It took a while, but the Evil Dead movies have finally reached franchise point. After Sam Raimi (Drag Me To Hell) wrote and directed the trilogy capper, Army of Darkness, he took an extended break from horror. Fans of the Evil Dead franchise waited almost 20 years before we finally got a new movie – the 2013 remake. Unfortunately, another decade passed before another franchise entry made its way to theatres. If there’s good news, Evil Dead Rise has been a box office and critical success. So maybe we’ll being getting more sequels a little sooner moving forward. In the meantime, we rank the five movies in the remarkably consistent Evil Dead franchise from good to classic.
5 – Evil Dead (2013)
Placing the Evil Dead reboot at the bottom of any list feels strange. Specifically, Fede Alvarez’s (Don’t Breathe) re-imagining of Sam Raimi’s classic is a damn good horror movie. It also happens to rank among the best of horror remakes in recent memory. This is a lean, brutally violent horror movie that sticks to practical effects in place of shoddy CGI bloodshed. Throw in an unexpected swerve in the hero protagonist category and this is about as clever of a remake as you’re likely to find. In addition, Jane Levy makes for a fantastic central hero – if we’re lucky, her ‘Mia’ will turn up in future installments. Unlike the other Evil Dead movies the reboot is deadly serious – there’s nothing remotely funny here. And that may warrant a lower ranking for many series fans.
4 – Army of Darkness (1992)
Okay, as mentioned above, the Evil Dead movies are defined by a high level of consistency – there’s no bad movie among the series. Rather it’s a preference in regards to tone that will likely influence personal rankings. From Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn to Army of Darkness, Raimi increasingly injected slapstick humor into the movies. Whether Army of Darkness ranks higher or lower on your personal list will depend on whether you prefer straight horror to a mix of horror and comedy. Aside from its themes and imagery, there’s actually not much in the way of horror in Army of Darkness. Instead, Raimi’s in full on absurdist humor – but this is where Bruce Campbell fully shines and Ash becomes a genuine horror icon. This third entry to the series is pure B-movie fun and it’s utterly quotable. If Army of Darkness ranks higher on your list, it absolutely belong at that spot.
3 – Evil Dead Rise (2023)
How many horror franchises can claim they’re still churning out good movies over 40 years after the original released? Ten years after the reboot hit theaters, Evil Dead Rises not only impressed at the box office, it earned stellar reviews. Director Lee Cronin moves the Necronomicon from dilapidated cabins in the woods to an urban high rise and still doesn’t miss a beat. Similar to the 2013 reboot, Cronin tones down the slapstick humor. But plenty of blood spills out all over the screen in this lean, nasty horror movie. Once the action starts, Evil Dead Rise rarely slows things down for long. No one is safe in this one – not even the kids. If you’re going to wait a decade to make a sequel, this is how you do it.
2 – Evil Dead (1981)
It was a difficult choice to put the original The Evil Dead at the Number 2 spot on this list. Just based on its impact on the horror genre alone, you could put it at the top of a series ranking. Writer and director Sam Raimi practically invented the ‘cabin in woods’ trope and showed off the DIY practical effects approach that characterized the genre for the decade. Yes, it’s a shoestring movie that looks sloppy and occasionally, silly. In what was only his second directorial effort, Raimi hadn’t quite perfected the mix of horror and slapstick humor. And Bruce Campbell’s ‘Ash’ hadn’t morphed into the character we know and love yet. But The Evil Dead remains a class in its own right – it’s a horror movie that defined 80s horror for many genre fans.
1 – Evil Dead 2 – Dead By Dawn (1987)
Call it a sequel. Or maybe it’s a soft reboot. Regardless Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn is one of the greatest horror movies ever made. It takes everything that worked in the 1981 original and improves upon it. Though it’s still an ultra cheap-looking movie with plenty of obscene, gross-out moments, Evil Dead II perfectly blends its horror and zany comedy. The Deadites‘ tormenting of Ash is a classic scene that shows off Raimi’s idiosyncratic style. And the sequel gave us the chainsaw-handed Ash Williams that would become a horror icon.
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