Every Evil Dead Movie And Show Ranked, From Good To Groovy
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The Evil Dead series is one of the most outlandish horror franchises around. Its original blend of dark comedy and shocking violence entertained in a manner typically reserved for exploitative/grindhouse releases but with a wider appeal. Critics and horror fans are mostly united on just how "groovy" Evil Dead can be.
The original Evil Dead film was elevated from a well-received late-night experience to a certified cult classic, thanks in part to the talents of director Sam Raimi and famed actor Bruce Campbell. In fact, it became such a fan-favorite that it would go on to spawn several sequels, a remake, and even a TV show. The latest entry, Lee Cronin's Evil Dead Rise, is scheduled to release in theaters on April 21.
Evil Dead Rise will serve as a revamp of sorts. Gone are the old towns and cabins in the woods. Instead, there's a high rise apartment building for our heroes to battle in. And from what can be seen of the trailers, the movie places an emphasis on dark humor and brutally violent encounters making it a must see for fans.
To celebrate Evil Dead's return to the big screen, we've decided to rank the entire franchise from decent to best (as opposed to bad to good). Because honestly, it would be easier to disembowel a deadite than to outright hate on any of the previously released entries, including the whacky Ash vs. Evil Dead TV series.
Note: This list encompasses the Evil Dead films and television series. It doesn't include the video games, comic books and the Evil Dead Musical though they all are worth checking out in their own right.
5. Army of Darkness (1993)
Army of Darkness bookended the original Evil Dead trilogy in absurdity. Instead of offering fans a follow-up that was tonally similar to Evil Dead 2, Sam Raimi and co. leaned into the franchises' comedic aspects. And while it does work as a follow-up plotwise, the movie feels like a parody of the first two films; there isn't a frightful event to speak of, let alone champion.
The comedy isn't as dark as one would expect. Instead, the gags are more in line with a Leslie Nielsen movie than an Evil Dead installment. There's also the practical and hit-or-miss special effects, a noticeable issue given the movie's scope. Individual deadites looked great. The army of skeletons and some larger monstrosities, not so much.
That said, Army of Darkness still proves to be a fun watch thanks to Bruce Campbell's charm and the film's overall campy vibe. Seeing Ash battle various monsters (including mini versions of himself) in the middle ages using a chainsaw and shotgun combo is guaranteed to at least garner a few chuckles.
4. Ash vs. Evil Dead (2015-2018)
The Ash vs. Evil Dead show was a fan-centered treat. It had almost everything they could want: a ton of gore, bad one-liners, endearing new characters, a plot filled with demonic lore--it even featured a return to the franchise's iconic cabin.
Ash vs. Evil Dead wasn't very scary. Aside from a few scenes here and there, it was void of any thrilling, pulse-pounding moments. Instead, the emphasis was placed on having a bloody good time with likable characters. Ray Santiago's Pablo is a standout. His turn from naive side-kick into a bonafide hero is a treat to watch. Dana DeLorenzo and Lucy Lawless are also great as the tough-as-nails Kelly Maxwell and surprisingly evil Ruby Knowby, respectively. The entire cast seemed to enjoy hamming it up on screen as much as the fans enjoyed laughing at them. Essentially, the Ash vs. Evil Dead show was cheesy in all the right ways.
There were some issues when it came to the show's plot. One being the reluctance to kill off key characters. It didn't matter if they became possessed or were actually "murdered", they'd always find their way back. This treatment weakened some of the more heartfelt moments. It also removed any sense of fear associated with a character's demise; it's hard to care about a wild cliffhanger when one considers how the heroes always seemed to make it through despite actually dying in the process.
3. The Evil Dead (1981)
The original Evil Dead movie is a classic. It not only helped in launching the careers of both Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, it also introduced the world to the deadite scourge. Things start out spooky enough. An old cabin in the woods, a group of college students, the book of the dead--what could go wrong? Apparently, everything.
Sam Raimi didn't pull any punches when it came to depicting the violent deaths of his cast. This resulted in a gory and, at times, outright disgusting movie that scared the pants off viewers. There was some humor of course--a character becoming possessed after accidentally swallowing a flying eyeball is as silly as it sounds.
The Evil Dead has aged quite a bit, and the prosthetic makeup and stop-motion animation don't hold up as well as one would hope. Still, the movie remains unnerving to watch. Acting as a blueprint of sorts for the franchise, with the emphasis placed on shocking body horror over comedy, it's a solid horror movie.
2. Evil Dead (2013)
Fede Álvarez's take on the Evil Dead is gruesome. Instead of trying to emulate the comedic elements found in the Sam Raimi films, Álvarez wisely takes a different approach--that being to lean into the horror side of things. The result is a disturbingly violent movie that not only lives up to the Evil Dead name but also introduces a darker path for subsequent movies to follow.
2013's Evil Dead does have its faults though. Some of the jump scares are diluted by how predictable they are. The horror is further subdued by scenes that overstay their welcome, making it easier to become desensitized to the frequent blood letting. And considering how it's a reimagining of the first movie, it isn't as unique or shocking as it could have been.
That said, it still offers a thrilling experience for Evil Dead fans and newcomers alike. The movie's plot is engaging. It features a cast of likable characters, the occasional dumb choice notwithstanding. There are some genuinely creepy moments, and the body horror is pushed to an extreme level, especially when it comes to the main antagonist. There is a lot to like here. So much so that it's rather easy to look over some of the movie's shortcomings.
1. Evil Dead 2 (1987)
Evil Dead 2 is a certified cult classic. A near-perfect combination of humor and horror, this re-quel (sequel/prequel) is easily the best film in the Evil Dead franchise. It features the Ash fans have come to love, hilarious slapstick comedy, and some truly terrifying moments--it proved once and for all that old decrepit cellars aren't safe to venture down into, even when armed.
Of course, Evil Dead 2 is also silly and as over-the-top as any other movie on this list. That doesn't stop it from being wildly entertaining, though. If anything, the madness on screen gives credence to the plot. Thematically, everything works as intended, gory bits and all.