Bruce Campbell is a man who requires no introduction, but – in case you’ve been living under a rock (or trapped in the basement of a cursed cabin) for the past 30 years – he’s the chainsaw-wielding star of the Sam Raimi-directed Evil Dead movies. The trilogy is a cult classic, beloved by its vehemently protective fan base, which is why the announcement of a remake (produced by Campbell, Raimi and another original producer, Rob Tapert) garnered cries of outrage.
Shortly before revealing a first look at the Evil Dead remake at New York Comic Con, Campbell sat down with a group of reporters to discuss the film. He didn’t shy from addressing fan skepticism, as well as the reason he and Raimi brought on a new director and new stars as opposed to simply making Evil Dead 4. He also had some choice words for the MPAA regarding the film’s (sure-to-be-formidable) violence, and divulged that we shouldn’t expect to see the movie in 3D. Either way, Campbell pities audiences who’ll be seeing the film – check out why!
How do you think the hardcore fans are going to react to the sacred Evil Dead being remade?
Very well. We appreciate their anger and their zeal because they’re very protective of this movie. And so are we. They need to know that the original producers are making this movie, not some cigar-chomping random producer who is just making a random choice with this movie. We’ve thought about it long and hard and it took a long time for this to come about because we had to find the right filmmaker. And thankfully we did. Fede Alvarez did that short, Panic Attack!, on the Internet. Three weeks later he had an agent at CAA. I couldn’t get CAA on the phone if I tried! And he’s meeting with Spielberg. And Sam Raimi was one of his stops, and he was a big Evil Dead fan, and Sam liked his little short and they got to talking and one thing led to another. He pitched some very intriguing ideas of how he would tell this again. We were able to sell it around the world easily because of how successful it was, so we raised money and here we are!
Given that the first series is a trilogy, has anyone signed on for a sequel yet?
Oh, we’re not playing that game. We’re just going to go movie by movie. Because this wasn’t even supposed to be made – Evil Dead 2 wasn’t even supposed to be made. So this is all a franchise that became a franchise that was never meant to be a franchise. It’s a dumb word for this series, because they’ve been getting made in a herky-jerky way over a 30-year period. So – not like we’re spittin’ ’em out, here. I think Evil Dead is very under-exploited. No one’s touched this concept for 20 years. Army of Darkness – we filmed that in ’91. So no one’s touched it in forever. I think people are ready for it! So they can look past their anger at being afraid we’re going to insult them by giving them a bad movie, and as soon as they see the movie they’re all going to get behind it.
When you say “this concept,” what do you mean?
The fact that we’re making another Evil Dead. Some people are very angry about that. It’s all very similar – it’s gonna be putting on that comfortable shoe. It’s five kids, cabin, scary book, bad shit happens for a long time.
How did you help induct the new director and stars into the Evil Dead fold?
I sent an email to all the actors before they shot letting them know exactly what they were gonna be in for. That this was going to be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done in their entire lives. And all the other work they’ll do after this will seem simple. And that’s the first thing out of Jane’s [Levy] mouth when I saw her today – that it’s like going to a spa when she goes back to work on her TV show [Suburgatory]. It’s like a spa vacation with dialogue. No blood, no carnage, no blood rain to contend with. She got an ear infection because she was in a sequence where it rained blood for so long! And I knew she earned her money when I heard that. I made $35 dollars a week on the first one. We were the filmmakers! None of us got paid! I’m getting paid now for what I did 32 years ago!
Why did you choose to do a remake instead of Evil Dead 4?
It’s easier to get a young filmmaker and a bunch of young actors. We’re middle-aged men now – I don’t know that Evil Dead 4 is looking so good any more!
Well, look at Liam Neeson in Taken and Taken 2.
No, you look at Liam Neeson! You know? Whatever! I heard the movie sucked ass. I mean, like severely sucked ass. Whatever, everybody does what they do. We don’t have to make another one. This’ll be a nice little candy bar for anyone who wants an Evil Dead experience. They’re gonna be just fine.
The first Evil Dead is scary as hell, but part of what makes it fun is the dark humor in it. Will the remake have that humorous undertone?
