Evil Dead is undeniably one of the big horror success stories of the year. When the announcement dropped that Sam Raimi’s 1980 horror classic was being given the remake treatment the fan reaction was uncharitable, to put it delicately. But the film moved forward with the support and influence of the original production team, including Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Rob Tapert. And when Evil Dead premiered on the festival circuit, positive reviews poured out with each screening. After opening in theaters the film became a box office success, grossing 100 million worldwide, and it’s looking to raise hell again this week on Blu-ray.
In honor of the Blu-ray release I hopped on the phone for an interview with director Fede Alvarez. He talked about the journey up to this point, why fans reacted positively to the film, the remakes that inspired him, and the Evil Dead sequel he wants to make. He also talked about his favorite features on the Blu-ray, why there’s no director’s cut, and what he’s working on next. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Collider: It’s got to be a hell of an experience having this amazing property entrusted to you, going through a crazy shoot, the promotional tour, finally the positive reaction, and now coming up on the Blu-ray release-
FEDE ALVAREZ: You have no idea.
What have these last two years or so been like for you?
ALVAREZ: It’s been amazing. I guess particularly because- and I’m actually going to find out this weekend, but it’s just been great because just in general I feel like the audience has embraced the movie, particularly the horror community. They enjoyed it. And that’s something that makes all the difference in the world because, for me at least, it doesn’t matter how many places you go and how many tastes of the Hollywood thing you get – it doesn’t mean shit if you make a bad movie, right? If you make a movie that doesn’t work with the audience. So I’m happy that people liked it. It made everything way better, everything that we did, every step of the way. When we shot the movie…WonderCon was great too. All the things that we did were amazing, but the real deal comes now, I think, because now the fans actually saw the movie and I can actually go, “So did you like the movie?” And I’m pretty sure they’ll tell me if they didn’t [laughs].
There was a backlash when the remake was announced, like there always is with remakes of beloved movies, but people definitely came around in the end. Why do you think audiences ended up responding so positively?
ALVAREZ: I guess we approached it with the right spirit. I wouldn’t have known another way to do it, I wouldn’t have done it another way. But I guess when they saw the creative people behind it – that Sam, Bruce, and Rob were on board, and everybody was there, that this wasn’t a remake done by a studio just out of a library just to have a remake, that Sam wanted to give fans a new Evil Dead. I think that the way that we did, we did it in such an independent way. It wasn’t a shitty budget. And for the Hollywood reality it was something quite simple. And I think it was very similar to the spirit of the original film. We tried to make the scariest, goriest movie we could. We tried to be very old school in the whole approach. No state of the art CGI or anything like that. We wanted to really make it difficult for all of us so the audience could enjoy a real experience. All these things, I guess, the audience realized and really respected. For me it sounds weird saying that the filmmakers respect the film. I don’t imagine that there’s other ways to make a film, but unfortunately there is. Every day I spend in Hollywood I start to realize how many films are made with no heart and no love. They just do it for the paycheck and I cannot imagine making a film that way. For me it’s so hard on the set, everybody on the film is trying to make it the best they could, and everybody on the film was on the same page. I think that translated to the film at the end of the day.
Were there any particular remakes that inspired you in terms of adapting someone else’s work?
ALVAREZ: I’m inspired when I find out about something that I didn’t know was a remake. An example is, of course, stuff like The Fly, or The Thing, or even The Blob. For our generation all those things, whether it was The Blob or The Fly or something else, we had no idea they were remakes. Because when you’re 13 or 15 it’s not something that matters, right? You don’t even know. I mean today’s different because of the internet and everything. Maybe a teenager today is more informed and can go online and read a lot about it. But back then it was just like, “Hey this movie’s playing, lets watch it.” You watch it and you like it or you don’t. It doesn’t really matter if it was a remake or an adaptation or whatever. That was inspiring to me. A lot of people walk into these movies without knowing what it is so if you give them a good movie that works by itself they don’t need to know about the original to enjoy this one. So that inspired me to go, “Okay, we’ll give them a movie that can work for new audiences.” And it’s not really relevant if it’s a remake or an original. They’ll be glad to enjoy it as it is. It’s just a movie. In general I think the inspiration was to think about all those movies that I saw as a kid and never knew they were remakes, because I know there’s probably another kid going to watch Evil Dead who has no idea. For him it’s going to be a different movie and then he’s going to find out, “ Hey, there was an original back in the 80’s.” “Oh, great.” Like back then they would have told me “Hey look, you know The Fly was originally a cult classic form the 50’s.” And I would have gone “Oh great,” but it wouldn’t have changed my experience of the film I saw first.
