[Editor’s note: This story contains major spoilers for “Evil Dead Rise.”]
No one in the Evil Dead universe keeps plans like Jessica.
You know, Jessica: the sun hat-clad bookend to Lee Cronin’s splatter-ific “Evil Dead Rise,” played by Anna-Maree Thomas. The character appears possessed in the film’s prologue, kicking off the vicious city-slicking sequel as its first Deadite with a gruesome scalping and decapitation scene set at a remote lake cabin.
“That was key thing from the get-go because I had this idea that I wanted to bring you to a familiar place, but also kind of tease you and show you that I’d subvert your expectations,” Cronin told IndieWire of the film’s opening vignette in a spoiler-heavy conversation via Zoom. “Then we set it in the city, so once I’d made that up I was like, ‘Well, I need a reason to do [the cabin scenes]. I need to be motivated somehow.’ And that’s what gave me the idea.”
Even with Alyssa Sutherland’s single mom Ellie skittering apartment walls like a cannibalistic cockroach in the main story — a brutally funny portrait of an urban Los Angeles family literally torn apart by Deadites — it’s Jessica who makes the movie’s whackiest journey.
“The first sequence we experience in the movie, if you actually reordered it, is the last thing in terms of the timeline,” Cronin explained. “The order of the movie is what happens in the city, then it’s the epilogue with the girl in the parking lot, and then it’s the opening, which I found quite fun and also just felt different for an Evil Dead movie.”
He continued: “But also as much as it felt different, Evil Dead is kind of weird. Like ‘Evil Dead II,’ it’s got this weird prologue and nothing quite connects. So it felt within the world and acceptable to do.”
We first meet Deadite Jessica lakeside, delighting in the drone-involved dismemberment of her friends Teresa (Mirabai Pease) and Caleb (Richard Crouchley) before the title card hits. After the film’s gruesome main event and outrageous woodchipper finale, we see Jessica again: this time pre-possession and on her way to meet those soon-to-be former friends for a lake weekend away.
Jessica exits her apartment building and, totally oblivious to the hell that’s been unearthed around her, stumbles upon some Deadite carnage near her car. She then gets attacked, becomes possessed, and presumably gets her ass in gear to go on vacation anyway.
Asked if Jessica’s surprisingly mobile maneuvering of the California highway system portends some kind of scalable Deadite apocalypse, Cronin said, “Exactly that. The idea of someone, who is slowly turning into a Deadite, driving a car kind of cracks me up. And I remember taking influence from COVID: everybody gets it different, right? There’s no one size fits all. In the Evil Dead world, your psychological strengths and weaknesses have an impact in terms of how you’re possessed and how you behave.”
“For me it is the beginning of something greater,” the writer/director continued. “That’s the one thing I wanted to really double-down on in this film and the line is there, on the vinyl, when the priest says, ‘This evil can’t be contained, can’t be stopped, all you can do is run.'”
“I’ve always liked that about Evil Dead from the get-go,” he said. “It might not have been an intentional choice on behalf of [Sam Raimi], but when they’re just driving in in Evil Dead, this force kind of rises up and is showing its head in the forest and it’s like, But no one’s even read from the book. You know what I mean? At that point. So it’s always there. And once you let the genie out of the bottle, I love the idea that can’t put it away.”
“”In terms of moving it forward, I think there’s great potential there,” Cronin said of the franchise’s future. “I’ve got three to four different avenues that we can take. There’s history in this film that’s shared on vinyl, and that’s a place that can be gone to. There’s the 10-minutes-later story with those that survive and where they go. There’s also the people that will arrive at this building, post carnage. And there’s also the lake and the countryside as well. Where we go next, in a lot of ways I think, you want to listen to fans and see what people get excited by. But I’m enthusiastic about the opportunities for more.”
“I think ‘Evil Dead Rise’ is a bloody slash in a new direction,” he concluded. “It’s a universe opener.”
A Warner Bros. release, “Evil Dead Rise” is now in theaters.