Interview: Fede Alvarez speaks about his debut film 'Evil Dead'
Fede Alvarez wasn’t particularly well known until the last year or so, and when the movie world did learn his name, it came with a massive weight on his shoulders, a dead weight you might say. His task, which he did chose to accept, was to remake, however he choose , 1981’s Sam Raimi-directed cult hit The Evil Dead.
“Sam was pushy that he wanted me to make my film, and he gave us all the freedom to do that,” said Alvarez during a conference call ahead of the film April 5th release. “He wanted this to come from a writer/director that had all the freedom in the world to do whatever he wanted, because that is the spirit of the original film.”
The fact that Alvarez was given such range, however supportive, means that he and he alone will be judged at the trial of this film. Sam Raimi gave him a seal of approval before he began production – but he was the only one, as die hard Evil Dead fans, some passionate, some stubborn, refused to accept a new vision on faith alone (some absurdly, vowed never to see it).
Among the reasons Raimi passed along the rights to his film is Alvarez’s love of both horror and the original film and subsequent series. “I know that universe, so I know my audience. I know who I am making this film for on many levels,” continued Alvarez. “I knew I wasn’t re-writing anything. I wasn’t making a movie that was trying to take the place of another. I just wanted to make a new story.”
One of the ways Alvarez wanted to make the film stand out, and hold on to old fans, was a belief, stubbornly and even regrettably at times, that the entire film be produced with practical effects. There is no CGI used in this excessively bloody and gruesome remake, despite some long nights and some early poor results.
“A lot of things in this movie were so tough,” explained Alvarez, then describing a particularly violent scene that required a close up and a bloody kiss. “As a director you kind of have to convince everyone that the way you want to do it is the right way. That was one of those days where my idea of going 100% practical was falling apart because it looked embarrassing.”
Needless to say, that scene, and the rest, was pulled off with staggeringly effective skill. At an early sold out screening, there were separate moments were you could hear a collective recoiling from the audience, and another that elicited a roar of an applause.
The crowd felt it, just as the actors did. While Alvarez may have doubted himself occasionally during some of the shooting, he made sure that actors were kept in character.
“A big part of my job was exposing them to real things all the time,” he added. His decision to shoot in a real forest and spend lengthy, cold evenings getting scenes right was one of necessity, he felt, in both an honor to the original and to aid the cast. “They aren’t acting all the time; sometimes I will surprise them with real jumps, sometimes I kept them in the dark about scenes. I was really pushing them to have the real experience.”
It’s a scary experience to be sure, and, it certainly bears repeating, a bloody, violent one. Alvarez has made his own film founded in a 21st century view of horror. There is no camp and silly special effects, and while the characters may not possess the charm of an Ash, they are part of film that is sure to shock, scare, and satisfy.