Fede Alvarez (center) joins us on the set of Evil Dead, pictured here in front of the film's cabin with a group of journalists
We recently visited the set of Evil Dead in Auckland, New Zealand, were we met up with the cast and crew for a tour of the cabin being used in this remake, as well as a group interview. To read our report: http://movieweb.com/set-visit-evil-dead-remake-with-jane-levy-and-lou-taylor-pucci/CLICK HERE. We were also able to talk with director Fede Alvarez for an unprecedented, extended amount of time, in which he was very candid, offering more details about the film than we expected.
A director of commercials, the Uruguayan filmmaker was handpicked to helm this reboot of the long dormant horror franchise by creator and director Sam Raimi, himself. Alvarez's 2009 short film Panic Attack! made quite an impression on Raimi. Cut to three years later, and Fede is out in the middle of the woods, orchestrating a symphony of blood that promises to be, at the very least, a watchable remake. Which is rare in this day and age. Heck, it might surpass watchable to actually be, dare we say it, quite good.
It's easy to pick on the modern day horror remake, because so many of them are crass commercial cash grabs that simply aren't interested in appealing to an audience past its intended sell by date. Evil Dead is a different kind of remake. It is being resurrected by its original team of producers and creators, including Raimi, star/producer Bruce Campbell, and producer Robert G. Tapert. Sure, they're doing it for the money, but they're also doing it for love of the game, as Fede can attest to.
Sitting with the director for well over an hour, he let us take a peek behind-the-scenes at what is surely going to be the goriest movie of the year. Here is our conversation, which is filled with blood, guts, determination, and a rape vine. If you're on the fence about this particular reboot, read on. Maybe Fede can ease your mind.
The possibility exists that what you're making might not be able to be released as an R-rated movie. You're shooting some hardcore blood. Can you talk a little about the fact that down the road, there could be multiple versions of this film?
Fede Alvarez: It will be an R-rated movie no matter what. When we wrote the script we delivered it and they were like "Oh, this is amazing." [Producers] Robert G. Tapert and Sam Raimi are more like good cop, bad cop; those are the dynamics of it. Bruce Campbell is always excited about everything. And for me it was such a dream to have those three guys talking about the movie, it was awesome. But the voices were like, basically Robert G. Tapert, being a little more realistic, was like "That's an NC-17 movie right there, the way it was written." But there are people at Sony that take care of that, a liaison with the MPAA, and they read it and go, "Oh, I think that will be an R because of the supernatural aspects of it." You know you Americans are crazy, right? The whole ratings system is like "cuckoo!" Because there's not much sex, actually, but there is...In a way. But not in the "Oh look, a boob!" Or, "Oh, they have some sex now!" Not that kind of sex. So that's all right, all the mutilation and all that, that's all cool for the kids. It's great!
Can you talk about Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Bruce Campbell's involvement in the film?
Fede Alvarez: Oh, they were all very involved in pre-production. I actually had the chance to spend a week with Bruce Campbell in his house in Miami. I lost a flight connection and I knew he lived there, we were already in contact because of the movie and he invited me over, so I had the crazy awesome chance to spend the week with the team. On pre-production we had a lot of time together, talked a lot about the movie and what we were going to do. But then Sam Raimi said to me "Once the ship has sailed, it's gone. Once you start shooting, I cannot be the guy screaming 'Go the other way! Go the other way!' They have to let you go. Now it's about us, the people that are down here. And they send their feedback here and there saying, "It's looking great, keep going. Awesome. Take care of that. Watch this thing." Those kinds of things, but not "in control" of the thing. I guess, in my mind at least, this is not the remake you do every day, for many reasons. Most of those remakes like The Thing, or even A Nightmare on Elm Street, I'm not judging on if you like them or not, it's not that. It's just that those properties are not owned by a man, right. Wes Craven doesn't own A Nightmare on Elm Street; he didn't even own the original. He created the whole thing, but it was owned by the studios, so all those big franchises are owned by studios, so the remake is created by a studio. This is a totally different ballgame because this is one of those rare big names in horror movies that are just owned by these guys. It's just Robert G. Tapert, Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi. And that dentist that we all know about, [people that] gave them money. They're still around, they're gonna get money out of this one. And all those people and all those friends that gave them money, when they did the original, and of course they are not involved creatively in the process [of the remake], this is all about Robert G. Tapert, Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi and myself and my co-writer in the beginning really creating what we're gonna do. Sam Raimi, being who he is, has a lot of power because people trust him, he's a great artist. So the studios, they hand everything to him and he has the power to say "This is the way it's gonna be." And everything on this movie has been basically down to his word. And Sony has been supportive 100% in everything. So in a way it ended up being very indie, the way we're doing it. Because I don't remember a moment where I said "I want to do this." And someone said "Oh no, you can't do that." It hasn't been like that. So far it's like "Let's go for it." And Sam Raimi, he was the director before, he's a producer on this one, but you know he's more a director. His job as a producer is just to support the director, to say, "Yes, go for it if you want to do it." He knows that in a good movie you have to trust the director. If you don't trust the director you're fucked, right? As the producer, if you're just trying to turn something into something else, it's impossible. So that's why I think this one is different. It's not your every day, run of the mill kind of thing because this is not a big franchise that's owned by a studio that wants to make a lot of money off of it, it's kind of different. Everybody wants to make money off of it, of course. But it's not until you talk with them and you hear them talking about the movie that you know they understand, they have different reasons, I don't know what they are, but it's not the studio mentality, it's nothing to do with that. At least so far, right.
