When Irish director-writer Lee Cronin’s debut feature film, The Hole in the Ground, premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2019, it caught the attention of Sam Raimi. Raimi offered Cronin the opportunity to reboot the Evil Dead franchise which the director has turned into the ultimate, no holds barred bloodbath.
In Cronin’s Evil Dead Rise, the action has moved from a cabin in the woods to an LA apartment and follows a family in peril who have to confront the evil force.
Here we run down Five Things with Lee Cronin…
1) Setting the record straight on that SXSW premiere
When the film screened at SXSW earlier in 2023, Bruce Campbell had to shut down an angry heckler who proclaimed the film sucked… “This is actually a good chance to clear up the story. When I sat down to do the Q&A I looked up at this balcony box and there was this set of sneakers poking over the top and I was like, is that real? I thought someone might have passed out from watching the movie.
“This guy was passed out drunk in the box, so he got woken up and like a big baby started to scream and shout and didn’t want to leave. I think he works in gonzo film marketing and promotion, but I think he’d been barred from coming to the screening. He had wormed his way in and he had a chip on his shoulder about the movie before he arrived. What an asshole!”
2) Horror Family Values
Cronin watched the first two Evil Dead films on VHS with his dad around the age of nine. Cronin also watched a lot of horror films with his siblings too. “There’s an eight-year age gap between me and my sister. I’m the youngest. I’m the late lamb. I was exposed to stuff at a young age because my sister was 15 years old and wanting to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street.
“I got to see things I really shouldn’t have at a really young age. I saw The Shining really young! If I could be half the filmmaker [Stanley] Kubrick is, I’d be very happy. I do think one of the things I took from Kubrick in a way, and it is in both of my movies, is precision and control. I like audiences to have to submit to what I’m doing, and let me hold their hand and take them on the journey.”
3) The Sound of Evil
Cronin takes sound very seriously and worked with sound designer Peter Albrechtsen to create an atmosphere of pure dread using a combination of practical and digital sound effects. “If you take the book for example, when you hear those pages being turned on the book, that is Peter recording the turning of pages on 100-year-old books. Of course you always dig into digital, but as much as we could it was practical new sounds.
“Also we snuck in a bunch of the original analogue Evil Dead sound effects which I had on file. The fly that you hear at the beginning and end of the movie is the fly from the first movie. The wind you hear in the underground vault with Danny is the wind that Sam Raimi recorded that’s in the first movie. We wove a little bit of the past into the film.”
4) Mummy Issues
So far, both of Cronin’s feature films navigate themes of fear of motherhood and family in peril. “I don’t think you ever know the root of why these themes are important. Part of it comes from influences and movies like The Shining or even E.T. which I watched when I was growing up.
“The family wound, everyone has one. No family is perfect. I think it’s important to look at that. It’s important to look at that through the context of a horror movie. My family is not perfect. As I said no one’s is. We’ve had our traumas and our bumps along the way in life. I guess as a writer and trying to be an artist you end up analysing and creating and writing about the things that you’ve observed along the way.”
5) Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s Advice
Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell gave Cronin their blessing for this reboot and acted as executive producers. “They come from humble roots in how they made movies. They understand the importance of vision. I think good producers, if they identify a filmmaker they want to work with, then you back that person all the way. Sam said, ‘just make sure you use the book!’ He was like, ‘make sure you use the book and make sure the deadites are scary.’
“These things were important to me along with the chainsaw, and there are certain things I absolutely knew I wanted to use because I am a fan. I wanted to tell my own story, I wanted to make my own movie but I am a fan. I remember Sam once said, ‘here’s the car keys.’ I thought I’ve got to go drive this beast and make sure I crash into things along the way because it’s Evil Dead.
“They were supportive and I could always reach out and ask questions, but Sam has gone on the record saying, especially once he saw the first few day rushes come in, how he was able to relax.”
Evil Dead Rise is set to be released in UK cinemas on 21 April 2023 from Studiocanal. Read our review here.