EVIL DEAD RISE: Behind The Scenes With Blood Elevators And Building The Apartment From Hell (2024)

Last Updated on March 16, 2024 by Nick Bassett

Editor’s note: Production designer Nick Bassett takes us behind the scenes of building the Monde Apartments. In his own words, Bassett takes us from the buildout to the wallpaper, Easter eggs, and… the creation of an elevator that can submerse the actors in tons of blood. Take it away, Nick!

The 14th floor of the Monde Apartments was our primary staging area. We required a public corridor of the dilapidated building, an elevator, neighboring apartments, and the complete #85 apartment set. The latter serving as the home of tattoo artist and struggling single mom Ellie and her kids Bridget, Kassie, and Danny. On the first read of the script, there was no question that we would need to build the majority of the apartment and peripheral sets.

There was just too much specific to this script to work on location, not to mention the physical endurance the space would require to endure the many scheduled days in one place. I did not immediately anticipate that we would build the parking garage. However, it didn’t take long before it made perfect sense to build that as well, and this old warehouse we were using as our stage was the ideal home for it.

Of course, building this additional set was no small undertaking and would greatly impact our workload and budget, but it paid off, especially when we were shut down for covid. Owning these spaces was very reassuring and meant we were safe to carry on filming during trying times.

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The only part of the apartment building that exists, in reality, are the first four levels of the exterior. Once you step into the building, everything beyond that is a set.

EVIL DEAD RISE: Behind The Scenes With Blood Elevators And Building The Apartment From Hell (2)

We built the Apartment set and corridor 200 mm off the floor (the first rule of Horror is to make sure that you can get rid of the blood). Many of the physics of the set were designed and factored in very early on, such as a bathroom that could detach from the main apartment set and have removable shaker motors for the earthquake sequence, working platforms above the set for stunt work, soft wall sections and fly away walls.

All of these structural details needed to be resolved before construction could confidently begin. This is the start of the time pressure, I worked with Lee Cronin and long-time collaborator Supervising Art Director Nick Conner on getting every detail of the set correct. We were about to be trapped in this space for a very long time, so it had to be spot on, and everything we could iron out in the early stages would help us in the long run.

We labored over everything from the basic proportions of the spaces to sight lines, archways, and apertures, collisions of original and retrofit architectural details, rigging points, practical earthquake effects, fly-away walls, working gas hobs in the kitchen, plumbing and running water in the bathroom set, soft, and stunt friendly walls. To avoid setbacks and with a looming deadline, we had to capture as many details an action film demands as possible.

Plus, we had the huge parking garage on our plate now, along with additional sets, including the subterranean bank vault, additional set pieces for the various blood elevator sequences, the interior cabin set, the backstage bathroom, and car process work. The open-plan stage space was not our friend at this point, it was noisy and dusty, and all departments shared one common space.

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Evil Dead Rise could best be described as an extremely violent home invasion horror movie. The set needed to be robust and able to cope with numerous action sequences and to handle the 6000 liters of blood that would drench the halls and walls, but it also needed to feel real and rich with both architectural heritage and family history. For this story to work, we needed to create an authentic space for our characters to exist. Much like the characters in this film, our crew was also about to be trapped in this apartment for a long time. This place needed to feel like a home in the city, but when evil rolled in, it needed to switch modes to become the most claustrophobic, isolated place on earth.

EVIL DEAD RISE: Behind The Scenes With Blood Elevators And Building The Apartment From Hell (4)

EVIL DEAD RISE: Behind The Scenes With Blood Elevators And Building The Apartment From Hell (5)

Layers

On every job, I am eager to get the set standing as soon as possible for a couple of reasons…

Firstly it gives the Director and other key HODS a chance to walk through the space and gain confidence, progress the staging discussions, lighting approaches and lens choices, rigging points, spfx requirements and additions. In this case, Director of Photography David Garbett and Director Lee Cronin were very involved in our design process all the way through, so there were few surprises. However, things can be misinterpreted when moving out of the virtual computer design phase and into a real place. Thankfully we got it right, and no significant changes were made, but there’s always a moment of apprehension at this point. Change costs money and adds pressure to the schedule, so it is particularly unwelcome at this point of pre-production.