Aside from the original Evil Dead movie, what inspired you in writing this screenplay?
Fede Alvarez: It is a remake, of course, so you have to remake some elements of the original, but you want to do your own movie. For me, every time I read about a remake of a classic, I'm the guy...I'm not a troll, but I have a user account at most of your sites, you can check it, you'll find my same user name I have on my YouTube video "Panic Attack". You will find the same user on most of your sites and I've logged there like forever. You'll find my commentaries on old movies saying like, "That sucks! Why are they fucking going to do that!" So then it happened to me, and I'm doing it and I read all these people saying, "What the fuck are they doing?" And all of that, its kind of bizarre and weird. I know that for me, what really kept me going is that it's awesome to do it anyways, without being affected by the, "Why the fuck are they going to do that?" It's like, for my generation, there's a lot of movies that we love. I'm 34 so when I watched them back then I didn't know they were a remake. It's not that I want to go with the whole The Thing wasn't a remake, kind of. The Blob... The Blob was a remake. But The Fly, I was going to say that, The Fly was an awesome movie. I didn't know for a long time it was a remake. And David Cronenberg is an amazing filmmaker. He didn't give a fuck about the original, right? And, without being too disrespectful to the original, and I'd say this to Sam Raimi, I tried to make my own movie. I don't want to try to remake it. That's the mistake. You have to take whatever you think is the best things about the original and do a new one. And hopefully a lot of kids are going to watch this movie today and for them it's new. Who knows, right? I remember reading an interview from David Cronenberg talking about The Fly. And it's not that the original was nothing. It's a cult horror classic; people know it and a lot of people respect it. And when they heard they were remaking it they were like, "Fuck, how are they going to do that?" But there's a new generation of people that are younger than us that are just going to watch it and they don't know about the original, that's really what kept me going every day. Let's try to make that movie, right. So, we tried to grab the things that appeal to me the most from the original. And there's all the goofy, kind of campy way and all that. I remember there was something that really traumatized me as a kid, when he's about to kill his girlfriend, he cannot do it. And he's there with the chainsaw and she's there and he sees the necklace, and he can't do it. He starts burying her and I remember the fear in my heart when he starts burying her. I was like "No, no, no dude you should chop her into pieces." But being with the guy in that moment when he's finally alone trying to deal with all those things...So there's a lot of elements of that, that appeal to me, that we're bringing back in this one. Like in every zombie movie, the hardest part is when your body turns into a zombie, right? So that's what I think is a great idea behind the Evil Dead. All of your friends turn, so you don't just go and kill them in the real world. That's one of the things that makes the original funny, right now. Because it's his girlfriend, he's been to hell with her, "Shut up! *KA POW!*" Well, back then you could beat a woman in a different way, it was weird. They beat the hell out of them and it's like, "Aw, it's cool." My god. But it's the fact that they're friends, hitting them in the face and all that makes you laugh because you think you wouldn't do that in that situation. You wouldn't hit your friend in the face with a shovel. So I guess, basically what we're doing is mixing real life with Evil Dead. We came up with a set up that was more modern, I guess, and more real. I thought right away, "Why are five guys going to a cabin? Why would five guys go to a cabin in the middle of nowhere?" There's no fucking reason to do that today. Back then it was, "Smoke pot and have beer." Today, I guess not. There's no real big deal about that now, so it wouldn't make sense. So we were trying to come up with a good idea of why are they going to go there? Why would five guys lock themselves up in a cabin on the weekend? So we set up in the movie a very realistic and dark tone. But suddenly they bump against Evil Dead. They will find all the things that make the original good, they find the book, the words, something is unleashed. But the way it's