Evil Dead Rise Requires Zero Knowledge Of The Franchise To Enjoy

The more we see studios embrace the legacy sequel, the more impenetrable franchises become. Nowadays, fans are encouraged to consume more than the thing they are just watching, with spin-off media from across several years becoming necessary just to understand a simple Easter egg or cameo.

It's the reason why the current landscape of "Star Wars" is so divisive, with the idea of everything being connected leading to 15 years' worth of "Star Wars" media being required to recognize Glup Shitto in the latest episode of "The Mandalorian." Likewise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is quickly becoming as convoluted as its comics counterpart, which — like DC — is nearly impossible for newcomers to get into without extensive research and reading guides.

This is to say, it could have been very easy for "Evil Dead Rise" to act as a continuation of the original trilogy or "Ash vs Evil Dead," spending the opening scene with a montage explaining the history of the franchise and loading the rest of the story with callbacks to the franchise's 41-year history. 

Thankfully, this is not the case, and "Evil Dead Rise" is a fully standalone film anyone can enjoy and scream at even if they have never heard the word Deadite. As our own Jacob Hall wrote in his review out of SXSW, this film is "a hyper-violent tour through a nightmarish funhouse that pauses only to show off something gnarly enough that you can only scream or laugh."

New is better

Part of what makes "Evil Dead Rise" stand on its own rather than feel like just another chapter in the franchise is the change of setting. Instead of another horror story in the woods, we're in the concrete jungle, with the entire movie taking place in a single apartment building. This change makes it easier to distinguish the movie as a standalone story because of how established the "Evil Dead" formula is and how strong the franchise's iconography is. Remove one of the major elements of it, and you already have a movie that feels disconnected.

After "Ash vs Evil Dead," a show that was so clearly made for major fans who could recognize every single reference, this is a major pivot. But where that show was a direct continuation, this is clearly something else, not a legacy sequel, not a remake, but simply a film that takes the iconography of the franchise to tell an entirely new story.

Granted, there are Easter eggs that require you to have knowledge of the movies to understand, but some are even just general callbacks to moments so ingrained in the pop culture zeitgeist that no previous knowledge is required — like the mandatory sight of a chainsaw. 

This is the best decision the filmmakers could take. Rather than appeal to a hardcore base that can be loyal, but not necessarily numerous enough to make this movie a hit, the film uses familiar concepts and the title of the franchise to tell a story inspired by its core ideas and rules, but with a distinct personality — and some iconography of its own, like the unsettling cheese grater scene.