evil dead rise – marketing recap

How Warner Bros. has sold the latest movie about ancient evil and a creepy book

Evil Dead Rise movie poster from Warner Bros. Pictures
Evil Dead Rise movie poster from Warner Bros. Pictures

Lily Sullivan and Alyssa Sutherland star in Evil Dead Rise, in theaters this week from Warner Bros. Pictures. Sullivan plays Beth, who sets out to visit her estranged sister Ellie (Sutherland) and her family in Los Angeles. But that reunion takes a demented turn when a certain book is discovered in Ellie’s building and a host of demons is set loose causing all manner of deadly chaos.

The movie – technically the fifth in the long-running Evil Dead series – appears to be largely unconnected from the three Bruce Campbell-starring originals (as well as the “Ash Vs. Evil Dead” series) and 2013’s Evil Dead, itself a new take on the concept. But Campbell as well as series creator Sam Raimi are still attached as executive producers while Lee Cronin wrote and directed this movie.

So don’t worry too much about what you know or don’t about what’s come before and let’s take a look at how this one’s been sold.

announcements and casting

Plans for another Evil Dead movie have been in various stages of development for years now, with some being scrapped entirely while others have been repurposed for the “Ash Vs. Evil Dead” show or for the 2013 film.

Things seemed to be finally moving forward in mid-2020 when Campbell revealed this project – then titled Evil Dead Now – was moving forward with Cronin directing after being selected by Raimi to take the reins.

The current name was announced when New Line acquired the movie in May 2021 with a release direct to HBO Max planned. Most of the main cast was added to the project in the months following New Line’s acquisition.

Last August plans were changed and a theatrical release date set, one of a number of shifts in strategy adopted by WB’s new management as it opted to not use HBO Max as much.

the marketing campaign

A soft start to the campaign came in October of last year when a first still was released. It didn’t offer much, of course, but was enough to get the ball rolling and reassure everyone the movie was really happening.

Cronin talked about the project and what audiences could expect in an interview in December 2022 that also had a handful of additional photos.

Things really got going in January when the first trailer (1.4m YouTube plays) came out. We don’t get a lot of setup regarding the characters before getting straight to the demonic possession, which seems to impact Ellie the most as she begins acting very strangely and hunting the rest of her family. Eventually it’s just Beth and her niece Kassie that remain unaffected fighting – and in at least one case chainsawing – their way out of what’s become a very haunted house.

A poster showing an already-possessed Ellie hugging her three kids to her came out at the same time, promising that the movie comes “From the visionary producers of the original classic.” though it doesn’t name-drop Raimi or Campbell.

Shortly after the trailer came out WB released a video capturing some of the social media reactions to that trailer, especially some of the more outrageous scenes it contained.

Later in January SXSW announced the movie had been added to the film festival’s lineup, appropriate given it tends to draw genre movie fans of all kinds.

The movie was featured on the cover of Fangoria’s February issue

At the end of February news came the movie would close the Overlook Film Festival at the end of March.

The SXSW premiere in mid-March brought very positive reviews and good word of mouth. During the festival Cronin was interviewed about how he got the directing gig and how he wanted the story to be unique and not just a new version of what’s come before in the series.

The next trailer (13.8m YouTube plays), released toward the end of March, opens with Beth talking to her sister, who she’s surprised to learn isn’t as dead as she believed. Flashback a bit to what at first is a pleasant family reunion before Ellie is possessed by a demon released after Beth and one of the kids discovers the Book of the Dead. Things only get worse for everyone from there.

In early April Sutherland posted a nice photo of her hanging out by a bus bench ad for the movie with not only her costar Sutherland but also Jane Levy, who starred in the 2013 movie.

While he doesn’t technically appear in the movie Campbell still helped promote it, including by appearing on an Evil Dead-inspired episode of “Impractical Jokers”.

At about the same time Cronin was attending the European premiere of the movie.

Fandango got an exclusive clip that offers an extended look at Beth and the kids encountering the now-possessed Ellie making eggs before she pleads with Beth to protect those kids. Another clip given to IGN shows Ellie attacking her daughter Bridget.

Sullivan was interviewed about the physical toll of shooting the movie but also how excited she was to finally get to wield the chainsaw. Cronin and Raimi also talked a bit about how the new movie pays tribute to the classics in a couple ways but how more homages were cut so as not to overwhelm what was being created here.

get motivated

Special mention has to be made of something the marketing team came back to occasionally during the campaign. Specifically, they made up a bunch of faux motivational posters that take photos from the movie and add inspirational quotes that are just disturbing.

It’s a fun idea that’s well executed and certainly plays to the tongue-in-cheek nature of the series’ humor.


The only problem with those motivational posters is that their sense of humor – as well as the more fun attitude seen in a few of the TV spots and other videos – isn’t found in the core campaign elements more consistently.

