Marvel explores a strange new dimension in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: the horror movie. After collaborating on Sony's original Spider-Man trilogy in the 2000s, Marvel Studios president and producer Kevin Feige recruited the Evil Dead and Army of Darkness filmmaker to replace 2016's Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson, who exited the sequel over "creative differences." In an exclusive interview with ComicBook's Phase Zero host Brandon Davis, Raimi revealed the origins of what Derrickson called the "first scary MCU film" when Marvel announced Doctor Strange 2 at San Diego Comic-Con 2019.
"That's really what Marvel and Kevin Feige wanted to do: they wanted to make Multiverse of Madness their first Marvel entry into the horror film, kind of dipping their toe into the water," Raimi said. "But it wasn't supposed to be Earth-quaking, ground-shaking terror. It was supposed to be the kind of horror and scariness and spookiness you'd find in a Doctor Strange comic."
Multiverse of Madness is more akin to the macabre and gothic horror of Marvel Comics' Strange Tales and decades of issues of Doctor Strange than Raimi's own Evil Dead II or Drag Me to Hell — or even 2004's Spider-Man 2, where the artificially intelligent mechanical tentacles of Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) come alive to murder a room of surgeons. The Doc Ock slaughter "is a little more intense than what we have going on in Multiverse of Madness," Raimi said with a laugh.
After original director Derrickson announced Multiverse of Madness was inspired by the comics that "dipped into the gothic and the horror and the horrific," Feige clairified, "I wouldn't necessarily say that's a horror film, but … it'll be a big MCU film with scary sequences in it."
"I mean, there are horrifying sequences in Raiders [of the Lost Ark] that I as a little kid would [cover my eyes] when their faces melted. Or Temple of Doom, of course, or Gremlins, or Poltergeist," Feige told The New York Film Academy in 2019. "These are the movies that invented the PG-13 rating, by the way. They were PG, and then they were like, 'We need another [rating].' But that's fun. It's fun to be scared in that way, and not a horrific, torturous way, but a way that is legitimately scary ... but scary in the service of an exhilarating emotion."
Stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen, who return as Doctor Strange and the Scarlet Witch, respectively, have teased jump scares in Raimi's "darker-toned" Marvel movie. Also starring Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, and Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opens only in theaters May 6.