'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness' Draws on Popular Horror Tropes
The second ‘Doctor Strange’ film, ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,’ directed by Sam Raimi, has many horror elements. Is it a horror movie?
Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Now that many of us have had the joy of seeing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, we can warn some of our friends and family members about what to expect. Is it appropriate for kids? Well, its PG-13 rating makes it a bit more mature than some other Marvel properties. And many fans think that’s because Doctor Strange 2 is essentially a horror movie.
It might not be October, the month of horror and gore, but because Doctor Strange 2 was directed by Evil Dead director Sam Raimi, it does incorporate a lot of horror movie elements. But the question still stands: Is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness a horror movie, or is it simply a nod to the genre?
Sam Raimi directed ‘Doctor Strange 2’ with the horror genre at its forefront.
Before Sam Raimi was brought on to direct Doctor Strange 2, the original Doctor Strange director, Scott Derrickson, was slated to direct the film. When Marvel executive Kevin Feige and Scott announced the film at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, Kevin teased, “I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s a horror film, but it is, as Scott Derrickson, our director, has pitched it, it’ll be a big MCU film with scary sequences in it.”
"It’s fun to be scared in that way, and not a horrific, torturous way,” Kevin explained, "but a way that is legitimately scary, because Scott Derrickson is quite good at that, but scary in the service of an exhilarating emotion.” However, Scott decided to leave the project due to creative differences, so noted horror director Sam Raimi was brought on board to keep the horror intentions of the film.
"Sam's become known for this terrorizing cinema experience," star Elizabeth Olsen shared to Marvel. "He's creating as much tension as possible for the audience, just ready for them to have that jump scare moment." Many of these “jump scare moments” are present in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, most memorably near the end of the film when a certain character’s corpse ascends from the ground.
"That was always where we were heading with the sequel to Doctor Strange, knowing that we wanted to explore the mind-bending, frightening side of the Multiverse,” Kevin reiterated. It was important to explore the twisted terrifyingness of a potential multiverse, and by tapping Evil Dead director Sam Raimi, Doctor Strange 2 does just that.
‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ incorporates many elements from Sam Raimi’s ‘Evil Dead’ franchise.
The Evil Dead franchise is perhaps most known for its comical take on horror. The jump scares and gory moments are all underlined with a sense of humor, and since the success of the MCU’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel movies have leaned into that laughter. While Kevin wanted Doctor Strange 2 to veer towards horror, it was also important to incorporate Marvel’s trademark lightness in tone.
Not only are there several simultaneously terrifying and hilarious moments in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but there are direct nods to Sam’s Evil Dead franchise. The biggest nod is of course Bruce Campbell’s cameo. A longtime friend of Sam, Bruce has been in most of Sam’s films, including cameos in all three Spider-Man films and starring in the Evil Dead movies.
In Doctor Strange 2, Bruce plays a street vendor who attempts to squirt Doctor Strange with mustard. Of course, Doctor Strange retaliates by using a spell to make the street vendor’s hand hit himself. A similar thing happens to Bruce’s character, Ash, in Evil Dead 2, when he’s partially possessed by a Deadite.
But between moments like the Scarlet Witch’s haunting and disjointed possession of Wanda-838’s body to zombie-like chases, the horror of Doctor Strange 2 is very present. While the movie’s official genre may be mixed between action, horror, and comedy, it is definitely on the scarier side of the Marvel franchise.