It’s not every day that a completely unknown director makes a short film and catches the eye of an established Hollywood heavyweight, but that’s precisely what happened to Fede Alvarez. Sam Raimi saw Alvarez’s 2009 short Panic Attack! and gave him the opportunity to helm the Evil Dead remake – an offer Alvarez, a lifelong horror fan, didn’t hesitate to accept.
Raimi trusted the director with the first pass at the film’s script, as well. Alvarez told a small group of reporters at New York Comic Con that despite boasting basic plot devices of the 1981 classic film, this is a very different (that is, far more violent and tonally serious) horror movie. He discussed working with the team from the original film, creating a movie that melded all the elements of The Evil Dead that terrified him when he first watched it at age 12, the refreshing lack of CGI employed in the production, the “bloodiest scene ever” and, yes, tree rape.
So you're taking on this beloved franchise. What's the tone you’re going with? Can folks expect something similar to the original Evil Dead?
It's definitely something that comes out of the first one. Sam asked me, "Fede, would you remake Evil Dead for me?" And of course any filmmaker, when approached with that question, you freak out. So when somebody tells you that, they're waiting for you to pitch them your version of the movie. So of course I said, "Sam, yeah, sure." So I locked myself into a room with one of my best friends back home, my co-writer on the movie. We thought about what Evil Dead is for us. For me, it's like, Evil Dead, I saw it when I was 12. And when you're 12, you're not supposed to be watching that! I remember it was the same feeling of the first time I discovered porn. Like, I'm not supposed to do this but I'm gonna do it anyway. And I remember, it was a very, very, very bad call. I shouldn't have watched that movie – I was too young, I was traumatized by it. I was so, so scared – it was a super, super-violent, scary movie. So coming back to right now, when me and my friend were trying to figure it out, I was like, "That's the kind of movie I want to do again!" I didn't want to go and re-watch it to try and figure it out, I wanted to remember the key ideas – like, what stayed with me after all this time. That thing you never forget about the time you watched it for the first time. So we knew those things had to be in the new one. And basically what we pitched to him…it basically was like, “Let's try to make the scariest movie ever!” And that's exactly what he [Sam] wanted – he wanted to make a straightforward horror, scary, violent film.
Can you tell us anything about how gory it's going to be?
It is gory, that's for sure. Sam always says this: “There's a fine line between horror and comedy.” You go too far, everybody starts laughing. You hit it in the right place, everybody's scared to death. So we were always trying to stand on that line. So sometimes gore can be very funny. It's not that kind of gory film. It has a lot of blood. I would come back home after every day of shooting covered in blood. People on set would have to cover themselves with plastic bags because there was so much splatter.
What kind of effects did you use to make all this gore happen?
We didn't do any CGI, so there's no CGI in the movie. Everything you'll see is real. This was a very long shoot – 70 days of shooting. That's the reason why everybody goes to CGI, because it's cheaper, faster. But I hate that – most people hate that, particularly in a movie like this one. So we searched a lot of magic tricks and illusions, like with disappearing arms, all those kind of things. We really pushed the boundaries trying to create those illusions. There's also a particularly bloody ending. The last scene is just – we wanted it to be the bloodiest scene ever. And I think it is!
How would 12-year-old you react to the film that you made now?
I couldn't imagine! They used to pull a lot of horrible and violent things back in the ‘70s that today is like, oh, no! Like The Exorcist, with the crucifix and saying, "Fuck me, Jesus" – you would never get a rating, it would never be released. Evil Dead is part of that also. A girl gets raped by a tree. And even myself, when we wrote the first script, we didn't write that scene. We were like, "No way! Who's gonna let us get away with that?" And that's the beauty of this film, because it's Bruce [Campbell], Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert … it’s the three of them and myself working together on all the creative processes. This is not a classic remake controlled by a big studio – this is the same creatives from the original doing this film. And so we're working together, and, like, I said, “I didn't write that scene,” and Tapert's like, "Where's my raping scene?" And I was like, "Oh, okay!" And of course now it has to be way more terrible than the original. So, yeah, I couldn't watch it if I was 12, because this is more graphic, in a way. But also it's really psychological.
There are a lot of iconic shots in the original. Did you recreate any of those as a fan nod?
No, not really. Well, yes. Some. But there are a lot of hints to the original. And Sam noticed, and he'd be like, “Why don't you put like this or that?” And I'd be like, "No, that's your movie. I have my pride – I'm a director. I'm not going to go and recreate another director's vision." But there were some moments when I'd look in the monitor and it'd look like the original and I’d be miserable, I'd be like, "I have no soul!" And I didn't put most of those things in the cut, and thank God Sam backed me up with most of those things.
Evil Dead opens April 12, 2013.