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  • Writer's pictureAllan Major

The Evil Dead Franchise Reviewed

Featured Image For The Evil Dead Franchise Reviewed.   Poster for The Evil Dead (1981) featuring a woman being dragged into the ground by a demonic hand.
The original Evil Dead introduced us to an unforgiving world of demonic possession. Stephen King called it ‘the most ferociously original horror film of the year.’

In the pantheon of horror, few franchises have carved a legacy as blood-soaked and beloved as "The Evil Dead." Like a chainsaw revving to life in the hands of Ash Williams, this series slices through the conventional horror narrative, leaving behind a trail of gore, groovy one-liners, and a cult following that's as fervent as it is faithful. From a remote cabin in the woods to an apartment block in Los Angeles, the "Evil Dead" franchise has redefined the horror genre, blending slapstick comedy with gut-wrenching terror. Join us as we take a journey through the macabre yet inventive world of "The Evil Dead," where every drop of blood and every scream of terror has contributed to one of the most creative and enduring horror series ever made.

The Evil Dead

It all began in 1981 with "The Evil Dead," a low-budget horror film directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell as the indomitable Ash Williams. Shot on a shoestring budget of $375,000, this original film quickly established itself as a gold standard for campy horror. The plot is deceptively simple: five friends travel to a remote cabin in the woods, where they unwittingly unleash flesh-possessing demons by playing a recording of incantations from the Necronomicon, the Book of the Dead.

What makes "The Evil Dead" stand out in the crowded landscape of horror movies is its unapologetic embrace of gore and its innovative camera work. Raimi's direction is frenetic and inventive, using low-angle shots and rapid cuts to create a sense of disorientation and terror. The film's practical effects, though crude by today's standards, add a visceral quality that CGI often lacks. It’s a primal battle for survival, with Ash fighting to retain his humanity as his friends succumb to demonic possession. Despite its modest beginnings,

"The Evil Dead" has become a cornerstone of the horror genre, influencing countless films and spawning an ever-growing legion of fans.

Evil Dead 2

If "The Evil Dead" laid the foundation, "Evil Dead 2" built a mansion of madness upon it. Released in 1987, this sequel (or more accurately, a reimagining) took the original's premise and cranked it up to eleven. Raimi and Campbell returned, bringing with them a more substantial budget and a clearer vision. "Evil Dead 2" is as much a remake of the first film as it is a sequel, retelling the story with more humor, more gore, and a distinct sense of style.

This time, Ash Williams truly comes into his own, evolving from a hapless survivor to a chainsaw-handed hero. The film is a masterclass in blending horror and comedy, with Campbell delivering one of his most memorable performances. His physical comedy and deadpan delivery make Ash both a relatable everyman and an iconic horror protagonist. The film’s memorable one-liners, such as "Groovy" and "Give me some sugar, baby," have become part of the horror lexicon.

"Evil Dead 2" also introduces new elements to the franchise, such as the infamous chainsaw hand and the concept of the Deadites, demonically possessed beings that torment Ash. The blend of slapstick humor and visceral horror sets "Evil Dead 2" apart, making it one of the best horror movies ever made and a quintessential part of the franchise.

Army of Darkness

By the time "Army of Darkness" hit theaters in 1992, the "Evil Dead" franchise had fully embraced its campy roots. This third installment in the series sees Ash transported to the medieval past, where he must retrieve the Necronomicon and fight an army of the undead to return to his own time. The film is a radical departure from its predecessors, leaning heavily into comedy and fantasy elements.

"Army of Darkness" is a love letter to pulp adventure and slapstick humor, with Bruce Campbell delivering a performance that's equal parts swashbuckler and wisecracking hero. The film’s medieval setting allows for a fresh take on the horror genre, with Raimi’s inventive direction and practical effects creating a world that's both fantastical and terrifying.

Despite its shift in tone, "Army of Darkness" retains the essence of what makes the "Evil Dead" franchise so beloved: a blend of horror, humor, and heart. Ash’s journey from a clueless survivor to a battle-hardened hero is completed in this film, solidifying his place as one of the most iconic characters in horror history.

Poster for Evil Dead (2013) with a red background and a figure standing ominously.
The 2013 reboot of Evil Dead promises an experience so terrifying, it redefines fear. Prepare for a relentless descent into horror.

Evil Dead 2013

After a hiatus of more than two decades, the "Evil Dead" franchise returned with a vengeance in 2013. Directed by Fede Álvarez and produced by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, this reboot is a darker, more intense reimagining of the original film. Gone are the campy elements, replaced by a relentless, blood-soaked descent into terror.

"Evil Dead 2013" follows a similar premise to the original: a group of friends travels to a remote cabin in the woods, where they inadvertently unleash a demonic force after reading from the Necronomicon. However, this film ups the ante with its unflinching gore and brutal violence. Jane Levy stars as Mia, a young woman battling both addiction and demonic possession, delivering a performance that’s both harrowing and compelling.

The reboot’s emphasis on practical effects and visceral horror pays homage to the original while carving out its own identity. It’s a testament to the franchise’s enduring appeal that even without Ash, the "Evil Dead" can still deliver some of the best horror in modern cinema.

Ash Vs. Evil Dead

The legacy of the "Evil Dead" franchise continued with the television series "Ash vs. Evil Dead," which premiered on Starz in 2015. This series brought Bruce Campbell back as Ash Williams, now an aging, washed-up hero who must once again face the Deadites and save the world. Over three seasons, "Ash vs. Evil Dead" blends the humor and horror that fans love, expanding the franchise's mythology and introducing new characters like Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo).