explained in this story is, Mia, the main character, she's sick since the beginning. And just what happens when they find all that, and without them knowing what's going on, she just starts getting sicker and sicker. And then it just starts spreading to all of them, but it feels like, for their characters, it's real. They're worried at the beginning that's it's some kind of disease that's passing. But the events are exactly the same that happened in the original, almost in the same order I would say. Sister gets possessed; they don't know what it is. She ends up in the cellar; they don't know what to do with her. Somebody else gets infected; they have two friends trying to deal with that. Trying to work together and deal with this. If you look at it in a certain way, the structure of the story, I would say the first half is very similar. The reason why they go there is different, but at the end of the day, it's still, "Five guys to go a cabin; they find the book, one of them gets possessed, ends up in the cellar. Another one gets possessed, they don't know whether to kill them, they die, and they are shocked because of that. There's still one in the cellar that's possessed." All the structure is still the same idea. But for me the exciting part is that I'm trying to deal with that as if it's happening in real life. That's why I was saying earlier today that 28 Days Later is one of my favorite horror movies recently, and I was a big fan of George A. Romero's zombie movies back in the 80s, also. And, with 28 Days Later, suddenly somebody did that for real, and it was so fucking scary. When somebody would go "Haha, zombies are so funny," look at this! That's not funny. And it wasn't funny at all, it was super scary. For me, that was a big moment for horror, I guess. It was a real twist, taking those things in a serious light. But most of the classic horror movies are like that. The Exorcist does that. If you look at it today, it'll scare the hell out of anybody, because it treated it as a realistic story. The Omen, The Exorcist, those movies for me are the quintessential horror movies that still scare me as an adult. We tried not make this movie "Aw, it's just for kids, so have fun." I mean, I'm 34, I don't enjoy going to a theater to watch My Bloody Valentine 3D, I don't do that, right. I don't watch those kinds of movies. PG-13 horror, I just don't watch that. So I tried to make a horror movie that I would go and watch and be entertained by, and love the story and all that. But, at the same time, it's so outrageous because the Evil Dead universe is there. It's like what happened when these guys were talking about the vomit. You set up the story; everyone is serious because we're dealing with this girl that's a junkie. It's like "Come on, you have to cope with it." And suddenly she is vomiting in somebody's face, right? And the girl that's trying to help her, she's on the floor and the other one is vomiting on her face, like liters of blood out of her mouth, fuck! So it's so outrageous. When you're there and you do it, it's just like out of control, right? And again, we do it practical, so she has a big tube that she put in her mouth...It was pretty obscene. And when she finally got the tube up her throat, everything inside her mouth started going out, which usually in movies you do it from the side or something like that, or you do it CG and we didn't want to do any CG, so we just put the tube up her throat and "Pfffft," blood started coming out. You couldn't see her mouth, it was filled with vomit. So it's all real, and it's just gross. At the same time, it's so over the top. That's the nice mix for me. The over the top crazy stuff with a very realistic eye. I always enjoy that. I mean, the stuff that Sam likes is exactly that. Trying to come up with the craziest, most unreal thing, but look at that in a realistic light, right?
The Book of the Dead no longer has the face on it. Its not the same book from the trilogy. And its no longer called "Necronomicon". Why the changes to something that is so iconic in the horror genre?
Fede Alvarez: It's called...What it's called in the original..."Naturan Demanto." I think they call it that in the recording, in the original...(Shrugs, he doesn't want to talk about the book any more...)
Well, then...After a movie like Cabin in the Woods, what makes your set of young adults open the book? Everyone knows this will be bad at this point. What compels these people to do something years of horror history has told them not to?
