Sound designer Peter Albrechtsen had the distinct honor of being nominated for the MPSE Golden Reel Award for his work on National Geographic’s documentary, The Territory. It’s his seventh nomination for the Golden Reel Awards, havinb been nominated six previous times for his meticulous work.

Albrechtsen’s recent film, Evil Dead Rise, features one of the most vivid horror soundscapes in the last decade. As it turns out, Albrechtsen grew up a fan of the iconic Evil Dead franchise. He even owned a VHS copy of Evil Dead 2… at least for a while. “I watched it so much that the tape fell apart,” jokes Albrechtsen.

His fandom and familiarity with the franchise allowed Albrechtsen to access the original films and create a modern tribute that both built upon its predecessors and replicated their overwhelming soundscapes. Albrechtsen and his team used several sound effects from Sam Raimi’s original films, made possible by the presence of producer Bruce Campbell, star of the original films.

“Bruce is very much into sound so he came over when we did the sound editing in Ireland, where [director] Lee Cronin is based,” says Albrechtsen. Campbell, Albrechtsen, and Cronin swapped stories about the old sounds, and Bruce even has a small cameo in Rise as one of the voices coming from the vinyl records in the film.

This entire foray into genre film was exciting for a horror aficionado like Albrechtsen, who had already built a reputation as one of the most sought-after sound editors in documentary storytelling. He was nominated at last year’s MPSE Golden Reel Awards for his work on the National Geographic documentary The Territory, and has been nominated six times before that.

“What I’ve learned from the documentary world is that sound doesn’t have to be clean and beautiful,” says Albrechtsen. “On the contrary, it often feels more real and powerful if it’s gritty, noisy, and maybe even distorted. And that’s very much how we approached the sound in Evil Dead Rise.”No matter the genre, Albrechtsen’s ultimate goal is always immersion.

The Danish sound designer sat down with Awards Focus to discuss the “demonic craziness” of Evil Dead Rise and share some of his favorite moments from the film.

Awards Focus: You got a chance to work with an iconic franchise. How did this responsibility feel to you?

Peter Albrechtsen: I’ve been a fan of Evil Dead since I was a teenager – I had a VHS copy of Evil Dead 2 that I watched so much that the tape fell apart. So being asked to do the sound design for the newest installment in the franchise was an incredible honor and kind of anxiety triggering at the same time. First and foremost, though, it was a wonderful creative experience. It was simply amazing to work with director Lee Cronin who is very passionate about sound and is a very inspiring collaborator. We decided very quickly to make a movie that had references to the old movies – we used quite a few of the original sound effects from the first couple of Evil Dead films – but most importantly we wanted to create a powerful, enveloping and really creative sonic experience that hopefully gave the modern horror audience the same kind of overwhelming rush that we felt when we watched the old ones back in the day. 

AF: I heard that you used the infamous Bruce Campbell as a part of your sound design. Where can we hear him? Are there any other musical easter eggs? 

Albrechtsen: Bruce Campbell was one of the producers of the film and is very much into sound so he came over when we did the sound editing in Ireland, where Lee Cronin is based, and also for the final Dolby Atmos mix in Copenhagen, where I am based. Bruce was very involved in the sound for the old movies and he made sure that I got a copy of all the old recordings. He had all these funny stories about the old sounds and there were some iconic ones which he thought should be in the new film. The weird wind sound in the cabin in the old films – a sound that Sam Raimi originally recorded – is for instance used in the sequence in the vault in the new film. And Bruce himself has a small voice cameo on one of the vinyls that’s played in the film. He also joined us in the foley studio and did the sound for the moment when someone gets an eye chewed out. That’s actually the sound of Bruce Campbell biting an apple. 

AF: Evil Dead Rise has a moment where an elevator fills with blood. What was the sound role in this scene?

Albrechtsen: The elevator filling up with blood was a massive sound moment. It took lots of recordings of different fluids and slimy textures, often pitched down, and also the sound of a pool getting filled with water recorded with both normal microphones and hydrophones. On top of this, there were also all the creaks and groans of the elevator’s metal structures falling apart. Some of that was actually recordings of a car crusher. We did a lot of crazy experiments with sounds in Evil Dead Rise. 

AF: What is one other of your favorite scenes in terms of sound design?

Albrechtsen: It’s a film filled with big sonic moments because Lee Cronin thinks so much about sound when he’s writing the script. Sound is a totally integral part of the storytelling and Lee believes in sound carrying a scene or describing a character or describing actions. Sometimes he doesn’t even show things in the picture but only plays them in the sound. I’ve never read a script with so much sound written into the scenes. If I should mention a couple of other moments that I’m very proud of it’s probably the sequence with the vinyls and the demonic scream in the bathtub. But there are many moments that stand out. I’m also proud of the many silences in the film. There’s a lot of brutal, loud, massive sounds in Evil Dead Rise, but also some moments where there’s actually no sounds at all. Like actual total silence. This creates some really terrific dynamics which are incredibly important in a movie like this that could have been just a big wall of noise.

AF: Alongside your work on this project, you are celebrated as a leader in sound design and the sound design community, and in particular, you are known for your work in documentary. Are there any lessons learned or skills applied from your documentary project that have enabled your success in this film?

Albrechtsen: That’s a great question. I actually don’t think there’s that big of a difference between documentaries and fiction films because I get to work with documentary directors who really want to explore what can be done with the sound in their films which means that creative sound design has a very big role in the docs I work on. What I’ve learned from the documentary world is, though, that sound doesn’t have to be clean and beautiful – on the contrary, it often feels more real and powerful if it’s gritty, noisy and maybe even distorted. And that’s very much how we approached the sound in Evil Dead Rise – it’s very gritty and often with a lot of really distorted elements. So all the demonic craziness in the film is supported by sound with a lot of ragged and rough textures. In that way, the sound in many ways is a way of making the unreal feel real. Which makes the whole film even scarier.

AF: What do you hope audiences will take away from this film’s sound / overall experience?

Albrechtsen: Lee and I wanted to create a very enveloping and immersive sonic experience. Lee said that he wanted the film to feel epic, even though it was taking place inside an apartment, but he wanted the sound to be so enveloping and so big that you felt like you were totally surrounded. That’s why we mixed the film in Dolby Atmos. I worked on the film for eight months, so there’s a lot of work put into this film from me and my brilliant crew and it sure feels like people have been really enjoying this wild rollercoaster ride of a movie. There’s been so much ecstatic feedback from fans all around the world and I’ve been getting a lot of personal messages from people who loved the sound. It’s been very overwhelming. I’m very grateful.

AF: What is next for you?

Albrechtsen: I’m going to George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch in Northern California in January for a mix of a feature length documentary I’ve been working on together with Nicolas Becker who did the amazing Sound of Metal. It’s a great project and it’s always extraordinary to get to work at Skywalker Sound, which is the best sound studio in the world and one of the most beautiful places I know. I feel very privileged to get to work on so many exciting projects with so many wonderful filmmakers.