Do you have any favorite extra features on the Blu-Ray?
ALVAREZ: I think there’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff that is great. I haven’t seen it all yet, but I know that there’s some featurettes about the making of the film. Jane Levy shot a diary of her day by day so there’s probably going to be some of that. There’s so much stuff going on behind the cameras. Sometimes people think these things are done certain ways and when you watch that you see how hard and down and dirty it was when we made these films. I think that’s the best part is people get to watch and discover how we made this film, little bits about how we made it.
How’s the work going on the sequel? What stage are you guys on that?
ALVAREZ: We’re discussing. We’re still talking with Sam about it and trying to figure out what we should do. Maybe because I’m a child of the 80’s, but for me a sequel is a story that follows the previous one, and sometimes if you haven’t seen the original then you don’t understand the second one. Like Back to the Future 2. If you haven’t seen the first one, you’re not going to get anything out of Back to the Future 2. So that’s kind of my ideal sequel – a movie that continues the story, takes one character and moves on, and moves forward with that character that survived with the first one. That’s what I want to do. But the reality of the industry today is that the sequel is just the same concept, but with a new bunch of characters. That’s the reality of Final Destination or Saw. Generally it’s a new bunch of characters and you play with the same concept again. But I don’t think, personally, we should just get a new bunch of kids and throw them in the cabin and open the book again. So that’s what we’re trying to- were just going back and forth about what is the reality of the market and what kind of film should we do.
ALVAREZ: Of course. It will be exactly the same people, but I’m not attached as a director right now. Right now all I am is the writer. That’s how I am involved with the film right now.
Are you at all worried that since you put out such a bloody, wild ride of a film that you’ll have difficulty topping it?
ALVAREZ: [Laughs] You can always top it, I guess. It is crazy and it’s violent…and I guess one of the biggest achievements with our movie wasn’t just what was happening, but was getting by the rating panel. I mean there’s other movies out there that are equally violent and crazy, but usually they go straight to DVD or they get an NC17 and they done see a wide release. So I think the achievement was to win that rating battle and to be able to put all that stuff in the R-rated movie that was a wide release. So that’s challenge for the next one. It’s easy to come up with crazy, violent scenes, the hard part is to get an R rating and not an NC17. It’s a crazy game of standing right on the line, on top of the line, juggling the ideas, and not falling on the NC17 line. Because nobody puts an NC17 movie in wide release these days. So basically that’s the real challenge, how we managed to be violent, and crazy, and outrageous and keep it inside the R-rating, which is basically timing it right.
Did you end up having to cut a lot to make that rating?
ALVAREZ: Not a concept. Not an idea that was too violent to be on the cut. I think all we did to get the R-rating was basically just cut down the frames, the amount of time we exposed the audience to certain images. Like when Mia was cutting her tongue or Natalie was cutting her arm. There’s a lot of graphic violence that instead of showing it for two seconds we have to just show it for one second on the screen. So that’s what we lost on the editing floor when we cut it down to an R-rating. That was it basically. There were no scenes that were cut out just for that reason.
Do you have any intention of ever putting those seconds back on the film and releasing a director’s cut?
ALVAREZ: Eventually if they do that. I don’t know it’s really not up to me. Usually you always see first cut is an extended version, because it’s basically everything you shot, and you have that version and then you start cutting stuff out. Just to pick up the pace or sometimes stuff didn’t work out the way you wanted it to so you cut it out. Definitely my favorite cut is the one that got put out. That’s my favorite version of the film, the one that I put in theaters. That’s my directors cut, there’s no question about it. The producers that could have come in and said, “We’re going to cut this a different way”. That never happened. Sam saw my cut and said “That the version that it’s supposed to be.” The cut I showed him was the cut I put out there. So what everybody saw in the theaters is the director’s cut, and this first DVD is the director’s cut.
Besides the Evil Dead sequel, what else are you working on right now?
ALVAREZ: Something that I was eager to go write. And as soon as I was done with Evil Dead and everything I sat down with Rodo [Sayagues], the guy I wrote Evil Dead with, he’s my friend since we were kids, right now we’re doing that. Actually at this moment I am sitting down in front of my computer and we are writing an action sci-fi, and we hope that maybe next year we can shoot this.
For those of you following the happenings of Comic-Con, you can expect to see some action from the Evil Dead team. Alvarez and star Jane Levy will be participating in a live-stream interview hosted by IGN on Saturday, July 20, starting at 2pm. Later that night, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and IGN will be hosting an Evil Dead Launch party at on Saturday, July 20 at 8p at The Commons