Fede Alvarez: I haven't seen The Cabin in the Woods, I have to. But the book is the most genre kind of element. You read from a book, something happens. That is pretty 80s, I would say. When you say "Candyman, Candyman" or "Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice", and you can say that....I'm just going to say it two times, just in case. Just to be safe. That's pretty 80s, right? The whole, "Saying words out loud and stuff happens." So, the way to do it in this story is, we tried to be more subtle about those things. They find the book; the book is there, among other things. It's not just "Oh, a book."
The stuff we saw in the basement, is that there when they find the book?
Fede Alvarez: Yes, they will find the book down there. But it's not all of them; just one of them is intrigued by it. You'll see why, because they do not just find a book in the beginning. So something's going to draw this guy to the book. And in my eyes, the moment they open the book, the moment they deal with that, the moment they start fucking with it, the thing's already started. If you want to believe that the words start it, fine. For me, it's more that he reads from the book, he's translated some passages to discover some stuff, because he wants to know what language it's in. His only intrigue is, "What the fuck is this? What language was it written in?" But for me, the moment he opens the book, and the moment they bump into the book, everything is set in motion already. So we don't necessarily have to believe that, because he said the words out loud, it happens. Which, again, those are the shortcuts that I was talking about. That's always a trap. Trying to just remake it like, "Oh, well, in the original when they read the words, it happens, so let's do the same." You have to dare to be critical with a classic, and say, "Okay, that's not going to work for a modern audience." Let's have the balls to change it. It's not just that, I would say convince them that there's a better version of that same story. So, there's a lot of those ideas, like the book, where we're trying to update them in a good way, trying to make them more realistic and more grounded in the real world, and not dependent on people believing. Because, like I said, saying words out loud is kind of from a different era, I guess.
But it wouldn't be the Evil Dead if you didn't go over the top with it at some point...
Fede Alvarez: Exactly. There's a lot of things. The violence is over the top. The showdown, it is raining blood. So you can imagine that it's gonna get to quite an outrageous, over the top, chainsaw action, raining blood...it just goes crazy, right. So, on that side, is super over the top. The thing is that, for me, the realistic aspect is the characters, how they deal with it, as if it happened in real life. They're not doing funny one-liners and stuff like that. That would, for me as the audience, take me out of it. It would be like, "How come he's joking about it?" I mean, I would be scared to death. And also, for the kind of horror movies that I like, if you start going too much to the left the fear just dissipates a little bit, you know? That's why I choose 100% horror. For me, it's weird when people complain about like, "Aw, why are they going to do that?" I mean, the Evil Dead movies are not going to disappear, right? They are there, they're always there, a remake doesn't have to kill the original at any level. I mean, worst case scenario, people that love the original and don't like this are just going to go, "Aw no, that's not the one I like, fuck it." Okay, that's all right. But the other movies are always going to be there. There are the horror fans that love the Evil Dead because of the humor, but I'm sure it's not all of them. Not all horror fans love Evil Dead because of the humor, at least not me.
How much blood are you actually using on set?
Fede Alvarez: I know we ordered a truck the other day that was...50,000 gallons? Just for one scene. ...
Is that how much it takes to make it rain blood?
Fede Alvarez: Yeah. That's a lot of blood. That's a thing we're trying to measure, because sometimes we go too over the top, and there's a lot of blood, and we go "Eh." But somebody joked, because the other day I said, "Okay, that was too much blood." And they all said "Wow, wow that's the first time we've heard that so far." Usually I ask for more. There's always a tone that you have to hit right in horror. With the blood, you want to make sure that it makes sense all along. You choose one style, right? Like the way an arm bleeds when you cut it. It could look so many different ways and not look in the style of the movie, right? We're kind of a little bit...sometimes we're a little bit too Japanese I would say. It's kind of that sharp, flat, we have some of that kind of stuff. I mean, that's what I like. But yeah, it's pretty over the top sometimes.
Can you describe how you are approaching the Rape Vine scene? That could be cartoony, and not very realistic...
It was all Rob's fault. We heard that was Rob Tapert's idea...
Fede Alvarez: Yeah. And also, the problem is when you look at it, she gets raped, but then it seems like she's enjoying it? That's wrong. No one's going to enjoy that. In this one, I'd say it's more brutal, in a way. But it's still rape. And actually it was again Rob, because in the beginning Sam Raimi didn't want it, didn't write it. He was like, "Well it's kind of implied, and maybe we'd do a version for DVD because we're going to get an NC-17 if we do it." But then Rob was like "Fuck no, let's rape it."