The series retains the franchise’s signature blend of gore and comedy, with Campbell’s performance anchoring the show. His one-liners and physical comedy are as sharp as ever, making "Ash vs. Evil Dead" a worthy continuation of the series. The show explores new aspects of the "Evil Dead" universe, such as Ash’s complicated relationship with his family and his destiny as the chosen one. It’s a fitting tribute to the character and the franchise, providing fans with more of the groovy, blood-soaked fun they crave.

Poster for Evil Dead Rise (2023) featuring a sinister woman with children in her grasp.
In Evil Dead Rise, family ties turn deadly. Mommy's love becomes a terrifying embrace, as the Evil Dead franchise brings horror back to the home.

Evil Dead Rise

The most recent entry in the franchise, "Evil Dead Rise," directed by Lee Cronin and released in 2023, takes the horror to new heights. Set in a Los Angeles apartment block, this film reimagines the "Evil Dead" mythos for a modern audience. Alyssa Sutherland stars as Ellie, a mother who must protect her children from the demonic forces unleashed in their home.

"Evil Dead Rise" combines the franchise’s trademark gore with a fresh setting, creating a claustrophobic and terrifying experience. The film explores themes of family and survival, grounding its horror in the everyday struggles of its characters. Cronin’s direction and Sutherland’s performance bring a new intensity to the series, proving that the "Evil Dead" can still innovate and terrify after more than four decades.


From its humble beginnings as a low-budget horror film to its current status as a multi-generational phenomenon, the "Evil Dead" franchise has carved out a unique place in the annals of horror. Its blend of visceral gore, dark humor, and inventive storytelling has influenced countless films and captivated audiences worldwide. Whether you love the campy charm of the original trilogy or the relentless terror of the 2013 reboot and "Evil Dead Rise," there’s no denying the impact and enduring appeal of this iconic series. As long as there are fans hungry for a blend of horror and humor, the "Evil Dead" franchise will continue to rise from the grave, proving that true terror never dies.

The Evil Dead Franchise Reviewed FAQs

Q: What is the Evil Dead franchise about?

A: The Evil Dead franchise is a seminal horror series that follows the story of Ash Williams, portrayed by Bruce Campbell, as he battles the forces of evil, including Deadites and other supernatural entities. The series is known for its inventive blend of horror, comedy, and over-the-top gore, beginning with a group of friends who accidentally unleash demonic forces by reading from the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, also known as the Book of the Dead. Ash's journey transforms him from an everyman into a chainsaw-wielding hero, combating evil across different timelines and dimensions.

Q: How many films are in the Evil Dead franchise?

A: The franchise consists of three original films directed by Sam Raimi: The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987), and Army of Darkness (1992). The series was revitalized with two additional films: Evil Dead (2013), directed by Fede Álvarez, which serves as a reboot, and Evil Dead Rise (2023), directed by Lee Cronin, which reimagines the horror in a modern urban setting. In total, there are five films within the Evil Dead franchise.

Q: What is the significance of the Book of the Dead in the Evil Dead series?

A: The Book of the Dead, also known as Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, is a fictional grimoire within the Evil Dead series. It is a central plot device responsible for summoning demonic forces and Deadites, which are malevolent entities that possess and torment humans. Written in blood and bound in human flesh, the Necronomicon's incantations unleash a cascade of horror upon the unwitting characters. Its discovery and use are pivotal to the events of each film and the television series, driving the narrative forward and linking the disparate elements of the franchise together.

Q: What is the TV series Ash vs Evil Dead about?

A: Ash vs Evil Dead is a television series that aired from 2015 to 2018 on Starz. It continues the story of Ash Williams, now older and working a dead-end job, as he is once again drawn into battle with the forces of evil. Armed with his trusty chainsaw hand and boomstick, Ash teams up with new allies Pablo Simon Bolivar (Ray Santiago) and Kelly Maxwell (Dana DeLorenzo) to fight Deadites and prevent the apocalypse. The series combines the horror and comedy elements of the original films, further developing Ash's character and expanding the lore of the Necronomicon.

Q: Who are some key characters in the Evil Dead franchise?

A: Key characters in the franchise include Ash Williams, the iconic hero played by Bruce Campbell, known for his memorable one-liners and inventive combat techniques. Supporting characters include Linda, Ash's girlfriend, who appears in the first two films; Cheryl, Ash's sister; and Henrietta, a notable Deadite antagonist. In Ash vs Evil Dead, new characters such as Pablo Simon Bolivar and Kelly Maxwell join Ash in his fight against evil. Other significant characters from the 2013 reboot include Mia Allen (Jane Levy), a young woman battling both addiction and demonic possession.

Q: How has the Evil Dead franchise been received by critics?

A: The Evil Dead franchise has been widely acclaimed by both horror fans and critics. The original films are praised for their innovative direction by Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell's charismatic performance, and the effective blend of horror and slapstick comedy. The 2013 reboot and Evil Dead Rise have been noted for their modern take on the horror elements, maintaining the intense gore and suspense that define the series. Critics have highlighted the franchise's influence on the horror genre, commending its creativity, practical effects, and enduring popularity.

Q: What is the Rotten Tomatoes score for the Evil Dead movies?

A: The Evil Dead movies generally receive positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. The Evil Dead (1981) holds a rating of around 95%, celebrated for its raw energy and groundbreaking approach to horror. Evil Dead II (1987) enjoys a similar score, praised for its perfect mix of horror and comedy. Army of Darkness (1992) has a slightly lower score but is appreciated for its adventurous spirit and humor. Evil Dead (2013) has a score of about 63%, recognized for its unflinching brutality and faithfulness to the franchise's roots. Evil Dead Rise (2023) continues the trend with positive reviews for its fresh take on the franchise, inventive scares, and strong performances, particularly by Alyssa Sutherland.

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