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The Evil Dead Franchise for Newbies

Evil Dead

Boomsticks, Chainsaws & Gore Galore

Evil Dead may have started out as a video store cult classic, but it’s grown to become one of the biggest titles in horror history. In the past year alone, the franchise released a new film as well as a new video game, and Evil Dead even had a crossover event in Fortnite last October. With more eyes on Sam Raimi’s demonic brainchild than ever, it’s time to get groovy and learn the fundamentals of the Evil Dead series.

A History Written in Blood

Evil Dead came out in 1981 and was created by childhood friends Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. Despite the duo’s lack of experience, a torturous production period, and a measly budget of $375,000, the film was a critical success at the Cannes Film Festival. A rave review by Stephen King garnered the attention of New Line Cinema. The studio made an agreement with Raimi to release the film simultaneously in theaters and on VHS, and Evil Dead quickly became a cult hit. Since then, the film received two sequels, a television series, and two reboots. Despite its simple roots, the series has become one of the most critically acclaimed franchises in Hollywood horror history.

How to Watch 

The primary Evil Dead story follows Ash Williams—a flirtatious yet thickheaded sales clerk. After joining his friends for a weekend getaway at a remote cabin, everything goes to hell—literally—when the group stumbles upon an ancient book bound in human flesh. Demonic forces begin to close in upon the cabin, and Ash is forced to trade his good vibes for a sawed-off shotgun, a chainsaw hand, and a hefty serving of one liners.

Evil Dead Viewing Order

Ash’s adventures start in the first Evil Dead and continue into Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness, and Ash vs. Evil Dead. However, due to differing distributors and entangled rights agreements, Ash’s story does not follow a straight line. Evil Dead is still a recommended watch due to its impact on horror cinema, but Evil Dead II essentially remakes and summarizes the first film in its opening act. Due to this, the original Evil Dead isn’t needed to understand Evil Dead II and its sequel, Army of Darkness. In another confusing turn of events, Ash vs. Evil Dead canonizes Evil Dead as well as a majority of Evil Dead II, but it completely ignores the events of Army of Darkness. This means that there are two viewing orders for the series: Evil Dead II to Army of Darkness, or Evil Dead to Evil Dead II to Ash vs. Evil Dead. That being said, all of the entries are still worth watching. Despite narrative inconsistencies, each of the films and the television series share the same energy and DNA, and they’re all easy to get into—just don’t watch Ash vs. Evil Dead first. 

Confused by the timeline and looking for an easier way to dip the proverbial toe into the series? The two most recent films in the franchise—Evil Dead (2013) and Evil Dead Rise (2023) are both self-contained stories in the greater Evil Dead universe. Evil Dead (2013) is a back-to-basics remake of the first film with a higher emphasis on horror and intense violence. Evil Dead Rise takes its story away from a cabin in the woods and into a Los Angeles apartment building where it focuses on a family who discovers the Book of the Dead. While bloodier than the original trilogy of films, it more closely adheres to their over-the-top nature than it does the brutality of Evil Dead (2013). Both films function as good starting points for modern audiences and also include fun references for those who have seen the previous films.

Evil Dead Viewing Order

Evil Dead Rise (2023): Official Warner Bros. Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Ethan Mallory joined the Dead Talk News team in 2023. Aside from writing for Dead Talk News, he has also worked as a student editor for the Short Vine Literary Journal. Ethan is currently pursuing a film major and an English minor at the University of Cincinnati. While working for Dead Talk News, he has covered trending horror and action film news and written comic reviews.