Can I quote you on that?
Fede Alvarez: Sure. And he was like "Let's do it. Let's go for it." We wrote it and we shot it already.
That scene is one of the original movie's most memorable moments. Do you have a new scene created for this remake that could become just as iconic as the rape vines?
Fede Alvarez: I hope so. I hope so. There's many various ones. Something that I love about the original, also, is that they used tools, right? They are like zombies but they grab stuff and they hit you with it, right? In this one we took that to another level. Like the girl with the chainsaw that chased after him in the second one, there's something that I love about that. We bring that a lot. So in this story, since the beginning subtly you will see all those elements being around the house. You'll see the nail gun, somewhere there's a crowbar in the beginning. And all those elements, they start finding those things, and they make very good and creepy use of those tools. I remember a writing teacher of mine told me once "If you write a line, and when you write it you're like 'Okay, this is going to stick in peoples' minds forever' delete it." Because it means that, for some reason, it feels like strange or weird so that would mean that it's not real, so you have to just kill it. So, I'm trying not to... Although I would confess there's some moments that I hope are going to be, but I'm trying not to hope that a moment is going to be iconic, we don't know. Honestly, when you're writing you try to stay on the story, on the character's mind, trying to throw stuff at them. There is danger, and the scares have to kick in the right places with the drama. And you try not to do too much to try to create those moments. Those moments create themselves. And most of the time a lot of directors will tell you if you ask them, "When you create that moment, do you know?" and they're all going to say, "Fuck no. That was a Thursday, I was tired, it was morning, and we had to shoot it pretty quickly." And sometimes those are the most iconic scenes in their movies. Hopefully you don't know when it's happening, you're just doing something. Sometimes you think, "What do I think about this?" "Oh no, I love this" "What?" And they love this part of your movie that you didn't really have the intention to create; I think that's why it happens.
Do you think there are any modern day remakes that have gotten it right. Not from the 80s, like The Fly or The Thing. But in the last ten to twenty years, when this became a fashionable thing to do...
Fede Alvarez: Got it right? I would love to say Dawn Of The Dead. I enjoyed it, but I remember watching it and kind of being pissed because I felt it was kind of a rip-off of 28 Days Later. It came out at kind of the same time, right?
It was maybe a year later...
Fede Alvarez: It seemed to be inspired by the other one, the kind of video look, and the realistic, fast zombies. But that's one of those that it was an actual remake that I think got its place right. A lot of people loved that movie, and I think it's good. Zack Snyder did a great job there. What else? I don't know, really. It's a hard question.
You mentioned that you filmed most of this in order. Were there any sequences that you filmed out of order because of production need? Or is it like 95% of this was shot in order?
Fede Alvarez: I would say 95%, yes. The only thing that kind of jumped back and forth is, just because we have...Actually, tomorrow we're going back to the woods, and we're doing night shoots. So we have 2 weeks of night shoots. So, probably there's a moment that already happened in the story. But mainly it was pretty linear. It's also because everything happened in the house. It's easier, production wise, to create it that way. If you're making a movie that happens in the city, if you're in an office building shooting, you do everything that happens in that office building before you leave, right? Because, production wise, you need to. But in this, everything happened in the cabin, most of it. There are some scenes out in the woods, but a big percentage happens inside the cabin. So it's easier to create it that way and go linear along the story. And it's such a pleasure for everybody to understand what's going on, what happened before. You can see the actors going like, "Aw, fuck!" You know, when something happens they understand, they know what happened before. They just witnessed the story. They're not confused about what's going on in the story. Yes, it's pretty linear. Also, something that we bring back from the original is, it's like they're almost in real time I would say. Once it really kicks in there's no time jumps. It just keeps going and going and going and going. There's no "Cut to later on that day." There's no room for that. Pretty quickly, there's no room for that. You have to stay with them all the time.
How did you decide which call backs you wanted to have from the original movie?
Fede Alvarez: (Laughs) It was organic in a way. Some actors do laugh at me when I say it's organic. But it's because I'm trying...I remembering going to the girl and asking, "Can you say 'What happened to her eyes?'" and you're like, "What?" but I go, "Yeah, just say it." And she goes and says it because the moment made sense, because something happened to her eyes, so she said that. So when they make sense we do it. But like I said, I know that's a trap. I try not to fall for those wishes. But yeah, I mean chainsaw had to be there. But the good thing is that they never asked me for any of those. Like, it never came from Sam Raimi or Robert G. Tapert or Bruce Campbell saying "Ah, I think we should have this or that."
