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Thanks to its legion of fans, incredible impact on the horror genre, and the fact that it gave birth to icons like Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, the original Evil Dead movies are more than just great; they’re legendary. From the story behind how the first one was made -finding Raimi and his friends making regular trips into the woods and drenching themselves in fake blood - to the bizarre evolution of the franchise leading to Army of Darkness, there is absolutely nothing in the world quite like it. And it was that spirit that director Fede Alvarez worked to capture in his upcoming remake.
Following the film’s world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival (you can read my review here) I had the chance to sit down and talk with the first time feature director to talk about what went into the making of the new Evil Dead. Read on to find out how Alvarez dived head first into the horror world, where he introduced a “Sam Raimi cameo” into the film, and his plans for a potential sequel.
We are coming off a decade that had a lot of horror remakes and a lot of them have been extremely subpar, so I’m just curious, this is your feature directorial debut. I’m curious, was there any hesitation in taking on that project?
Probably there was a little bit, but not because of the project itself. It was more about, "Ok, we have to find the right take first." Because this came out of Sam asking me, “Will you do it for me?” Well, definitely, but the only "but" is we have to find the right take and we need to find a relevant Evil Dead for 2013, otherwise it’s pointless, or it would be pointless for me. So that was the only hesitation. Then, the fact that it was a horror classic was scary and the fact that the reasons that made the original great is because it is a rough and flawed movie, in a way. Today, when you watch it, people love that and so it was like, “So, it’s not going to be about improving it, cause that’s maybe not what anybody wants.”
Then I realized, spending a lot of time in the Evil Dead universe, I really know it, but then in the last year, working on the script and spending a lot of time from enjoying the musical, watching all of the movies again a hundred times, playing all of the games, all of the PC games that I could find, playing the iPhone games, you realize there’s a factor, there’s an Evil Dead playground that is amazing. So, we have a house with a bunch of tools laying around. They have some kids. That’s all we need. The sky’s the limit, and those movies, they can go anywhere. Nobody is going to go, “Oh that’s too much,” and plus, what got us going and got us really excited was, we have an opportunity here to tell a real drama story in the beginning, kind of mislead everybody, play with story-telling a little bit and maybe they’ll believe this is going to be one kind of movie and then finish it... You know, you’ve seen the ending and when you think for a second how that little chat in the beginning about the mother, it turns into that nightmare and blood [laughs]. It’s just so bizarre and that’s the beauty of storytelling. If you manage to take them from that point to the other point in a rational, narrative way, which I think we’ve done, there’s no weird twist where, “Whoa, whoa, that didn’t make any sense.” Everything kind of makes sense, but it escalates too. That something that is the nature of Evil Dead movies and that’s why I was excited, because in the originals it happens, it doesn’t just happen in [the first] one, but if you think of the three originals, where it starts and where it ends...
Oh yeah, where is ends, Army of Darkness is a completely different genre!
It’s like, “What? How did that...” and that’s why I think it was in the spirit of the originals. I wanted it to start in a very normal way. It’s like all of the movies combined in the spirit.
Sam Raimi has a very specific style and he honed a lot of that in the early part of his career making the Evil Dead movies. I’m curious, when you were approaching the project, obviously, you want to have the homages to the original film, but at the same time, you don’t want to have it completely overtake your own personal direction.
It was a challenge and for me. You’re remaking a movie that is particularly iconic because of the director’s style and that was scary. That was scary because I always had my way to do things and I’ve been doing shorts since I was a kid, so my style is whatever, it's the way I like to do things. That’s everybody’s style. It’s just the way you like to do things. So, I felt like I shouldn’t have to worry about it. I should just go and shoot this movie the way I like to shoot and then whatever. Whatever will happen will happen. And there were some moments when I felt bad, when I was shooting and I did a take and I felt it was too similar and usually I would call it off and change it. It’s like, “No, no, no, no...” I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to include "the force" in the beginning - I felt like, that’s Sam Raimi’s force. And then I took it that way. I felt like, let’s have Sam Raimi’s force as almost sort of a Sam Raimi cameo in the movie, that way if we have that. It’s not a crucial part of the movie. It’s not there all of the time. It’s just like you unleash the horror in the beginning...
And fans love to see it.
Exactly, exactly. And so I took it more that way and then I think it’s so different, the rest of the movie in general. And the movie starts with an upside-down shot. I think nobody noticed. Everybody was so crazy with the title, nobody noticed that we start with an upside down forest.
But that also was, I think, for me, when I watch it as a kid, what I thought was original about his style that in the opening moment there, you follow Bruce upside down.
I do also want to ask, you sent shock waves around the internet when you announced that you’re planning a sequel after the screening. I’m wondering, where do you go from here and what is the direction you have planned?
That’s a good question. I think it has to go to a place that nobody will expect. That’s what it should be. I think we surprised people with this one because, you know, the trailers, people were saying, “Oh, they’re trying to make it a cooler and grittier version,” and I knew it wasn’t that [laughs]. So I think that’s what we have to do now. We have to take everybody by surprise and do something completely different, because that’s what we owe to the legacy of Evil Dead. The Evil Dead has nothing to do with the second one, the second one is completely different, the characters are different, and it’s a different movie even though people think it’s so similar. But they’re quite different in the nature and the spirit of the movie. And the third one! It’s medieval times! The Medieval Dead!
Will it be that big of a jump?
Who knows! Maybe. And then this one, if you compare it with the first one, it’s a throwback to the first one, but it’s also a completely different movie. I don’t think this one is similar to any other previous ones – it’s the same spirit, but it’s not just like it. So I think that the next one is definitely going to have that. If people enjoy this one, believe me, the second one is going to be a fucking blast.
For more of our SXSW 2013 coverage, click HERE.