Secondly, and most importantly to me, it allows our art team to truly get started on the many layers required to bring the set together and it is both a reassuring and daunting stage of the pre-production. Flat walls go up fast, and there’s a comfort in that, but the scenic finishing and set decoration is where things really begin to come to life.

The work is often very labor intensive, and there is generally an element of trial and error to get the feel just right. With the subtle tuning of color, texture, and patina, as well as light fixture placements and fine dressing details, we are looking for that moment where the space transforms and becomes unsettlingly believable.

For Evil Dead Rise, we used a plaster render over most surfaces in the set to deform the walls a little and allow us to chip away at the layers and add texture. This process gives the illusion of depth and aging, and for an old building such as ours, it takes away the straight lines and adds character, imperfections, and history. In the corridor, we added a layer of plain paper that acted like a skin stretched over the age-scarred building.

I was really pleased with how effective and creepy this was, especially once the glossy dark final paint was added and aged back through scenic layers. The deep blue tone enhanced the claustrophobic feel of the space, plus the dusky salmon ( lovingly named “Baked trout” by our paint team) added an accent tone and gave a dated deco look. The walls were given a sweaty, humid sheen, something for the sick fluorescent lights to play off. Thanks to the perseverance of our talented scenic team led by Joseph Worley, this ominous space truly came to life.

EVIL DEAD RISE: Behind The Scenes With Blood Elevators And Building The Apartment From Hell (6)

EVIL DEAD RISE: Behind The Scenes With Blood Elevators And Building The Apartment From Hell (7)

The Elevator

At one end of the corridor is an octagonal vestibule, and the bank building’s original elevator is positioned dead center in the space at the end of the long lonely corridor. With wood paneling and pressed bronze details, this elevator is a relic from the past, and you can almost smell the nicotine from days gone by. The control panel is true deco styling and needed to fill with blood on cue. This alone was one of many complex specialty props.

The Elevator set would be one of our biggest build challenges. It is our film’s last resort escape pod and a pivotal set piece. We built one and a half elevators to complete the work for this film, which, given the torture it would endure, was quite optimistic. The structure was a rigid steel frame, meaning we could machine lift it from strong anchor points for both portability and practical fx. We had multiple panels that could swap in and out, everything was sealed to be waterproof, and on many a night, the elevator set would be wheeled outside after wrapping, and water blasted clean of blood and ready for the next day’s work.

Some days it was plugged into the end of the corridor, some days, it would be attached to the parking lot lobby, and others, it would be lowered into a tank of blood. To suggest that the blood was filling to the roof, our actors were crouched down in the tank with our half elevator set lowered over them, which meant we required less blood volume to tell the story. The Shining-like blood elevator crash landing was shot on a separate set, and we made every attempt to contain the thousands of liters of stage blood dumped at an alarming rate and to horrific effect.

EVIL DEAD RISE: Behind The Scenes With Blood Elevators And Building The Apartment From Hell (8)

EVIL DEAD RISE: Behind The Scenes With Blood Elevators And Building The Apartment From Hell (9)

Home

While this is a crumbling building at the end of its life, I still needed to create a sense of home. As you open the heavy solid custom designed timber front door with its stepped octagonal cross design, the sensation is slightly foreboding (the design details tie into the bank vault and crypt and suggest that there may be more to the history of this building). I wanted there to be some intrigue in the history of this building. Was it purpose-built to house the Book of the Dead, or was the book stashed there later for safekeeping? Upon crossing the threshold, you enter a warm gold-toned hallway of peeling textured wallpaper. The trims and ceilings are a pastel green, and we chose several heritage tones as accents in keeping with the art deco era.

The main living room was also a soft green, chosen to look oily under candlelight and a complementary color to red blood. It felt like a good choice to me. The power outage was a major consideration of this film. Through the windows, we see practical rain effects on the glass and a backlit Rosco “Softdrop,” which rings the entire apartment set. The illusion and glow of the city is pushed far away, and this adds to the sense of isolation.

The photographic backcloth was a lot of fun to use, and we added small led lights and details to bring it to life and to trick the eye into believing it was a real city vista. In many ways, this was a key part of our set. The city is there but also out of reach, adding to the loneliness and isolation of the film. The backcloth added another layer of claustrophobia, and using an in-camera solution, we could add haze and steam to build atmosphere without restrictions of green screen, which strongly added to the visceral feeling of the film.

