Fede Alvarez’s directorial debut is a reimagining of what is arguably the most cherished horror film ever made. With Sam Raimi’s proud backing and keen involvement, Alvarez has delivered a new vision of 1981's The Evil Dead. Despite mixed critical reaction, fans have embraced it.
We met the Uruguayan helmer in London to discuss his foray into horror, how the film works as a sequel as much as a redo, nicking an idea off thrash metal giants Slayer, and that insanely boastful poster tagline.
GFW: You’ve gone with ‘Evil Dead’ as opposed to ‘The Evil Dead’. Was it important to ditch the definitive, as a mark of respect?
Alvarez: It was something I definitely wanted to do. When I delivered my first draft I wrote ‘Evil Dead’ on the cover. It was to say “This is a new movie” without overriding the original, and yeah, that this isn’t ‘The’ Evil Dead. I would never dare say that. Also because Evil Dead is such a bizarre saga, you know? I always loved that about it. The first one is ‘The Evil Dead’ then the second is ‘Evil Dead II’ then the third one is ‘Army of Darkness’. It must be one of the few sagas that have a title change for the third part. I don’t remember that ever happening. This one is kinda the fourth one so it’s ‘Evil Dead’.
Another thing about your movie is that it could very much work less as a remake and more as a modern-day set sequel.
It’s definitely something that lives in the same universe. If you go back to the cabin thirty years later … maybe somebody bought the cabin after everybody died – and got it cheap! The book [Necronomicon Ex Mortis] was in the same woods and got into the house. It’s definitely a film that is built in a way that it could be a sequel and the characters are completely new. If we’d have had characters with the same names it wouldn’t have worked. It’s crafted in a way that a lot of elements are similar to the first one but more in a supernatural way.
Sam Raimi approached you for the gig. That must have been exciting.
I’m a fan of the original trilogy. All my friends and I, we’ve always been film freaks. We’d watch a movie-a-day, back in the day. We’d rent and rent and rent. In Uruguay we have a cinema where you pay hardly any money and you can go and see hundreds of movies … We watched hundreds and I was never worried about what the fans would say – because I’m one of them. They’re my friends and they’re experts. I was worried when I heard Sam wanted to remake it because I was thinking the same thing [as everybody else]. When he gave me the chance to do it, I thought if somebody’s going to f**k it up, at least it’s me.
So you’ve made the film from a fan’s perspective?
I’ve made the film that, if going to the theatre, it’s the one I’d want to see.
Alvarez on set.
Did Sam give you any particular advice?
He gave me a lot in general, but one [in particular] that made all the difference was saying, ‘Fede, you have to make the film you want to make and not the film you think I want to see’.
The poster's tagline says: ‘The most terrifying film you will ever experience’. Quite a promise. What did you think when you saw it?
The director doesn’t control those things. I mean, it comes with the flipside, ‘Oh, we’ll see about that!’, and at the same time I was proud that Sam wanted to do that. I don’t have any control with that, Sam does. You can’t use that tagline for every horror movie, it just won’t work. You can do it once.
The gore is the highlight of the film, for me. Were you ever restricted in what you could show or where you could push the material?
No. It’s definitely a gory film and the last scene is possibly the bloodiest scene ever. But to be honest, we knew we needed a good story. Gore for the sake of it is not entertaining. If you’re watching a film that is boring it’s like ‘whatever’, but if you’re engaged and want to know where the story is going, it builds itself into something that is terrible and horrible.
The finale is really something and I do wonder if you’re A) a heavy metal fan and B) a fan of thrash metal gods, Slayer?
We got it from Slayer. I’m a big heavy metal fan. It’s amazing – not just the song – but as a concept it’s so cool, and weird that I’d never seen it in a movie. It works in the movie because it makes sense. [Until the last act] You haven’t seen anything supernatural per se in the film. Before that scene nobody flies, like in the first movie Cheryl floats in the air, but in this one it’s [characters] doing a lot of crazy stuff but grounded in reality. That was it. When it starts raining blood then you realise, ‘Okay, this is supernatural’. So it was important for the story.
I think for the first time ever in the history of the medium of cinema, people were talking and tweeting about sequels immediately after the SxSW premiere. Is it something you want to do or are you interested in moving on?
We’ll see. Right now, I’m going to write it and we have to discuss things with Sam – we all do together – and work out what the story will be. I guess once we have the storyline it is going be the time for me to decide.
Have you been pleased by the fan reaction? Not many remakes get this much love, as I’m sure you well know.
It’s my first movie and I really wanted to make the best film I could. I’m super-pleased and it’s the best thing I can ask for.
'Evil Dead' is out now.