Did they ever say "Tone it down. Don't do that so much?"
Fede Alvarez: (laughs) Oh no, no, no, no, no, nothing like that.
Can you talk about the visuals? Like the color palate of the film. What we saw last night was visually very dark. You know, it's lit in low light. Obviously the set we saw was pitch black. When I think of the first Evil Dead I think of yellows and browns, pretty vivid colors. Would you say this sticks to that or is it sort of desaturated?
Fede Alvarez: It's more desaturated. Because when you're trying to be more realistic, you're trying to bring the colors down a little bit. Of course, what you've seen in the monitors is not great. The looks are going to be different, but the lighting is going to be something like that. There's a lot of handheld action, so there are a lot of raw and simple movements in the house. It depends. We really have some rules. When it's just about the guys and their reality, we deal with that handheld, and when suddenly we turn around and there's a demon there, or there's something that's a big supernatural event, it looks like somebody, but it's just fucked up and very angry, we turn around and it's a Deadite, and suddenly the camera will switch to a very steady mode with weird camera angles. We look at things and the way they are. Like if it looks this way and there's real people, the camera is handheld. Turn around and there's demons, suddenly it's steady. There's a lot of rules like that, that really gives a particular style to the movie. Then color wise, yes, what we're trying to do, and this definitely came from Sam Raimi in the beginning, he asked me to do a timeless movie. Which I feel you can pretty much watch the movie and you can't tell if they're in the 70s, or right now, or in the 90s. There's nothing really in their clothes, in my mind today...Somebody could watch the movie in 20 years and go "Oh, those were crazy days." ...But right now we're trying to make choices in the clothes and the colors and the technology that is involved in the movie to not give away any certain time. I would say there's one car, a station wagon that's probably from the 90s, the blue one, it could very well be early 90s or late 80s, and actually it's probably a 2005. And also, with the clothes they are wearing pretty generic plaid, converse sneakers; there are a lot of things that are very fashionable today that anybody could wear also in the 70s or 90s. There's just one moment when somebody has a cell phone in their hand, and I want to kill that moment; I'm trying not to use that. There's no signal. *beep* *beep* *beep* *beep* But fuck that, everybody knows there's no signal in the middle of the woods in a cabin. So I will probably not use that in the movie. That would be the only giveaway that we're already in the era of cell phones. There's a TV in the room, but it's a TV with VHS from the 80s because the cabin had been abandoned for a long time. For them, it's been 10 years since the last time they were there. And the house, when they created the house, when they put the furniture in the house, was early 90s. And usually in a house like that, you just put away the stuff you don't use anymore. So we just kind of went back to the 80s with all the stuff you're gonna find in the house. It's pre-80s. The VHS, the transit TV, a lot of geek stuff that I love from the 80s is just spread along the house. That's why everything, going back the original question, the colors, everything is trying to be timeless. So it's kind of a yellowish, 35mm look, a kind of Godfathery yellowish mustard kind of look. But a lot of the look is usually in the clothes and the cars and the hair and all that. That's why it has this kind of American timeless look.
Bruce commented in his autobiography that he felt one of the reasons, and I'm paraphrasing here, that the Evil Dead movies work is that because they star a man that screams like a woman. It's funny because I think there's some truth to that. Does that make it challenging in this situation? Because we've already seen so many heroines who have male attributes, like Ripley and so forth. It's not novel; it's not new that concept. Does that make it more challenging for you?