That’s fine, it doesn’t need to be a straight up comedy like Army of Darkness. And perhaps the marketing was intentionally avoiding being too funny to avoid confusion with the marketing of Renfield, which just came out last week. But for the most part it then winds up looking like any of a dozen other horror movies that have come out in the last several years, not like a new chapter in one of the genre’s most beloved series. It then relies on the audience’s affection for that series to generate interest, with long-range tracking predicting an opening weekend of around $25 million.

picking up the spare

A frequent topic of additional interviews with Cronin was how much fake blood he used, as opposed to creating it digitally. Dolby released a featurette on the movie’s sound design.

doctor strange in the multiverse of madness – marketing recap

How Marvel Studios has sold a supernatural trip into alternate realities.

It’s been about six years since the concept of a multiverse was introduced in super hero mass media, meaning outside of the source comics. That introduction came in a 2016 episode of “Supergirl” that featured Barry Allen from “The Flash” accidentally vibrating from his universe into hers.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie poster
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie poster

But in the Marvel Cinematic Universe the idea was introduced just last year in Spider-Man: No Way Home and is now being expanded upon in this week’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

A sequel to the first Doctor Strange movie in 2016 (though the idea of a sequel is kind of outdated since the character has appeared in major roles in four subsequent MCU releases), Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Dr. Stephen Strange, the now-former Sorcerer Supreme of Earth. After the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home, the multiverse is now cracking and becoming a danger to our reality. To help him fight back – and fix the mistake he made by opening the door to alternate universes to begin with – Strange will need the help of Wong (Benedict Wong) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) as well as new ally America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez).

Rachel McAdams also returns as Christine Palmer, who will perhaps have something tangible to do in this movie, along with Chiwetel Ejiofor as mentor-turned-rival Karl Mordo. And there are some surprise (or not so surprise) appearances as well.

So with all that as prelude, let’s take a look at how the movie has been sold.

announcements and casting

Marvel Studios’ presentation at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 served as the platform to announce a release date as well as the movie’s full title. As the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the country, though, that release date was pushed back a few times.

The movie, along with other upcoming MCU entries, was name-checked in the “Marvel Studios Celebrates The Movies” video from early May 2021. That came after significant discussion and speculation of how the hit “WandaVision” series on Disney+ may be impacting this movie.

In early 2020 the news came that Scott Derrickson, who directed the first movie and was announced as the helmer of the sequel, was stepping down from that role but would stay on as a producer. A short while later reports came that Sam Raimi was in discussions to take over, reports that were confirmed in April of 2020. And Marvel imported a new writer from its “Loki” series on Disney+ to take over script work.

Raimi’s role as director was confirmed at Disney’s investors presentation in December of last year, as was the fact that the film would feature America Chavez and that McAdams would return to her thankless role from the first movie.

An interview with Raimi from October 2021 had the director admitting he was hesitant to come back to the Marvel world.

Reshoots/additional filming that started in mid-November raised some eyebrows but didn’t seem like a major deviation from the norm for MCU productions.

the marketing campaign

The formal marketing of the movie finally got underway in late December, mostly because it needed to wait for Spider-Man: No Way Home to be released since that film leads directly into this one.

Along those lines, Wong’s warnings for Strange to not cast the spell open the first teaser trailer (40.2m YouTube views) after first being seen in the Spider-Man trailers. After some trippy visuals of cities forming at odd angles we see Strange seek out the help of Wanda, who’s chilling after the events of “WandaVision”. From there we’re shown that Mordo and others are going to confront Strange about his breaking of reality and more.

The way Strange and Wanda’s faces are interchanged on the poster released at the same time continues to show her importance to the story and the fact that we’re dealing with shards or remnants of different versions of these characters.

Raimi commented on the state of filming, including those reports of reshoots, in a brief interview a bit later.

In early January 2022, Marvel announced a new Doctor Strange series it billed as being a good entry point for those who aren’t already fully-immersed in the character’s history and backstory.

The first full trailer (50.3m YouTube views), released in mid-February, opens with Strange still haunted by the fallout from cracking open the barriers between universes. While he enlists Wanda’s help to put things back in order, Mordo brings him before a group of people to answer for his actions.

There’s a lot that’s teased in that trailer, including:

  • Patrick Stewart’s voice hints at him appearing as Charles Xavier for the first time in the MCU proper
  • And the tribunal Strange is brought to is most likely The Illuminati, of which Xavier is a member
  • Wanda’s line about Strange being a hero after breaking reality while she’s been shunned is [fire emoji]
  • There are clearly multiple versions of many of the same characters on display here, including Strange, Wanda and others
  • America Chavez, ladies and gentlemen

Various characters and settings appear in the shards of reality surrounding Strange on the next poster, released at the same time as the trailer. Notable that for as much as Raimi is highlighted in that trailer, his name doesn’t appear here.

Cumberbatch was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in late February, with Feige introducing him and commenting on how Strange is now, with Tony Stark no longer available, the core character of the MCU.

Empire Magazine had two movie-themed covers for an issue that included interviews and photos.

The first TV spot came out in early April and hits many of the same beats as the trailers, focusing on Strange convincing Wanda to help him fix the multiverse and the problems they’re all going to face in trying to do so.