Well, the dark humor in the first one is because we were bad actors delivering lousy dialogue. So let’s call a spade a spade, here. All the actors in this version are better than we ever were. I don’t want to compare Fede with Sam because I think Sam is actually a genius. And I think Fede’s certainly knocking at that door. But they have more support, they have more money, all the special effects are better. And it’s not like we’re trying to go, “Look at our digital special effects!” It’s mostly make-up effects, still. Mostly. So it’s still an old-school horror movie approach, and the only time we used digital was just to help make things happen. If an arm didn’t work right because you needed a rig and something to cut that arm off with a carving knife, we needed some digital help every so often. But it’s not an orgy of digital shots.
Given the 3D craze, Evil Dead kind of screams to be 3D – will you be delivering it that way?
Not this movie, though Army of Darkness should be 3D, because of the tone and the feel of it. This wouldn’t really be a good 3D movie. It’s kind of too much like a normal drama. Until the shit hits the fan, and then audiences are doomed. I really pity the audiences who go see this movie. I actually do! I severely pity them.
You need to sit in on an audience at a regular showing!
Don’t think I won’t! Get the old baseball cap, come in a little bit late, have my popcorn. I’m looking forward to it! I can’t wait, they’re going to freak their shit. That’s a horror movie’s job! Not really to make people feel like the world is a shitty place – that’s not it. The idea is to, you go there because you like the ride at the amusement park. You take the big 100-foot drop because you think you’re gonna die, but you don’t. And it gives you that rush. Horror movies are the same thing – you go through this cathartic experience where you watch poor Jane Levy go to hell and back again, and I think it’s what audiences want. When you go to a horror movie, man, it’s gotta deliver.
What’s the hardest part about re-casting people that you know and worked with?
They’re all different characters, so we never had to compare it. We just had to make sure they were good actors, and tough actors. Jane Levy’s tough – she’s a touch chick. And a little hottie, too. Just gonna lay it out there!
With the serious tone and the intense violence, is there any concern about the rating?
Oh, yeah, they’re gonna kill us! I think we have a screening for the MPAA later this month. They’re gonna be all over it like a cheap suit! All filmmakers have to allow for a contingency factor and every filmmaker has a different technique in dealing with the ratings. But what the ratings board needs to realize is there is such a thing as more benign violence. Because when violence gets absurd, it becomes absurd. And there are points in this movie where you’ll laugh for different reasons. You’ll laugh because you can’t believe what you’re watching. And the ratings board, I hope they do realize that. The Evil Dead films are generally a little more joie de vivre than the average horror movie. We celebrate the fantastic more than, like, torture porn. Like putting a guy’s penis in a vise for half an hour – that’s not good filmmaking, that’s lazy. So there’s none of that in this movie.
Army of Darkness just turned 20 – and it famously has an original and then a studio-chosen ending. Which is your favorite?
I always liked the original. I don’t like endings that are based on getting a bunch of unemployed people at a mall to recruit them to come and see your movie – sorry, you’re not filmmakers. I know you’re an audience, but there’s only so much I can take from that. And I thought it was a very appropriate ending and a very ridiculous ending, but there was a lot of pressure to change it and we did. When the studio puts up the money, they call the shots. There’s no studio on this one, though!
Yeah, so what’s it like having the shoe on the other foot? Now you’re calling the shots!
Absolutely, but we’re a good little studio! Our notes are constructive, our notes come from a filmmaking background, and we’re only interested in the good of the child, not furthering some personal agenda. I’m not a lawyer giving notes.
It sounds like you’ve had a lot of fun adapting this, so is the future you re-shaping horror cinema?
Yeah! I hope we do three of these! And then Fede will be too old. And then screw him, and we’ll get some new filmmaker! And the actors will all be too expensive, so I’ll just start all over again. It’ll be a horrible cycle that’ll go on forever!
It sounds like a beautiful cycle!
Yeah, I’m ready for it! It just happened – we didn’t really plan any of this. But if people are ready for another Evil Dead, then we’re gonna give it to them. Whether they like it or not!
Evil Dead opens April 12, 2013.