Fede Alvarez: Yeah, but that's the thing. That's not how this movie is crafted. This movie is faithful to the original in that way, too. What Bruce is saying there is funny, but at the same time very true. Evil Dead is one of the few...I'm trying to think of another one...Big horror movies in the horror world that the hero is a man, right? It's basically a man being teased by women. Usually it's the other way around. Usually it's a guy with a knife running after a scream queen. So, it's usually the lead, when you think about most horror movies, the lead is a female. She's a girl being attacked. And Evil Dead is weird, it's not a girl. I mean, Ash becomes a hero in the first one, but he's not really a hero in the beginning. It's more about Ash and Scotty fighting back against these girls and just trying to kill them. Psychologically it's a very powerful idea, right? I love that, I really love that from the original. And we're bringing that back. What you will see in the movie is basically that again. It's two guys that are just stalked and harassed and attacked and psychologically tortured by women. That comes from my personal experience in life, probably. But we have a lot of it, we have a lot of that. That's what I think he means by that. It's weird, but the heroes are men, which makes it way more difficult in a way, for many reasons. It's a convention, but in horror movies the female characters usually tend to believe easier in a supernatural event. She believes, like Rosemary believes, Mr. Thorn's wife in The Omen, she will believe right away and beg him, but he doesn't believe in those things. Up until the last second he'll say, "He's just a child for Christ's sake!" Even if all the proof is there he doesn't believe in it, because, for some reason, in movie history men tend to not believe in those kinds of things. Even in things more recent, like The Ring or The Grudge, in The Ring she believes in the tape but it takes a lot of time for her boyfriend to believe. So that's something that may just sound like a convention, but it's something that we all have in our minds because we've always seen it on the screens. So it's very hard to get these guys to believe what's going on is really supernatural. The girls in the story, they all believe before that, but for some reason they fall first. Because they're the non-believers they fall victim to that, they should have believed earlier. But yes, that's something that's definitely part of the Evil Dead and we bring it back here. You'll see all of them fighting this, but the guys are the ones that are more tortured by the girls. Which I think is cool.
Tell us your approach in working with the actors.
Fede Alvarez: Yes. I mean we, since the get go, we knew he had to create these guys. They're written in a certain way, right? You bring something to the writing of how they are. But when the moment comes to do it for real you have to come up with something that's more precise than what's written on the pages when they come in. Every day it's kind of different, we don't create them in a generic, "Okay, they just turn" kind of way and that's it. It's kind of connected to the characters, who they are before they turn. Once they turn, they bring something that makes a lot of sense, so if there's a girl that's very passive and non-aggressive, once she turns she's the meanest of all. But there's a reason why she releases all that anger and suddenly she's pissed off. They all have traits that come from the character. So, they don't move in the same way, they behave in different ways. Jane Levy is supposed to be a girl that's kicking a habit, and she's going through a withdrawal when she turns, she's kind of a Deadite junkie. She twitches and stuff, she realizes that she's not just possessed but she's also going through withdrawal. So she has all these twitches and stuff like that, it just turns into something super scary to see. Other characters are just very peaceful and cold, just like stone cold killers, because it's more like the characters are, so each one of them helped me. I think a good actor will always know the character better than anybody, right? I'm more focused on the big picture and all of them at the same time, and a good actor will focus on themselves. Usually they tend to do that, just think about their character. Which is good, they just witness the world with their eyes. That's why it's really helpful when they bring their ideas. "My character will do this and that." But then you cross the line of "If my character is possessed I would do this." It's just like "Come on, who knows?" This group of guys, they're really troopers. They're really going for it. I mean, I see them suffer and I enjoy it so much. It has to be that way. If you feel bad for them, if you're like, "Oh no, let's not do another take." Oh no, fuck no, you go again. And usually they're grateful the next day because they see the last take when they were like. "Fuck, I'm miserable". And they look awesome. It turns into something real and they use it and that's the way it is. That's why Bruce Campbell wrote to them and said "You have to suffer because movies that are easy to make are hard to watch."
A lot of directors add really cool or unique shot to their horror. Is there one shot or one sequence where you really went for it?
Fede Alvarez: Well, there's some here and there, I guess. There's one where Natalie goes into the house, after the first person died, that's one shot that turned out to be pretty cool. I honestly try not to do that in a way. I try not to be spectacular with the camera. I try to be a witness of what's going on. There are different kinds of camera work. You have the camera that knows. The camera that is there and shows the cup of tea here and he's thinking about drinking it, right? So even before he looks at it I will show it and then he will eyeball it and "Oh, the tea." Then there's the camera where I see that's he's looking at something and he looks that way and he reacts with whatever's happening with him. So, I guess the reaction camera is more of what we're doing, most of the times. But like I was saying, the trick here is to mix both things in a good way. Once the Deadites come into the scene, and some strong supernatural aspect enters, for some reason we kind of lean more on the stylized camera. But honestly, I'm trying not to show off with stuff, you know? And also it's so hard today to do something with the camera that you haven't seen before. When Sam did the original, just the fact the camera could move so fast and do all those things it was like mind blowing. But back then, The Shining was kind of the first steady-cam long shots. So it was kind of around the same time. But Sam Raimi wasn't doing it in a poor man's way, right? It was just whatever he had. But back then that was mind blowing. I remember when that movie opens, and you see the forest, going through the swamp, I remember going, "Wow, wow, wow, where's that camera at?" Because it's floating over the water and all that, it was pretty weird. Today, virtually the last time you saw anything that was mind blowing camera movement there was some horrible 3D event and the camera was just flying around. And there's something so simple about just 5 people in the cabin, right? So whatever you do with the music and the camera, I'm trying to keep it on that level. On that simple "5 people in a cabin" raw...I don't know what I'm going to do with the music exactly, but we're trying not to be too spectacular and big.