Gareth Edwards and his highly experienced set decoration team added carefully considered details to this set. Wallpaper was chosen for several of the rooms. The girls’ shared room had a forest wallpaper print to briefly take us back to the woods. The kitchen had a dated bamboo print, and the bathroom and Ellie’s room also had natural vintage prints, taking the edge off this geometric space. Every corner of the apartment has a sense of back story and history.

The kitchen and bathroom are a retrofit from the ’80s with hand-printed linoleum floors and dated cabinetry. We suggest a tired renovation that drags you back to the era of the original Evil Dead films. There are many geometric shapes throughout the set, and the apartment itself has angled walls and off-set lines. The set dressing and patterned wallpapers add a layer of humanity, but below that, the building is very austere and angular.

EVIL DEAD RISE: Behind The Scenes With Blood Elevators And Building The Apartment From Hell (10)

EVIL DEAD RISE: Behind The Scenes With Blood Elevators And Building The Apartment From Hell (11)

Dressing Details

Danny is a wannabe DJ who has inherited his Dad’s record collection and mismatched HiFi setup. His room is rich with detail, posters from Sub pop and Stones Throw records adorn the walls. I commissioned a large Three Stooges poster that looks like it was torn from an alley wall that plays to the urban setting and is layered with posters (subtly including The Hills Have Eyes poster featured in the fruit cellar of the original Evil Dead cabins). I wanted this to look like a low-rent music lovers’ haven, and each piece of the HiFi setup was carefully considered, hand-picked, and eclectic.

There’s nothing of any great worth in this room, but it is rich in detail. Graphic equalizers and VU meters make up a mismatch of components, established early to pre-empt and enhance the narrative sound design which is about to come. The turntable was a Technics SL-110 machine, probably the most expensive piece in the set. By the end of the film, it was in a sorry state. Danny’s room is deliberately painted a shade of blue, not unlike the ominous corridor set outside. This is the place where evil is triggered as the vinyl record plays unholy words through retro wall-mounted speakers, so its color scheme is intentionally at odds with the rest of the apartment.

Ellie has her own workstation in the heart of the apartment, and this is rich with her tattoo designs hand drawn by a local tattoo artist as well as eclectic items and taxidermy (an Evil Dead staple). From her workstation, she is at the hub — a self-employed solo mom trying to hold things together. The apartment reflects the chaos and struggle of modern family life.

The walls of Ellie’s workspace have been painted a deep maroon color more recently, while the remainder of the apartment is in its outdated original condition. The windows have vintage glass panes, which the rain constantly plays on, and we can see the Ivy vines starting to take hold of the building. The apartment lacks nearly all of the modern features we desire. There is no balcony or modern luxury fixtures. While every finish and tone was carefully chosen, I wanted this space to have nothing to do with fashion, and this is clearly a rental property lacking an owner’s care.

A “home sweet home” glass-painted mirror is a direct tribute to the original cross-stitch, which hangs in the cabin from Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead The living room space is also a very similar size to the original cabin. We looked for suitable callbacks throughout the design process without going too far. Even though our setting had changed, we wanted this to feel like an Evil Dead film. There are many nods to the original films, as this film was made by true fans of the franchise.

I’m really proud of the combined work of many, from the perfectionists in the design team to the meticulous onset art team led by Art Director George Hamilton, our talented props department under Prop Master Elise Kowitz’s careful supervision, brilliant set construction team, fanatical vehicles department and everyone in between who brought this all to life.

This broken old building is a major character in this film, and it is about to be torn down. We needed the audience to feel a sense of sadness at this thought. For my team, building a believable place with a real robust back-story was our highest priority. But when Evil shows up in full force, everything simply turns to hell!

EVIL DEAD RISE: Behind The Scenes With Blood Elevators And Building The Apartment From Hell (12)

EVIL DEAD RISE: Behind The Scenes With Blood Elevators And Building The Apartment From Hell (13)

For more, check out our interview with the Evil Dead Rise cast and director Lee Cronin. Evil Dead Rise is now available on 4K+ Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital. You can also watch Evil Dead Rise on Max.

EVIL DEAD RISE: Behind The Scenes With Blood Elevators And Building The Apartment From Hell (2024)

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