Evil Dead Rise: Change in Book of the Dead Lore Leaves Door Open for Bruce Campbell Return (2024)

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A surprising revelation in Evil Dead Rise points to a clearer continuity across the franchise.

Evil Dead Rise: Change in Book of the Dead Lore Leaves Door Open for Bruce Campbell Return (1)By Joe George | |

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This post contains light spoilers for Evil Dead Rise.

Since the late 1980s, one of the key characteristics of a budding cinephile was the ability to explain the relationship between 1981’s The Evil Dead and 1987’s Evil Dead II. Where the first movie introduced the world to director Sam Raimi‘s dynamic style, as well as star Bruce Campbell‘s unique charisma, its independent production meant that it only rose to the level of a cult hit. To expand the audience, Evil Dead II opens not by picking up where the first left off, with Campbell’s beleaguered Ash Williams potentially possessed, but by remaking the first movie, at least in its opening act.

Whatever explanation fans gave to smooth over the transition between the first two movies, it set a precedent for everything that followed. Evil Dead would be about gore and Three Stooges gags, not strict continuity. 1992’s Army of Darkness directly continues Evil Dead II, with Ash battling Ray Harryhausen-esque Deadites in the Middle Ages (after essentially remaking the events of the first and second film again for a brief prologue), but copyright restrictions meant that the 2015 TV series Ash vs Evil Dead would have to ignore the that movie. So when director Fede Alvarez’s 2013 remake Evil Dead followed 90 minutes of intense gore visited upon a whole new cabin-visiting cast—with a single shot of Campbell’s Ash saying “Groovy” as a pseudo post-credits stinger—fans didn’t waste time trying to figure it out.

Now, nearly 40 years after Evil Dead II, the latest installment of the Evil Dead series seems to determined to at least gesture toward an explanation for the differences in the various movies and shows, suggesting that they could all, in fact, take place in the same universe! Even though it takes place in a Los Angeles high-rise instead of a Tennessee cabin, Evil Dead Rise follows the same basic premise, in which someone finds the Book of the Dead, an inscription is read, and the next thing you know, people are getting possessed by demonic Deadites.


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In Rise, the fateful reading occurs via vinyl records found by teen Danny (Morgan Davies), who plays a recording from a priest who dabbles in paranormal search. While the recording follows the usual path of reading cursed phrases, it also throws in a surprising tidbit: the researcher tells his audience of fellow clergymen that he’s holding not the Book of the Dead, but one of the three Books of the Dead. In other words, the events in Rise do not negate those in other Evil Dead movies but instead occur alongside them.

Evil Dead Rise director Lee Cronin admitted to Den of Geek he got the idea from a shot in Army of Darkness, in which Ash finds the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis alongside two other books. In his head canon, this pointed to three different Books: the Naturom Demonto, the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, and the Book of the Dead.

Rise involves the last of those three, which Cronin called the “bastard cousin” of the other two, thanks to its Celtic, instead of Sumerian or Egyptian, aspects. “They might have slightly different edges to them in terms of what they can do, and there’s a little subtle change or two to the incantations,” Cronin explained. More importantly, the three books “open up the door for moreEvil Deadstories moving forward by changing it up.”

Indeed, the existence of three books means that Ash dealt with one book in his movies and TV series, Mia dealt with another in 2013’s Evil Dead, and that the characters in Rise dealt with the third. This paves the way for something of an Avengers: Infinity War of Evil Dead, teaming Mia and the Rise survivors with the original Deadite killer, Ashley J. Williams.

Immediately, one might raise objections on the grounds of tone. Where the first Evil Dead was certainly a gnarly bit of business, the second took full advantage of Campbell’s willingness to play the buffoon. By the time we get to Ash vs Evil Dead, the title character is a doofus who releases the Deadites by getting high and reading the incantation to impress a girl. Contrast that to the far more relentless 2013 movie and even the chatty Deadites from Rise. Outside of the shared experience of fighting book-inspired monsters, the three don’t seem to have much in common.

But Ash has found himself in even more unlikely places, particularly in comic book pages. Not only has Ash dropped by the Marvel Universe (fun fact: the Marvel Zombies are in fact Deadites spread by Sentry) and paired with Barack Obama, but he also participated in a story that almost came to theaters: Freddy vs Jason vs Ash.


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If Ash can park his Delta 88 alongside those unlikely partners, then he can certainly saddle up with other Deadite destroyers. After all, if there’s one thing Evil Dead‘s odd continuity has proven, a severed arm wound can be stopped by a chainsaw, no Shemp is a Fake Shemp, and Evil Dead can take many different forms and tones.

Granted, Campbell originally said that after Ash vs Evil Dead ends that he wouldn’t reprise the character. However, in the last year he since has walked back that assertion, telling Fangoria earlier this year that “If Sam says, ‘I, Sam Raimi, will direct anotherEvil Deadmovie,’ then I, Bruce Campbell, will consider being in it.'”


Is it time for the king to come again?

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Tags: Army of DarknessBruce CampbellEvil DeadHorrorSam RaimiThe Evil Dead

Evil Dead Rise: Change in Book of the Dead Lore Leaves Door Open for Bruce Campbell Return (2)

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Joe George|@jageorgeii

Joe George’s writing has appeared at Slate, Polygon, Tor.com, and elsewhere!

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