Do you have any particular songs that you'd like to use?
Fede Alvarez: No, no songs. Like pop songs or...?
I'm just curious if there are any songs or any sort of music cues you're already thinking about.
Fede Alvarez: Yes. We're kind of thinking...We haven't brought in a composer yet, so that conversation is still to happen. But we definitely know...I know I want something that's on the same scale as what happened there. It will turn pretty epic at the end, but during the story it's quiet. You know, 5 people in a cabin, a lot of crazy shit happening. But that means for me that it's not a huge big score. I hate fake scares. So you're not going to have any of that "I turn around" "Hey! *Boom*" "Aw, fuck" and it's just like "Do you want some coffee?" Fuck off, I don't do that.
But with all the cats in here you have the opportunity. (laughs)
Fede Alvarez: Yeah, no. We fell for one of those in the beginning, we had a cat there but all that is going to get cut out of the movie. Because usually you have to use fake scares in the beginning because there's nothing really scary happening. And when you test a movie with an audience, if the audience is not scared at first the producer freaks out. "Let's put a scare there." But we tried not to do that. And nobody involved with this movie wants any of those fake scares, thank god. So we don't have any of that. For me the music is like, if it's too crazy it's like having an over excited person sitting next to you. So they enter a room, that's not particularly scary but the music goes like "BAWWWWW" so it's like having somebody go, "Ha, is that scary or what?!" "Wow that was great!" "Oh my god, oh my god, pay attention now!" It's like "Fuck, just shut up." When it's something that's too big for what's really happening it doesn't work for me. It has to be in the same tone. The events are pretty brutal. But it's very man on man, right? We have somebody beating somebody else on the floor with a crowbar, brutally. If it has a big, big, huge score for me it just doesn't work. We're really going to go more of a Cameron orchestra. You know, smaller size. Also, those Clint Mansell kinds of composers, they are very scary in a way. Like, if you listen to a Requiem for a Dream kind of soundtrack, it's just disturbing and scary. So I think something like that fits better in this movie than a big classic score. So those are the ideas we've kind of had.
This is your first feature film. What has the experience been like for you?
Fede Alvarez: Dude, three years ago I was in my house doing commercials going, "Oh, whatever". Doing stuff. I did a short and suddenly, one week after I uploaded it, I was sitting with Sam Raimi signing a deal with him to do another movie that didn't happen, but still there. A week after that I was like, "Well, we're gonna make a movie, awesome." And then we had a process with that movie where somebody had to write it, and that's why the movie never happened because they wrote something that was like, "Eh." During the process of that, Sam Raimi and I were getting along pretty well and Sam goes like, "Well, you want to make Evil Dead?" "...What?" We started doing Evil Dead, that's when I asked him, "Please, can I write it this time?" And he said "Sure." Maybe he didn't trust it was going to be good, but I'm happy that he liked it. And suddenly I'm here making a movie. But dude, three years ago I was thinking about selling my car and moving back to Uruguay, nothing like Hollywood. I was thinking about just making my movies and making my short stuff. So it's...What can I say dude? It's like the best experience ever. I've been doing this stuff since I was 12, even before, I did stop motion movie with clay models when I was 7. I had a big collection of Star Wars shorts with my Star Wars dolls, doing all the voices and shit like that. I have Star Wars fan shorts; I've been doing all kind of shorts and stuff since forever. So suddenly this happened for some reason. I don't know why, but it's happened and it's just awesome.
Those shorts should be a special feature on the Evil Dead Blu-ray.
Fede Alvarez: (laughs) Yes, I'll show them around someday. Thank you guys.