Evil Dead Rise Has A Lot In Common With Sam Raimi's Most Misunderstood Movie

This article contains mild spoilers for "Evil Dead Rise."

"Evil Dead Rise," the latest installment in the now 40-odd-year-old "Evil Dead" franchise, is filled to the brim with evidence of writer/director Lee Cronin's bonafides toward being a fan of the series. While the film isn't merely a work of fan service, the movie is suffused with references to the earlier "Evil Dead" films, from Deadites screaming "Dead by dawn!" to a very particular clock being seen at a cabin in the film's opening sequence.

Yet Cronin isn't content with paying homage to just the "Evil Dead" series — in addition to multiple references to Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining," "Evil Dead Rise" contains some latent homages to numerous other horror films, including Lamberto Bava's similar demons-loose-in-a-high-rise splatter opus, "Demons 2." Most surprisingly, however, "Evil Dead Rise" appears to have a good deal in common with another Sam Raimi film, one that the director has all but disowned over the years: 1985's "Crimewave." While Cronin may or may not have intentionally threaded in references to that much-maligned film, it speaks to the movie's quintessential Raimi-ness that "Crimewave" and "Evil Dead Rise" seem to share some DNA.

Crimewave is demented, bizarre, and underrated

Raimi, co-star/producer Bruce Campbell, and producer Rob Tapert have made no secret about their feelings for "Crimewave" over the years. As recently as the SXSW panel for the premiere of "Evil Dead Rise," Campbell explained that the failure of the movie taught them to develop a "Crimewave meter" that allows them to say no to projects they can see going south.

It's most likely due to the bad vibes the Michigan-raised filmmaking trio has given the film over the years since its botched release and poor reception that the movie hasn't undergone a major reappraisal, because "Crimewave" isn't just a Raimi film, but an early Coen Brothers work as well, as the movie was co-written by Joel and Ethan Coen along with Raimi.

With a pedigree like that, it's nearly impossible for the movie to be dull or uninteresting, two things it decidedly isn't. "Crimewave" is indeed a demented slice of cinema, a combination of '40s film noir, Warner Bros. cartoons, and "Three Stooges"-style slapstick. The plot revolves around a dorky sap, Victor Ajax (Reed Birney), an employee of Trend-Odegard Security. His boss, Ernest Trend (Edward R. Pressman), arranges to have his business partner Donald Odegard (Hamid Dana) whacked upon discovering that Odegard plans to sell the business to Renaldo "The Heel" (Campbell) behind his back. The two killers Trend hires, Faron (Paul L. Smith) and Arthur (Brion James), are equal parts vicious and inept and end up killing both Odegard and Trend by accident. When Trend's nosy wife, Helene (Louise Lasser, apparently wearing her exact same wardrobe from the infamous Thanksgiving slasher flick "Blood Rage") witnesses the hit and the building's other residents (including Victor and his love interest) get mistakenly caught up in the proceedings, "Crimewave" goes enjoyably off the rails.

High-rise havoc

Although it's only really for the middle section of the film, "Crimewave" has a setting acutely in common with "Evil Dead Rise." During that section, a lot of overlap occurs with "Rise," which itself is set (save an opening sequence) inside a Los Angeles apartment building. In "Rise," the building is beset by a violent earthquake, while in "Crimewave," the night's events are exacerbated by a violent storm ("Storm! City in Chaos" reads a newspaper headline). In "Rise," Beth (Lily Sullivan) and the other residents of the cursed building can't make use of the main elevator once the demonic presence takes it over, while Arthur in "Crimewave" finds himself nearly captured by the police thanks to a precocious young boy insisting that the elevator stops at every floor.

Being made in between "The Evil Dead" and "Evil Dead II," "Crimewave" also contains large traces of Raimi's penchant for menace, including moments where Helene sees Faron threaten her via the building's security cameras in a very similar fashion to the possessed Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) berating her family through the apartment door's peephole in "Rise." As Victor and Nancy (Sheree J. Wilson) attempt to escape the exterminators, they find dead bodies suddenly blocking their path, a hazard that Beth and Kassie (Nell Fisher) also must contend with when attempting to escape their apartment building.

Finally, the building in "Crimewave" is filled with eccentric neighbors, one of whom happens to fortuitously own a pack of attack Dobermans, while in "Rise," Mr. Fonda (Mark Mitchinson) is a very handy fellow who not only owns a shotgun, but keeps a wood chipper and a chainsaw in the building's basement, something Beth makes good use of.

Crimewave is in the Evil Dead universe

Sure, all of these similarities may be mere coincidences rather than deliberate homage. Still, there's a good reason why "Crimewave" belongs in the discussion of the "Evil Dead" franchise, and it's not simply to do with Raimi, Campbell, and Tapert's involvement — it's that, canonically, "Crimewave" exists within the "Evil Dead" universe.

In the same faux issue of the Detroit Free Press that announces the storm in "Crimewave," there is another headline on the front page that exclaims "Military seal off Tennessee murder site. Time-space disturbance discovered." "The Evil Dead" was shot in Morristown, Tennessee, and although the series "Ash vs Evil Dead" retconned the fateful cabin to be located somewhere in Michigan, the original film and "Evil Dead II" kept Tennessee as the primary setting.

So, whether by intention or happenstance, "Crimewave" and "Evil Dead Rise" are at least tangentially connected. After seeing "Evil Dead Rise" this weekend, why not give "Crimewave" a try? At the very least, they'd make a killer double feature.