Raising the dead
”Bruce, when are you gonna make another Evil Dead?”
Those nine words haunt me every time I do an appearance?which is often. It doesn’t matter to ardent horror fans that the last Evil Dead film (released as Army of Darkness) came out two decades ago and bombed at the box office, or that Sam Raimi is making the biggest movies in Hollywood now, or that I’ve been diligently working on a TV show for the past seven years. But that’s the beauty of Evil Dead fans. They don’t want excuses?they want blood running down the screen and they want it now!
The subject of doing another Evil Dead movie had come up in conversations with partners Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert over the years. It’s not like we didn’t (or don’t) want to do a third sequel, but time was always our enemy. The first Evil Dead took four years. The second two averaged two years apiece, so it would have been a tough fit between Sam’s blockbusters (think Spidey/Oz) and the multiyear TV ventures Rob Tapert and I had gotten into (from Hercules and Xena to Burn Notice).
Enter filmmaker Fede Alvarez. From his home country of Uruguay, he uploaded a short film called Panic Attack!?a clever sequence full of elaborate, homegrown special effects in which giant robots attack a city. Internet response to Fede’s short was immediate and viral. Within weeks he was meeting with Hollywood heavyweights, eager to snap up this fresh talent. Fortunately for us, Fede was a big Evil Dead fan and one of his appointments was with Sam Raimi.
The original idea behind their meeting was to develop a feature version of Panic Attack!, but it wasn’t long before Fede was pitching Evil Dead remake ideas. His take on a new story with new characters surrounded by familiar elements got our attention. The fact that there was no Ash character in this retelling appealed to me. It meant we wouldn’t have to subject some poor-slob actor to the tortures of social media, comparing the ”old” Ash with the ”new.” The movie could stand on its own.
Call it what you will (remake, rebirth, reimagining: I’m weary of all these labels), but the fortuitous arrival of Fede Alvarez gave us the opportunity to present a ”new” Evil Dead to the world while still allowing for the further adventures of Ash, should the stars align in some not-too-distant future.
From a production point of view, I was always curious what an Evil Dead movie would be like if it had an actual, you know, budget. There is a lot of talk about how ”charming” the original film was, with its minuscule budget, raised from Midwestern dentists and doctors and cobbled together over four years. Charming to some, perhaps, but not to me.
So it was very gratifying, this second time around, to have enough money to make the movie without stopping, pay the crew an actual wage, use brand-new equipment, and present it in enough theaters, with enough advertising that you might actually hear about it firsthand instead of through some weird uncle 10 years after it comes out.
The completed movie premiered this year at the SXSW festival, and the response was incredible. The screening reminded me of what I like about a good horror movie?it’s one of the few genres where audiences get viscerally involved?shouting out warnings to the actors on screen or ducking under their coat when things get ugly. I have to admit, the nervous giggles after a big scare, the appreciative applause after a particularly effective sequence, made me glad that we rekindled the fires of a film that was never seen by that many people in an actual theater. The wave of nostalgia was almost enough to make me strap the ol’ chain saw back on and lay waste to ”deadites” until the end of time. Almost.