It’s finally happening. The long-awaited, oft speculated, seemingly impossible ‘Evil Dead 4’ is actually happening – it’s just coming in the form of a TV series. In the picturesque town of Auckland, New Zealand director Sam Raimi, producer Rob Tapert and star Bruce Campbell are rolling cameras on Ash Vs. Evil Dead, the Starz TV series that has allowed the creative trio to further the demonic misadventures of their cult hero, Ash Williams. Hail to the king, baby.
Yesterday afternoon, I jumped on the phone for a conference call with Raimi, Tapert and Campbell to chat about diving back in to their beloved franchise and get some details on what fans can expect from this new incarnation of the Evil Dead universe. They shared a ton of great info, but before we get into that, check out this first look image at the guys reuinited with ‘The Classic’ – the 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Ash drove in the Evil Dead films (and which has appeared in almost all of Raimi’s films to date).
Without further ado, here are the 23 things you should know about Ash Vs. Evil Dead:
- The series takes place in an alternate universe that exists after Evil Dead 2. In Raimi’s words, “It doesn’t really exist in the exact same universe. It’s a slightly altered universe. It takes place somewhere in an alternate universe after Evil Dead 2.”
- So does that mean Army of Darkness is stricken from the timeline? Not exactly. Raimi explained (kind of), “Army of Darkness, does it exist? Well, certainly Ash went through that experience. We’re not referencing specifics from that, but he certainly has that in his memory.”
- Ash Vs. Evil Dead will feature new Deadite designs, and entirely new entities altogether. According to Tapert, “We certainly will play to what we once did with Deadites, even through the remake, but we’re trying to expand the universe…We will encounter Deadites, which are very different from other forces of nature out there, and then we expose the audience to new entities that were not yet presented in the Evil Dead universe.
The action takes place in the modern day. Raimi said, “It takes place in the here and now with Ash thirty years later; what he’s become and what he’s going to have to face.”
- There’s no time travel…yet. But Tapert says it’s always a possibility, “[Time travel] certainly was an element of the Necronomicon that some of the [spells] not only called for demons, but portals in time and space. Perhaps by the end of this season, because we haven’t really discussed episodes 9 and 10 so much. Or the second season, if the story took us there. We know it’s part of the Evil Dead universe. So it’s always a possibility, but right now it’s not in the work that we’re doing.
- Ash Vs. Evil Dead picks up when the Deadites return from a decades-long period of dormancy. Raimi described the setup, “The Deadites have been fairly dormant over the last 20-30 years and Ash has been living a low life, hiding out. Our story really begins when they come back and someone is needed to stand up against them.” Is it Ash’s fault that they come back? “Of course.”
- Tonally, the series is a mix of the visceral horror of Evil Dead and the slapstick comedy of Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. Raimi described, “We have elements of the Evil Dead films, which have always had very hard-edged, intense horror really designed to frighten the audience, and no holds barred there…But also, there is a comedic element that is alive in this…. I think what we tried to do is go back to the horror of the first and second Evil Dead, but with the character that Bruce created over the second and third Evil Dead. We’re really a combination; something we haven’t quite seen before.”
Ash is a basketcase. He’s traumatized by the horrors he survived in the first three films. Campbell explained, “He is a basketcase. We’re going to find Ash is potentially damaged goods and, god forbid, this is our hero.” Tapert continued, “He’s not a nobler or saner character than when we last saw him. In fact, I think if anything, he’s digressed. He’s kind of sunk to his lowest instincts, and that’s where we find him.”
- In the series, a team forms around him. Raimi described the new gang, “In this incarnation, Ash has a team that forms around him. Pablo (Ray Santiago), a young immigrant who wants to be part of the American fabric, forget his roots, and through his encounters with Ash and the Evil Dead, discovers what’s really important to him. Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), Pablo’s love interest who first doesn’t believe in Ash and wants nothing to do with him, but becomes a part of the team as they realize there is something greater at play than a series of Evil Dead-like attacks.
- And some new enemies too. Raimi continued, “Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) is a police officer who sees something that she doesn’t believe and it causes her great problems in her profession, and she’s on the trail to hunt down Ash because she believes he’s responsible for this series of bodies. Eventually, she teams up with Ruby (Lucy Lawless) who knows something about the Evil Dead, and she’s also on the hunt for Ash. That is the core team over the first season.“
- Lucy Lawless’ character, Ruby, is on a justified mission against Ash. Tapert explained, “She’s a woman of mystery, and we don’t want to reveal too much about her real agenda or why she so desperately wants to track Ash down, but she’s had an unpleasant experience that Ash was involved with…she’s completely justified in her actions and she’s going to become a formidable person to have on Ash’s tail.”
Ash is going to give you some sugar, baby. The series will explore romance, but it’s secondary. Campbell spoke to Ash’s ill-fated love life, “There is a bit of arrested development there, so he’s going to have some struggles. Because there are bigger issues! We’re talking life and death. There are some romantic aspects…Ash doesn’t usually have a lot of time for that. There’s usually creatures breaking down his door, trying to tear his head off.” Tapert interjected, “Bruce, give ’em some sugar, baby.” “I will give some sugar. There’s going to be some sugar to give.”
- The chainsaw arm will definitely make an appearance, no word on the boomstick though. Tapert confirmed, “He’s been living in fear of a resurgence of the Evil Dead, of the Deadites, so that old rusted hulk of his, that’s the one thing he’s kept oiled up and in tip-top shape just in case. So I think we will see that sweet baby come back, come roaring to life, slicing and dicing on the Deadites.”
- The effects are designed to continue the Evil Dead tradition. Tapert said, “We’re working with a great makeup effects artist down in New Zealand, Roger Murray, we’ve worked with him on various things over the years. That’s one of the expectations from the franchise; makeup effects, gore effects. So absolutely we plan to have those and continue with what the audience expects from the franchise in a new and different way.” Campell agreed, “This is not going to be a watered down version of Evil Dead. The very first Evil Dead has no rating. The second Evil Dead has no rating. Only Army of Darkness was ever rated. Thankfully by partnering with Starz, the gloves are off and we have no restrictions, almost literally…[The fans] want the hardcore stuff, and they’re going to get it.
Joseph LoDuca will compose the soundtrack. Raimi explained the new approach they’re taking to the music, “We’re also working with something we really haven’t done on the Evil Dead. We’re working with some older classic rock music from the 70s and early 80s, because of course Ash became stunted due to the developments in his life at that time and has never gone past those moments.” Tapert added, “We’ll be taking old sounds, old music and re-bending it and shaping it in a new fashion.”
- Sam Raimi will only direct the pilot. They’ve already got their other directors lined up, including Michael Bassett (Silent Hill: Revelation), Michael Hurst (Bitch Slap), and Luke Jacobs.
- However, he has and will continue to heavily influence the creative direction of the show. Tapert said, “Sam and his brother Ivan have been involved in the [writer’s] room every spare second until Sam got down here to start prepping…and we continue to talk through each of the episodes. We’re exactly where we should be at the start of shooting. We’ve got six scripts. We’re all very much involved in the creative process.” Campbell spoke to how Raimi will remain a part of that process, “I’m going to be in touch with Sam even on the episodes he’s not directing, because I’ve never been directed by anyone else as this character. Thank god he’s doing this pilot so we can get reacquainted with the approach to this character. Because when he’s off doing post on this pilot, we’re going to grope in the dark without him but he will be consulted quite heavily.”
- They opted for the half-hour format to match the “breakneck” pace of the films. Tapert explained, “One of the reasons we decided we wanted to do a half hour was that we thought that this was – the breakneck pace that the movies often had, that really was the right format in the world of television for this particular project.” Raimi continued, “I really appreciate that Starz let us keep this half-hour idea. That’s what makes it really cool to me, that we can really fire on all cylinders, and be outrageous and fast paced and non-stop without a lot of secondary character exposition that sometimes you find in these hour shows.”
Ash Vs. Evil Dead expands the Evil Dead universe to a bigger story. Campbell said, “Because you’re doing a TV show now and not a feature film, you actually have to structure everything differently. You have to structure the storytelling differently and you have to create a much larger world, because the demands of the audience are much – it’s every week that you’re entertaining them, so you have to have a multiplicity of stories and angles and tangents. It’s going to be a much bigger story.”
- The series doesn’t preclude the possibility of a sequel to the Evil Dead remake. In fact, they’re definitely still interested in making one. Raimi said, “I love the Evil Dead remake. I think Fede Alvarez did a brilliant job…I love that movie, and I hope there will be a sequel. After we had made his movie, as much as the fans loved it, they also seemed to want to see Bruce again in this series. So we thought, this is our time. If we’re ever going to do it, we have to set aside that crowd. Now is a good time. And television seems like an interesting format to take it forward in. So we chose to make Bruce’s story right now. I hope we can get Fede back to continue the new Evil Dead series once we’ve established Bruce’s story.
- Don’t count out another Ash-centric Evil Dead film either, even if the show doesn’t take off. “ It’s a possibility no matter what happens, because I think we always want to keep that ability in the back of our minds to tell a story on the big ol‘ screen. Nothing will preclude anything, regardless of what happens.”
- They’re all willing to come back for a second season. Campbell stated emphatically, “I’m not going anywhere. This is the show I’m going to devote basically every ounce of my aging energy into. This is something that you don’t take lightly. This was a long road to get here, starting back in ’79.” Tapert seconded, “It would be a joyless process that the mantle would be passed to anyone else. I just don’t see that as a possible outcome in this. Raimi confirmed, “I feel the same way. I think we’re really doing this to work together again as a team.”
- The series is basically happening because Evil Dead fans are the most devoted, persistent people in the world. Raimi recalled, “Ivan, my brother, and myself, when I would be on promotion for any other movie, the reporters I’d be speaking with would feign interest in that picture I was working on and then they’d say, ‘But when’s the next Evil Dead coming out?'” Campbell had the same experience, “I go to conventions a lot and I’m driven insane by the fans at conventions. I’ve been doing conventions since 1988 and I hear it at every convention I go to, same as Sam. We were tortured for years, and guess what? Now they’re going to get it.”
See that, folks. Never give up on your dreams. Ash Vs. Evil Dead is set to premiere on Starz this Fall.