How 'Evil Dead Rise' Carries on Sam Raimi's DIY Filmmaking Legacy
Being a character in an Evil Dead movie like Evil Dead Rise is a feat that not many of them survive. From the crudely mocking Deadites to the blood rain and the psychological and physical torture from loved ones, it's amazing that anyone survives this cruel and twisted world.
The standards of the Evil Dead franchise established by writer/director Sam Raimi are practically a bloody good time, featuring many practical effects and make-up that deliver an immeasurable amount of disgust throughout the original trilogy. The B-film aesthetic and horror-comedy have been a staple of the franchise, with Fede Álvarez’s gritty 2013 requel Evil Dead using little CGI in the film, often to remove wires and protect the cast and crew from the last act’s house fire, and Lee Cronin’s upcoming Evil Dead Rise, which star Alyssa Sutherland tells /Films that "there's no digital" effects.
Practical effects in a horror movie are always fun to break down. In a world where CGI reigns, practical effects are a creative solution that looks better and gives filmmakers a chance to make their audience’s skin crawl.
Whether possessed characters are levitating, climbing on walls, or sawing a part of their body off, all of these lend themselves to practical stunts, stop-motion animation, and highly theatrical acting.
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Creating the Perfect Deadite
What makes a monster in a film terrifying is its ability to transform human characters into something uncanny. Evil Dead Rise’s Ellie (Sutherland) looks gruesome with her sickly decomposing skin, following closely to Álvarez’s portrayal of a Deadite possessed rather than Raimi’s white-eyed demons.
When Ash (Bruce Campbell) returns to find his girlfriend Linda (Besty Baker) possessed by a Deadite, a demon that possesses humans and feasts on their souls, in The Evil Dead, her appearance is instantly memorable. The glazed-over, white eyes, and hauntingly wide smile were done practically.
Raimi had actors wear contact lenses that were painful to apply and blinded the actors wearing them. While the eyes of the Deadite-possessed characters are a gold hue that actors can see out of, a little CGI is used to control the contacts.
As for the bloody, scared, decomposing bodies that the Deadite possessed, it’s all special effects makeup and gore. It’s safe to assume that most of Ellie’s look is done through special effects makeup as she becomes something more sinister throughout the film, and camera angles and lens choices will also help contort her face to make her look even more uncanny as she taunts her family into an early grave.
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The Demonic Movements
The Deadites enjoy showing off their supernatural abilities, mostly to scare the life out of their next victim. We’ve seen spot-motion, practical effects, and heightened acting used to create the unique ticks and inhuman movements of the possessed, from Linda’s decapitated body dancing around in The Evil Dead 2 to Mia’s (Jane Levy) final encounter with the abomination (Randal Wilson) in Evil Dead.
Evil Dead Rise continues the legacy of practical effects with stunt doubles doing most of the daring effects throughout the film. Sutherland tells /Films that stunt doubles replaced post-production digital FX. Although she fought hard to do her own stunts (and was unfortunately told no by production for time constraints), Sutherland did work on perfecting the twitchy movement of a Deadite possessed.
Blood, Blood, and More Blood
Evil Dead films do not shy away from graphic content, which often features a lot of blood, guts, and gore. According to All The Right Movies, audience members who gave blood got a free ticket to see The Evil Dead in theaters, establishing itself as a film full of bloody moments.
The Evil Dead did have its limitations with gore, with censor boards cutting multiple scenes that were too graphic despite the blood being different colors of liquid, and Germany banning the film for its graphic content. Special effects artist Tom Sullivan created many of the bloody effects, adding coffee grinds to the traditional fake blood formula of corn syrup and food coloring to give it a more visceral texture on camera.
Actor Bruce Campbell has stated that the ideal recipe for fake blood on a budget requires half a bottle of clear Karo syrup, a full bottle of red food coloring, a few dashes of blue food coloring to make the color more vibrant, and some powdered nondairy creamer to add opacity to the blood. This recipe creates visually stunning movie blood for under $25. Just don’t eat it, please.
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While Evil Dead had an excellent blood rain sequence, Evil Dead Rise might take the cake for using the most movie blood in the franchise.
While Cronin and his team didn’t use Raimi’s homemade recipe, Evil Dead Rise uses a type of movie blood that is a viscous, soupy mixture that we saw dripping out of horror legend Christopher Lee’s month in the 1950s.
Today, a gallon of this type of blood costs about $135.
Cronin says that Evil Dead Rise uses about 1,717 gallons of this expensive movie blood, which is about $231,795 worth of blood. For perspective, the human body only contains about 1.5 gallons of blood. The film would have required 1,113 completely drained people. All of this is to say that there is a lot of blood for a movie focused on four people.
"[It's] all proper sticky, icky movie blood. Like the real deal. There's no cheating of taking some water and putting red food coloring in because that will not do,” Cronin told /Film. “This was all cooked. We had to hire an industrial kitchen to make the amount of blood that we needed, and it was everywhere. So yeah, it's the real deal. And it's splattered all over the screen."
Fake blood, no matter the shade or texture, has roots and connects film to the audience’s lived experience. Blood reminds us of the reality we are being presented with, and Raimi’s created reality is horror and comedy. It’s gory and over-the-top. If CGI blood was used in any of these films, the audience would be taken out, removed from the reality of the film, and only approach it as make-believe. This is the power behind practical blood effects.
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The Sound of Evil
To sell any practical effect, the perfect sound has to be created. The sound elements of horror films are the glue that takes everything to the next level and makes us believe in the practical effects on screen. As Sam Raimi once said to the Hollywood Report, “Sound is one of the best tools a filmmaker has at [their] disposal.”
For The Evil Dead, Raimi’s low-budget film didn’t have the funds to create the monster, but the cult director saw this as “the luckiest thing that ever happened.”
So, how did Raimi create his practical monster on a budget?
“We took out the natural sounds and created a track that was part voice, part music, part sound effects – the voice of the evil,” Raimi says. “We didn’t show what it was; we used these sound tools to plant the seeds in the minds of the audience of what this horror could be.”
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Even though Evil Dead Rise might have a higher budget, the sound design established by Raimi has become a staple of what makes Deadites so terrifying and unnerving. In the trailer, we saw multiple instances of the sound design working overtime. From the constant cracking of eggs to the tile-shattering scream from Deadite Ellie, the sound of Evil Dead Rise carries on Raimi’s legacy of a terrifying hell on Earth.
“I take sound extremely seriously and I’m glad that people are connecting with the soundtrack, the soundscape of the movie, from the music to the sound design,” Cronin told TheWrap. “It’s a full noise film.”
Take a listen to the horrors Cronin designed.
Raimi’s take on low budget horror showed the world the possibilities of the genre. 42 years later, Evil Dead Rise continues the legacy established by a master of horror by delivering practical effects, intricate makeup design, buckets of blood, and hair-raising sound design that is impossible to escape.
Evil Dead Rise is relentless in its pursuit of fear. It is a love letter to the world Raimi created with his no-budget masterpiece by continuing the practical legacy of filmmaking.
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