The original Sam Raimi-directed horror classic will screen in cinemas this October.
By Clark Collis
July 12, 2021 at 12:00 PM EDT
Horror fans rejoice! EW can exclusively reveal that Fathom Events and Grindhouse Releasing are bringing horror classic The Evil Dead back to cinemas this October to mark the movie’s 40th anniversary. The only problem? Bruce Campbell, who plays the Evil Dead franchise’s much-tortured lead character Ashley “Ash” Williams, isn’t convinced 2021 is the 40th anniversary of director Sam Raimi‘s cabin-in-the-woods tale. “I would not call it the 40th anniversary, I would call it the 42nd anniversary,” says Campbell. “There’s always a difference between when the movie actually got shot and when it came out. And with Evil Dead, it was about two or three years difference, because we filmed it in 1979, so we’re coming up on 42-odd years later. But it’s fun to celebrate it!”
The Evil Dead will screen in theaters on Oct. 7 with an exclusive introduction by Campbell. “Yeah, that’s the rumor,” the actor says with a laugh. “I’m going to film that at a drive-in coming up in the next day or two. I think it’s a good opportunity to look back and be grateful that it hung around this long. People still seem to want to watch it, they still seem to enjoy it. It’s on to the next generation now. It’s not even the original fans. Their children have been introduced to it now. So it’s my job just to keep perpetuating it.”
Below, Campbell talks more about The Evil Dead, the upcoming Evil Dead Rise, and rumors that he will appear in the Raimi-directed superhero sequel Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What is the ideal preparation for watching The Evil Dead on the big screen?
If you have not seen it, not much will prepare you for it! It is an unrated movie, so you have to be prepared for that. There are elements that some people would find very disturbing. So I would say it’s not for the faint of heart, but those people who like it, really like it.
It’s worth pointing out the original is a very different kettle of fish to its sequels, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness.
It is 100 percent. Each movie of the three is weirdly different. The first Evil Dead is kind of a melodrama, a lot of laughs come out of the excessive effects and hokey dialogue, and bad acting. In the second one, we injected a little bit of humor. I call that “splatstick.” It was co-written by Scott Spiegel (with Raimi), who was a huge Three Stooges fan, so we injected a little bit of that. Army of Darkness really is more of an ode to movies Sam and I saw in our formative years done by Ray Harryhausen and The Vikings, the Kirk Douglas movie. It’s our version of The Vikings, that movie. We wanted to make a low-budget epic and adventure movie. So the movies are very hard to compare because they’re very strange and different.
Can you remember the first time you saw The Evil Dead on the big screen?
Oh yeah. We screened it in the old Redford Theatre outside of Detroit, Michigan, which was one of these grand old movie palaces that had the organ that came up and there were lights that twinkled like stars up in the ceiling. Tremendously ornate. We used to watch like Bridge on the River Kwai and big movies shown there in our formative years. So we thought we have to show Evil Dead at that theater. It was very fun to show it. The house was packed. It was a thousand people and it let us know the impact that the movie was going to have, which was half-terror, half-nervous laughter, screams of panic and horror, and people being startled. It’s fun to see a thousand people jump in their seats.
There is a new Evil Dead movie on the way, Evil Dead Rise. How involved in that are you? What can you tell us about the film?
Sam handpicked Lee Cronin, who is a very good Irish director, who did a movie called The Hole in the Ground. Lee is a very interesting filmmaker and Sam also worked with him on a couple of Quibi projects [with] Sam in a producing capacity. So he hand-picked him like he had picked Fede Álvarez (for 2013’s Evil Dead). People can actually call it what [they] want: Sequel, remake, reimagining. It really is just another Evil Dead movie. It’s book-centric. It’s all about [the Necronomicon]. Where does this book wind up and what happens to it over the millennia? In this case, it’s set in the city, it’s no more cabin in the woods. It’s entirely different, unsuspecting heroines who are going to save the day. It’s filming now in New Zealand, with some of their amazing crews down there and they’re well into it. Rob Tapert is the hands-on producer and we’re all very involved in the script. We all jump in at various times to chime in. But, yeah, the three of us are very involved.
You previously announced that you’ve retired from playing Ash onscreen. So you won’t be appearing in it?
I won’t be appearing in it, no. I will be in the upcoming Evil Dead game, which I think is due for February 2022. I just finished the voice for that. The nice thing is, your voice doesn’t age as much as your body, so I can milk that for a few more years. I’ve got to say, I’m pleasantly surprised by the game. When you have merchandising and stuff that comes from your movies, you want it to be good, you don’t want it to be garbage. In this case, it got delayed and delayed and delayed, like several years, but what happened is, they were trying to do it right. They got basically all the characters from the universe, from the movies, the TV show, it’s impressive who they’re bringing back. I’ve seen the gameplay and it’s finally like any great game that’s out there. The Evil Dead, we’ve had three, four or so games in the past. They were okay, they were a little clunky, but I think they’re now up swinging with the big boys. Everything in it is exactly what gamers expect as far as quality. It’s really cool and they have young, medium, and old Ash, which makes sense if you’re going to cover the whole Evil Dead. Some people I think probably want to play the crabby, older, trash-talking Ash. I think most gamers will go, yeah, this was worth the wait.
The rumor is that you are in Doctor Strange 2. (Note: The rumor that Campbell will be appearing in Raimi’s UK-shot superhero sequel has mostly been promulgated by Campbell himself. On Feb. 27, the actor tweeted a photo of the London skyline with the message, “Boy, it was a blast, working in a certain city, with a certain director on a certain movie with a certain actor – it sure was!” Campbell also made cameo appearances in all three of Raimi’s Spider-Man films) Can you say anything about that?
I would say that’s a pretty good rumor. I think that won’t get me sued. That’s a pretty good rumor, yeah.
Can you say anything else?
Look, I think it’s a standing rule that Sam Raimi, his movies are not good if I’m not in them. If Sam wants a good movie he’ll put me in it. But you never know [with] these epic movies what’s going to stay or go in the course of telling these huge stories, so I don’t know. That’s why I keep it cryptic because (a) I don’t want to get sued but (b) I don’t want to say, “Yeah, hey, tune in!” and then they go, “Where were you, idiot?” But I always enjoy working with my old friend, Mr. Director.
What else do you have coming out?
It’s funny, I’ve been working during the pandemic. I did five different projects during the pandemic, some of its television. You know, actors do pilots all the time, so I did one of those for ABC that did not get picked up, but it’s fun to get back at it. And there’s a movie called Black Friday that will be coming out before too long. The premise of that is, a low-budget Toys R Us-type store, I play an idiot manager, and on Black Friday we get invaded by aliens. It’s a drive-in kind of movie. And there’s a show called A.P. Bio. Glenn Howerton is the lead guy and I come in to play his father. It’s fun to do television again. Television is where I feel comfortable, the pace of it, there’s great writing in television now. My industry, thank god, has come back from the dead. We were deemed non-essential, but now I feel very essential. Because, look, everybody watched everything during the pandemic! There’s nothing left to watch! So I’m happy to help.
Tickets for the Oct. 7 40th anniversary screenings of The Evil Dead can be purchased at the Fathom Events website from Aug. 13. Evil Dead screening merchandise is available to purchase via Grindhouse Releasing. Lionsgate Home Entertainment will be releasing a collectible box set of The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and all three seasons of Ash vs Evil Dead in the fall.