Before You See Evil Dead Rise, You Need To See Director Lee Cronin's The Hole In The Ground

Tackling a film in the "Evil Dead" franchise invented by Sam Raimi is no easy task, and the immediate pressure put upon a director for merely making an attempt is undeniable. Fede Álvarez was the first with the 2013 universe-expanding, "Evil Dead." Now, the torch has been passed to Irish filmmaker Lee Cronin, who has written and directed the upcoming "Evil Dead Rise," which takes the lore of the Deadites out of the fated cabin in the woods, and into a Los Angeles apartment. Another new change is the addition of children, as the film focuses on two sisters, one of whom is a single mother of three. It's an adventurous, risky move, but based on the trailer, it looks like it will pay off handsomely.

It takes a very specific type of director to be able to tackle a horror film featuring children, but Cronin is well-equipped to bring the Deadites into a new environment with pint-sized survivors, especially after his terrifying feature debut, "The Hole in the Ground." The story follows a young woman named Sarah whose young son goes missing into the woods behind their home. Fortunately, her son eventually shows up, but something isn't quite right. He looks the same, but his behavior becomes increasingly concerning. As his antics increase in depravity, Sarah fears that the small child in her home isn't actually her son, but an imposter. For any die-hard "Evil Dead" fans worried about whether or not Cronin can deliver, consider this your sign to watch "The Hole in the Ground."

A new way to showcase familiar lore

"The Hole in the Ground" draws from Irish folklore like Changelings and Fairy Forts, but is told in a way that feels right at home with even the most Americanized supernatural scary story. As /Film's Chris Evangelista said in his review of the film back in 2019, "[Lee] Cronin is not f****** around. He has one thing on his mind: he wants to scare you, no matter what it takes." Tales of Changelings are nothing new in horror, but rather than abandon the folk origins for something completely new, "The Hole in the Ground" embraces the mystery of ancient legend but sets the film in the present day. This should be exciting to fans of "The Evil Dead," as it proves Cronin knows how to take something classic, and make it feel fresh without losing the roots of what made the story effective in the first place.

The film is also filled with creepy and deeply unsettling humanoid creature designs. The scariest thing about Deadites (in my opinion) has always been how close they are to appearing human. As much as people like to poke fun at Shelley in "The Evil Dead" for having a freakout after Cheryl becomes possessed and repeats, "For God's sake, what happened to her eyes?!" she was onto something. When something is off but not enough to warrant a fight-or-flight response, we're just left feeling instinctual anxiety. In many instances, it's almost worse to experience the "not quite right" stage compared to the "something is very wrong" finale, because at least then you don't have to wonder if you're overreacting.

A nightmare of design choices

As striking as the terrifying visuals of the Changeling-like creature are, the power of the score pushed me to the edge of my seat. Lee Cronin successfully crafts a world where everything feels out of place from the very beginning, and never lets up. The camera work is meant to throw the viewer off-balance, and the sound design is the stuff of nightmares. In fact, where "The Hole in the Ground" truly shines is in its relentless sound design, which some may find grating, but I personally found extremely effective. If this is any indicator of what we can expect in "Evil Dead Rises," we should all anticipate a racing heartbeat and sweaty palms while sitting in our theater seats.

The sound design of "The Evil Dead" films have always been as memorable as the buckets of blood, and it's obvious Sam Raimi took note of the similarities in Cronin's filmmaking style when choosing him for the job. While "Evil Dead Rises" certainly looks to be infinitely more graphic and gory than "The Hole in the Ground," Cronin's haunting Irish horror flick should have fans even more excited for what's to come from his adventures in the Necronomicon. 

"The Hole in the Ground" is currently streaming on Paramount+ and Showtime Anytime.