Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with my chat with Fede Alvarez, the man in the unenviable position of having to make the first Evil Dead movie without having the pleasure of being Mr. Sam Raimi.
Whether you like the movie or hate the movie you will walk away from it knowing that Alvarez made HIS movie. This reboot isn’t a pale reflection of the first Evil Dead movie. It’s also not Rob Zombie’s Halloween, an uncomfortable mixture of shot-for-shot remake and whole new stuff that completely misses the mark of what made the original great. Alvarez had a very simple idea of what the structure, pacing and tone would be and that vision is on the screen.
If you spend 60 seconds talking with him you realize pretty quickly he’s a geek that fully understands the universe he’s playing in. He’s one of us. Literally. He admitted to being a talkbacker years ago, leaving comments and ripping apart studios for doing stupid bullshit remakes. Now he’s in charge in rebooting one of the cornerstones of movie geek franchises and he didn’t take that lightly.
This interview was conducted the day after the big SXSW premiere. We start our discussion there and continue on through topics like his approach to the reboot, his thoughts on auteur franchises and some specifics on how he’s approaching the Evil Dead sequel, which is already in the early stages of development. Enjoy!
Fede Alvarez: Did you enjoy the movie?
Quint: I did. I liked it a lot.
Fede Alvarez: Good. I haven’t read your review yet, so I don’t know if I hate you or love you.
Quint: You will at the very least like me.
Fede Alvarez: (laughs) Okay, great.
Quint: I had a couple issues with the movie, but they were all minor things.
Fede Alvarez: As you should. It’s not a perfect film.
Quint: I think one of the strongest aspects of the movie is its unrelenting pace. You have about 20-25 minutes that is set up and this kind of tense and hypnotic feel…
Fede Alvarez: In other words you’re saying it’s boring.
Fede Alvarez: Okay, good. (laughs)
Quint: Read my review. The word “boring” is something I would never in a million years associate with this film. Once the second the first possession takes hold the movie shoots into fourth gear and never lets up. There’s no breathing room.
Fede Alvarez: The moment when (Mia) starts screaming about the smell and we follow David down into the cellar… from that moment we start just building and building and building. As soon as someone throws up into somebody else’s face it never stops. That moment is when I relaxed in my seat and went, “Okay, enjoy!”
Quint: So you’d seen Evil Dead with an audience, but not an audience as big as the premiere (1200 people)?
Fede Alvarez: It was big, maybe 600 people. It was a test screening in Orange County. Those people don’t know what they’re going to see. You know how that is, they just walk in and were told they were about to watch Evil Dead and they were cheering when they heard, so that was a good sign that they liked the title.
It was way scary, but last night’s screening was different. There were a lot of Evil Dead fans. There is cheering when they see The Classic (Sam Raimi’s trademark car that appears in all his films, starting with the Evil Deads) and all the things that a standard audience won’t know about. It was a different experience, but they both ended with people cheering and clapping.
It was a scarier experience (at SXSW), I have to say, because of the mood. There were people walking out last night. I heard a lady going “I can’t stand this,” and walking out.
Quint: Horror’s the only genre where that’s an endorsement.
Fede Alvarez: Both times have been amazing. (Watching) the second half (with an audience) is like attending a concert. The test screening was amazing with the test scores so high. The good thing about that is that usually a director shows his director’s cut to an audience and you’re not going to score good because it’s the first cut and is very rough and based on that the studio goes “We’ll take it from here. Thank you very much for your trouble!” That’s when it turns into some kind of hybrid of the filmmaker’s vision and some studio taking over.
The good news here is that the first time we ever showed it the results were amazing. Everyone went crazy about it, so the studio said “We have no notes.” They cancelled all the tests. We had just one, but we were supposed to have others, but they just said, “Fuck it, we’re out. That’s it. That’s the movie that we’re going to put out.” So, what everybody is going to see in theaters is my director’s cut, which doesn’t happen every day in Hollywood.
