casting tape how important it was that the Deadites are kind of having fun. She’s like an apex Deadite in my mind, she’s pretty serious, and she’s maniacal, she’s a psychopath. To me, it’s about the intent, and we’ve got Beth, this character that’s brought into her story, and she injures her and she shows her the danger, she shows her what’s there.

She could wipe everybody out in a heartbeat, but they want to play, so it’s actually about the intent in terms of who’s next and what’s next. She wants Beth to suffer as she shows Beth the deconstruction of family, being the destroyer of family. So, to me, she’s in control the entire time, and she’s pulling the strings, that is until Beth starts to fight back and blows her limbs off. Ellie then doubles down and her kids come to the rescue and turn her into something even more sinister at that point in time.

You’ve talked before about having future ideas for stories in this franchise, and you even include a little Bruce Campbell Easter egg in there, which I heard much better the second time around. How are talks with Sam going, are you and Bruce, you three really trying to push for you to step in the director’s chair for another one in this world?

Lee Cronin: Yeah, I think the potential is absolutely there for that to take place. I think we are right now enjoying the success of this movie. I think it’s important that you don’t just absolutely try and rinse something out immediately. It’s something that’s always been under discussion, because there’s fun to that, as we were talking and developing the movie, Rob Tapert, who would have been on set when I was shooting, we’d often talk about some different ideas in terms of what can actually take place.

I think one of the things I’ve maybe done with Evil Dead Rise, though, as well is open it up further, potentially, to other voices to come in. I think I broke the universe open a little wider than maybe it’s been before, and I think there’s a lot of potential there, especially now clarifying that existence of three books. That’s not just a fun moment in Army of Darkness, it’s actually part of the lore, it’s now part of the mythos, and starts to broaden the canon as such.

So, yeah, I’m a huge fan of it, they’re really fun, terrifying and challenging movies to make, and as a filmmaker, you want to be challenged. So, there’s definitely thoughts and ideas that that are circling, and things that we’ve discussed, and in terms of when and how that happens, that’s up to the film gods.

Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams hiding behind a container in Ash Vs Evil Dead

For my final question, Bruce has said he’s retired from Ash outside of an animated series. How hard are you going to try and push, if you come back, to at least have him pop in for a quick moment?

Lee Cronin: When you’ve got a man as robust as Bruce Campbell, and he has created as an iconic hero as Ash, there’s no pushing him around. So, I think if Ash ever resurfaces, that’s going to be down to Bruce more than anybody else. I’m sure there’s lots of people in his ear all the time and, again, I can’t speak for him, but it’s always possible in the movie world for something unexpected to happen.

About Evil Dead Rise

Alyssa Sutherland as Ellie possessed in Evil Dead Rise

In Evil Dead Rise, the action moves out of the woods and into the city, and tells a twisted tale of two estranged sisters, played by Sullivan and Sutherland, whose reunion is cut short by the rise of flesh-possessing demons, thrusting them into a primal battle for survival as they face the most nightmarish version of family imaginable.

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Evil Dead Rise hits shelves on 4K Ultra-HD, Blu-ray and DVD on June 27 and is now available on VOD and digital platforms.

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