Dolby Cinema’s exclusive poster has Strange looking out the shattered remains of the window of his home, an image that follows the earlier poster that has the same window breaking around him as a metaphor for the various realities that have splintered. RealD 3D’s poster has the main characters all spinning out of themselves, reinforcing there are multiple versions of each that will play into the story. A different take on the same idea is used on the Screen X poster, which also makes Wanda’s role appear much more significant, as well as on the IMAX one-sheet.

For the official theatrical poster, many of those ideas are brought together, with Strange in the background (a position that seems more like how villains are usually placed on these posters, which is interesting), Wanda up front and the rest of the characters placed around them.

Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness online ad

An extended TV spot came out in early April when tickets went on sale that also expands on some of the themes we’ve seen previously. Especially prevalent here is how much more Wanda’s journey seems to parallel Strange’s as we see some of her alternate realities, including one where she has her two children.

At this point, in what has become an unfortunately common occurrence, comics writer Joe Casey, who created the character America Chavez for Marvel Comics in 2011, spoke out about the “pittance” he was offered by the company for her use in other media. Casey rightfully notes that while Marvel owns the character outright, it’s become standard for the freelance writers and artists to receive little more than a hearty handshake and tickets to the premiere when the movies and shows those characters appear in make hundreds of millions of dollars. The point, he said, was not even for him to get a big check from Marvel but to affect change in the industry as a whole so those who come along later can benefit more substantially from the success of their creations.

Back to the campaign, another TV spot emphasizes how the movie is meant to be seen on the big screen, which is why it’s coming exclusively to theaters. It’s somewhat of an odd message considering Disney has sent a number of movies, either from Marvel or Pixar, straight (or very quickly) to Disney+ streaming recently. So it’s almost reinforcing the notion that streaming is a second-class distribution platform that degrades the “event” nature of content.

Character posters for Strange, Mordo and Christine Palmer came out next, followed by the first featurette that has Cumberbatch, Olsen, Wong and Raimi talking about the dark, dangerous nature of the story.

More TV spots continued to come out, including a cross-promotional commercial from Tide that has Wong using the laundry detergent to get Strange’s cloak clean before the doctor gets back.

Another beat that has become common recently came next when the movie was banned in Saudi Arabia for mentions of America Chavez being gay.

The next featurette from later in April focuses on Raimi’s involvement, from how he got the gig in the first place to the unique vision he brought to the production and story.

The Illuminati will see you now

That it’s The Illuminati sitting in judgment of Doctor Strange was confirmed in a TV spot that marked 10 days before the movie’s release.

Disney used its CinemaCon 2022 presentation in late April to tease this movie, among others, and affirm its commitment to theatrical releases. Part of that presentation included the news that the first trailer for the much-anticipated Avatar 2 would play in front of this movie in theaters.

The Illuminati are teased once again in another TV spot that also features what seems to be an appearance by Captain Carter, an alternate universe Peggy Carter (played by Hayley Atwell in previous movies) who was given the Super Soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers that first appeared in the “What If…?” Disney+ series last August.

It’s the same themes explored on the final poster that we’ve seen before, just with a slightly different spin.

Cumberbatch, Olsen and Raimi appeared at the Berlin stop of the movie’s global press tour. They were joined by Wong in London.

Another featurette that came out in late April focuses on Wanda and how this movie is a continuation of her story from “WandaVision” along with offering multiple versions of the character.

An interview with Raimi had him talking more about how he approached his return to the world of super hero movies, what regrets he has over how the last sojourn ended and more. Unfortunately much of the attention paid to the interview focused on scrapped plans for a fourth Spider-Man installment instead of on the film he’s currently promoting.

Marvel held the movie’s red carpet world premiere this past Monday with the cast and crew along with others involved in other aspects of the MCU in attendance.

The Contest of Champions mobile game announced the addition of Wong and Rintrah, a character glimpsed in the trailers, as champions in a coming movie-themed event.

Cumberbatch appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about this movie and more.


Let’s go back to Feige’s comments in February about Doctor Strange now being the “anchor” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

That makes a lot of sense considering the supernatural direction Marvel Studios has been going in over the last couple years since Avengers: Endgame concluded the first phase of the series. “WandaVision” is a big part of that shift, as is the just-finished “Moon Knight” series along with the introduction of Black Knight and Blade at the end of The Eternals.

That aside, the campaign here is an interesting mix of picking up where “WandaVision” left off and exploring the many opportunities available by embracing the multiverse. We see the latter in how the second half of the marketing, especially in the TV spots, gave more screen time to the alternate versions of Strange and Wanda while also spending a lot of energy setting up The Illuminati and teasing Captain Carter and other new characters.

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Tracking projections estimate a $175m opening weekend for the film, which has an 80% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The tracking in particular represents not the power as much as the size of this marketing push, which has been pervasive. When the campaign works, though, it’s pretty strong, especially in how it seeks to put Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff at the center of the story as much as Strange is.

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