Quint: What about the MPAA? Was the stuff that you cut there just frames or did they force any larger cuts?
Fede Alvarez: It was a frame thing.
Quint: I was going to say… if they let the stuff that’s in the movie now through I can’t imagine you went much crazier.
Fede Alvarez: It was basically the tongue (split) scene. We’re talking, like, 10 frames here and suddenly you can be 16. If you want to see 5 more frames you have to be 18!
Quint: Usually they hit you for tone, too. You can get away with gross stuff in a light comedy more than in a dark, brooding horror movie. Evil Dead has an overall sense of dread that I’m surprised didn’t trigger more cuts from the MPAA.
Fede Alvarez: I’m glad you feel that way.
Quint: That tone is crucially important to this movie. How much did you work on establishing it early on, because it’s lingering over the movie even before any of the supernatural shit starts.
Fede Alvarez: In the beginning, what got us excited about making this Evil Dead film is that when you are in the Evil Dead playground anything goes. Nothing is too much. Even in the original film when he burns the book, it never really burns. It’s not that we’re saying otherwise with this movie. When he throws the book in the fire you never see it consumed. You see people start screaming, actually in this film, too. I’m geeking out about it, but he puts it in the fire and you see Jane doing faces, but it never burns. What I’m saying is we’re not overwriting the mythology.
In the original film he puts it in the fire and they fall to the ground and melt into pieces. Then white shit comes out of the mouth, then hands start coming out of the bodies and Bruce is going “Ahhhhh!” It’s nonstop. This is the movie ending, right, but it’s just go and go and go and now a little bit more. We knew we had that universe to play in where nothing is ever too much.
What we felt was the challenge was what if we set up a real drama, it has to feel like a Sundance real drama, and we have a story that is completely independent of the horror. So you kind of mislead the audience to think what it is, then you start taking that real place into an Evil Dead movie. How do you do that? That was the challenge. How do you take a real story into the Evil Dead madness?
That’s something I love about the original. You start with five guys in a car and the trilogy ends with Hail to the King, baby. It’s a unique saga in that way.
Quint: Are you taking the original three films as kind of a template for the sequels, then? So, the next won’t feel the same as this first movie?
Fede Alvarez: Exactly. It has to be. The next one has to be completely different. It’s the only reason to do it. You have to be faithful to the spirit of these things. Every Evil Dead movie is quite different from the previous one. They never repeat the formula. That’s been the doom of a lot of horror movies in the past. Think about The Ring…
Quint: Or Saw.
Fede Alvarez: Saw had a formula and they repeated it, but I’m talking about the ones that are just one and two and then died. The Grudge, The Ring, Hostel. Maybe they did more than 2 that went straight to DVD, but you know what I mean.
That’s why I think Alien is an amazing saga. Every movie changed genre and tone. They don’t repeat the same thing twice. Something that I think Sam did (with the remake)… he wanted to have a filmmaker take an independent approach to the creation. What I like about the Alien movies is they are all “auteur” movies. They are reflections of their directors.
Quint: Even Fincher’s Alien, as much as I don’t like what it does to the overall story and knowing how much the studio interfered, still feels very much like his style. You see his personality in that film.
Fede Alvarez: Yes. And Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Quint: Yes. Even that one! So, do you see the Evil Dead sequel having more comedy elements to it or do you want to move away from the same tone as the first Evil Dead 2?
Fede Alvarez: Right now it’s Sam, Bruce, Rob, my co-writer Rodo (Sayagues) and myself discussing that. We have to decide where we’re going to go. I have a pretty clear idea of what I want to do.
It might have felt like the interview clipped off there at the end and there’s a reason for that. I had to take a chunk out for spoiler reasons. I’ll have a story hitting sometime Saturday that concerns this specific spoiler, which also plays into the very, very end of the movie, but I wanted to give you fine folks a chance to actually see the flick before putting it out there.
The flick is out in the world late tonight. Go forth and enjoy the gore and insanity!