A woman wearing headphones and looking unsettled in Evil Dead Rise.

Designing Horror: Interview With ‘Evil Dead Rise’ Production Designer Nick Bassett

This interview was conducted prior to the WGA/SAG-AFTRA Strike.

Believe it or not, bringing franchises back from the dead isn’t easy. Of course, the Evil Dead franchise wasn’t necessarily dead—more like undead.

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Ash vs Evil Dead ran from 2015 to 2018 and Evil Dead: The Game released in 2022. However, the franchise hadn’t had a new film since 2013. That, combined with the current state of movies in theaters, meant that Evil Dead: Rise was almost exclusively a streaming release. Thankfully, the film got its chance on the big screen and became the highest grossing film in the franchise’s history.

I had the pleasure of sitting down to speak with the film’s production designer, Nick Bassett, who had the unique challenge of bringing the Evil Dead out of the woods and into the big city.

Bassett is no stranger to the franchise, having previously done production design on Ash vs Evil Dead. It was actually his first real production design job, and one he still holds fond memories of, likening it to “making a comic book.” Still, he approached Rise as an entirely new project, something that ultimately worked to the film’s benefit.

“The look [for the production design] evolved as—not exactly nostalgic—but as this old-fashioned approach to filmmaking,” Bassett explained in an interview with The Mary Sue. “Everything is handmade, the set is all built from scratch, we designed and built them all. It’s the spirit of The Evil Dead, it’s got a new script and a new take on it, but also ‘what can we bring in that is fresh?’”

deadite in Evil Dead Rise
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

The building itself is an old bank retrofitted into cheap apartments, the remnants of offices now being used as bedrooms by the main family. The retrofitted setting makes it a perfect setting for a possession film, the idea of something occupying a space that was not built for them to live in. It helped that the crew used a lot of in-camera techniques, using rain machines during exterior shots to keep the atmosphere dark and gloomy.

That’s not to say there isn’t warmth to it. The spaces are clearly lived in by the family of 4 and while they clearly struggle with the lack of space, they also work hard to make the most of what they have. I especially liked the detail of the doorway with all of the children’s heights marked on it. The family has grown up in this space, but now that it’s condemned, they have no idea what will happen to them when they leave. And that ends up being the least of their problems once the mother turns into a deadite.

Setting the building at the top of a high rise also added to the terror when things go wrong. When the stairs collapse and the cell phone coverage fails, where can you go to escape the Deadites? It’s an incredible way to isolate characters in the city and make them feel just as isolated as any group of teens visiting a cabin in the woods.

“It wasn’t this big space that you could get lost in, it was something that you could understand had no ways out,” Bassett stated. “By putting it in a building, you’re already distancing yourself, by not really connection to the people below, not knowing who’s underneath you, it felt really strong for this film.”

All of that attention to detail served them well. The film is intensely claustrophobic, almost entirely confined to the top floor of a condemned art deco apartment building. It was a very new setting for the franchise and for Bassett, but a challenge he embraced.

With the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, it is hard to tell if/when we will see more Evil Dead. Still, if future endeavors put the same amount of care that the filmmakers put into Evil Dead Rise, then I can’t wait to see what horrors await us fans and viewers in the future of the franchise.

Full interview available to watch here:

(featured image: Warner Bros. Pictures)

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Kimberly Terasaki
Kimberly Terasaki is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She has been writing articles for them since 2018, going on 5 years of working with this amazing team. Her interests include Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Horror, intersectional feminism, and fanfiction; some are interests she has held for decades, while others are more recent hobbies. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan.