Fright-tastic: On the Set of 'Evil Dead' and What's the Same but Different About the Remake

You never know what awaits you when visiting a movie set, but that feeling of uncertainty is compounded when you're on the set of a horror movie with a history like Evil Dead.  And sure enough, as I fumbled down the stairs into the infamous basement, I thought I might be having an anxiety attack. You know what didn't help?  The dead cats swinging from the ceiling and hypodermic needles on the floor. All fake of course, but still. 

Director Fede Alvarez was definitely in his element. He dodged the stuffed cats while explaining how much fun they've had remaking this classic horror movie.  He said it has a reverence for the original and will delight hardcore fans of the series, but it also works on its own as a believable-but-terrifying, gory horror flick for newcomers. This, of course, seems to be the goal of every sequel/remake/reboot of the recent past, so further investigation into his claims were necessary. Anything to get out of that basement.

Back in the light, producer Rob Tapert, who helped create the original series, revealed how young Alvarez was hired.  They were working on another similar project together called  Panic Attack and Tapert really enjoyed working with him.  It turned out that Alvarez had a vision for the long-stalled Evil Dead remake that, according to Tapert, went "for the jugular." And it could meet the hard-R request that FilmDistrict, which bought the film, wanted (recently it was announced the film would be recut to get an R rating after the MPAA gave it an NC-17).  Another key element was that his concept didn't include the Ash character that Bruce Campbell made so famous in the originals. 

Our conversation continues with Tapert and Alvarez discussing the differences and similarities of the project, which concerns every fan that has regarded the project with everything from cautious optimism to open hostility (I fall into the latter category).  As they talked, I got caught up in looking at the peculiar wallpaper of the break room we were sitting in.  It was actually storyboards of key sequences of the film, which revealed lots of low angles, zip-line shots, vomiting, chainsaws and bloody rain.  And in an instant, my hostility is replaced with glee.   

Similar:

The story takes place in a cabin in the woods.

Different:

There are two cabins in this film—one on a stage, and one in the Woodhill Forest, and neither reference the original specifically design-wise, except for the presence of a basement.  The on-stage set is much more high-tech than the broken-down shack that Sam Raimi shot in a few decades ago, too (although it might be as cold).  It has a removable ceiling and movable walls so there's plenty of room to "play about," as production designer Robert Gillies says ominously.

Similar:

There's an evil book unleashing evil.

Different:

It's not called the Necronomicon this time, and there's no face on the cover (because of a copyright issue).  It's now the Book of the Dead, and its cover looks like pieces of skin sewn together with hair, giving it a "Leatherface's mask" feel.  Production designer Robert Gillies and his team made three out of silicone for filming, and great pains were taken to detail each page because, he explains, "the book has been around since maybe the 15th century and as the centuries go on, the book would be passed around so there's notes in different languages."  He adds that the writing gets more disrespectful as time goes on. Also important to note is that the book doesn't entirely speak the words that start evil events in motion.  Alvarez makes it clear that in order to update this for a modern audience, some aspects had to be made a little more realistic.  By the time one person at the cabin finds the book, things are already starting to go wrong. 

Similar:

Five friends go to a cabin and end up possessed and homicidal.

Different:

Originally, the kids just went to the cabin to screw around and drink.  This is another plot point Alvarez felt needed to be updated so modern audiences could accept it.  Mia, played by Suburgatory's Jane Levy, is trying to kick a nasty heroin habit and her friends tag along to support her.  Levy says she's made a "decision that she's gonna be healthy," which plays into her convictions later in the film. 

Also different is the way characters act when they're possessed.  In the original movies, the possessed all have similar personalities.  Here, Alvarez encouraged each character to explore how their character would behave when given ultimate power and strength.  So Jane ends up having junkie qualities, a more passive friend becomes scorchingly mean, others are stone-cold killers, etc.

Similar:

Gross stuff happens to everybody using practical effects.

Different:

The team upped the ante on the grossness, and most of it is still practical, even in the age of "fixing it in post."  Prosthetics designer Roger Murray mentions that Alvarez wanted as many things to be done in-camera as possible, including the cutting off of arms, ripping off of hands and vomiting.  "There's a lot of self-mutilation in the movie," he says.  Makeup-wise, characters end up with nails in their face, and even turn into completely different entities by the end of the movie, becoming what the team calls "The Abomination."

Similar:

There's blood.

Different:

There's lots, lots more of it. For one shot, there was 50,000 gallons of the stuff.  Only once was Alvarez heard saying, "Okay, that's too much blood."  He says, "There's a tone you have to hit right in horror.  With the blood, you want to make sure that it makes sense all along." 

Similar:

The cast went through a harrowing experience with the prosthetics and shooting conditions.

Different:

Just the technology, really.  When they were going through the early stages of casting and rehearsals, Bruce Campbell warned the actors that they were "going to be miserable." Although they're all still enthusiastic about the movie, he was right.  Lou Taylor Pucci said that his worst days of shooting involved being soaked through all day, wearing mesh underneath his clothes and knee pads, none of which let water out in the New Zealand winter.  Oh yeah, and the possessed-eye contacts he had to wear too, which keep you, ironically, from seeing.

Similar:

Lots of moving shots.

Different:

There's no ram-o-cam this time, but Alvarez assures us that he has other fun toys, like zip lines, at his disposal that are used with more purpose this time. The camera itself is different too, obviously.  It's a Sony F65, and this production is one of the first to use it.  Although it is said to have more color range than film, they are working to desaturate the colors and degrade the quality a little bit.

Similar:

Sam Raimi's "The Classic" 1973 Oldsmobile is present.

Different:

I won't spoil it for you.  Just keep your eyes peeled.

How excited are you for this hard-R horror remake? Tell us in the comments.

 

 

 

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