I’m standing in an old cabin. Blood and bits of brain are everywhere. It’s on the floors. It’s caked on the walls. It’s wherever your eyes happen to look. And it’s awesome. While I was nervous when Sony announced they were remaking the original Evil Dead, after spending the past two days on the set in Auckland, New Zealand, and talking with the filmmakers and cast, I’m extremely confident fans of the franchise and casual moviegoers are going to be really happy next year. And it’s because of the blood and brains. Unlike most movies that try to appeal to a wide audience by releasing a PG-13 movie, Sony is making a movie filled with blood and guts. The Evil Dead remake is absolutely going to be rated R, and based on what we learned on set, they might have to cut some of the gore or they could get an NC-17. It’s a refreshing change from when studios play it safe.
But let me back up a second.
It’s June 14, 2012 and I’m flying back to Los Angeles. As I said, I spent the past few days on the set of director Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake that stars Shiloh Fernandez, Jane Levy, Elizabeth Blackmore, Lou Taylor Pucci, and Jessica Lucas. In the remake, a group of friends go to a remote cabin to help one of them recover from a recent heroin overdose, and that’s where they come across the Book of the Dead.
You can relax.
Not only are Campbell, Raimi, and original Evil Dead producer Rob Tapert onboard as producers of the remake, they were the ones who decided Fede Alvarez would direct the project. Futhermore, Tapert has been on set the entire time. Also, before production began, Alvarez spent a week in Miami with Campbell going over the remake and getting his input. The remake is being done with everyone’s blessing and their involvement is one of the reasons I’m so confident in the project.
35 Things to Know About EVIL DEAD
95% of the remake was shot in order. They did this because a lot of the film takes place in a controlled environment and the level of blood and violence gets worse and worse as the film progresses. By shooting in order, they can throw blood on the walls and not worry it will mess up another shot where it needed to be clean.
The gore and violence in Evil Dead is going to be over the top. If you were nervous they would shy away from anything, they’re going full force.
As Raimi fans know, he always puts a 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 in every film. Named “The Classic,” it’s the car Ash used in the original Evil Dead. You’ll be happy to know the car is in the remake, but I won’t spoil where and when it makes an appearance.
Tapert said they have a budget that’s “pretty good based on the horror market” and compared the number to The Grudge 2 and most Ghost House Pictures.
While most films are owned by movie studios, Raimi, Campbell, and Tapert still own Evil Dead so they maintain a lot of control. This is another reason why you should be very confident in the remake.
One of the main reasons Alvarez landed the gig is he was the only one to pitch the remake without the Ash character. The remake doesn’t have anyone named Ash.
The remake has a few direct lines from the original. I won’t spoil which ones. The remake is also recreating scenes from the original film.
The basement of the cabin is filled with dead cats hanging from the ceiling and laying on the ground. It’s also where the group comes across the book.
Technology doesn’t play a role in the film. No one has iPhones. The cabin has an old VHR with tapes, but the group goes to this deserted old cabin to get away from everything to help a friend detox. It’s a good excuse why they can’t easily get help.
Unlike some films that go back and forth on tone, the Evil Dead remake is a horror movie that’s not going for any cheap jokes. If something happens to be funny it’s okay, but they’re making a horror movie first. It is not Evil Dead 2 or Army of Darkness. It’s a serious horror movie.
When the camera is on the actors, it’s a lot of handheld shots. When the camera follows the spirits, it’s like the original in that is will move quick, be kinetic, and have some low angles. It will also follow behind some of the actors or quickly zoom in on one of them.
The production is doing as much practically and in camera as possible. They recently shot a sequence where one of the cast uses a kitchen knife to cut off their hand and it was done on one take and they won’t be adding any CG to the shot.
If you were nervous a tree wouldn’t do something to one of the female characters, it still happens. In fact, Alvarez says it’s even more brutal than the original.
Even though the remake has a lot more money and time than the original, they tried to stick to the scale and the simplicity of the original. When I was on set, it felt like a small production rather than some studio movie.
During the third act, there is a scene where it will rain blood, and the production bought 50,000 gallons of blood to use in the scene.
They’re shooting the movie on the new Sony F65 4K, and it’s anamorphic widescreen. They’re also using a shutter on the camera to give it more of a film look. Also, unlike some productions that shoot digital but use an old 70s lens, they’re shooting on Master Prime lenses.
Due to the HD cameras, everything effects related had to be done with more detail because the camera picks up everything.
Fede Alvarez was the one that wanted to do the effects practically. It’s always a smart decision to go practical.
The production is planning for multiple versions of the film due to the level of violence and gore. Eventually, the most violent material will make its way to Blu-ray/DVD. But this way they will be assured of getting an R rather than an NC-17.
3D was a consideration for a “heartbeat.”
Diablo Cody did some character and dialogue tweaks on the script, but didn’t change the action or beats of the film.
The actors talked about the level of violence, and how shocked they were at the physicality of their roles. They also talked about how gross it was. One of them has a scene where they had to puke a crazy amount of liquid on someone else.
With the makeup, they tried to go realistic and not cartoony. They wanted to make it so it would be like what would you look like if this really happened to you.
Some of the cast have three hour makeup sessions and then another hour or more to get out of it.
The movie takes place now but they tried to make it timeless with clothing and hairstyles.
Evil Dead is shooting for 3 months. They started on April 9th and they go until July 11th.
The production built two cabins. One is in a real forest and one is one a soundstage in Auckland. The one in the forest is being used for most of the exteriors and the one on the stage has been build with breakaway walls so they can shoot any room with any angle.
The forest where they’re shooting was also used for Xena, Hercules, The Bridge to Terabithia, and Legend of the Seeker.
The remake will use some of the same props as the original. We got to see and hold the chainsaw, fake tree branches that can wrap around a victim, and, of course, the Book of the Dead. For those wondering, the production made three books and they’re constantly adding pages during the shoot as needed.
Due to a copyright issue, they couldn’t put a face on the book, so now it’s just a stitch cover and it’s more grounded in reality. Raimi approved the look of the new book. He also saw and approved the props.
The costume department had six weeks to prep and then two weeks with the actors. They were shooting the next day.
We were told that Raimi is not involved in the day to day filming at all. He has a policy that director should be left alone during production and when they screen the rough cut he’ll give notes and then get involved.
Alvarez says he hates cheap scares and won’t do them. He also doesn’t want music cues to make you think something is about to happen if it’s not leading to something. He also said he won’t use any pop songs in the remake.
Possibly spoiler: The film will end like you’ve seen a complete story but you might feel like there is something that could still happen.
If the final film turns out like I think it will, Evil Dead is going to be a great remake and a fantastic horror movie. While I’ve been fooled on previous set visits by thinking something will be cool and it turns out to be a fiasco, Fede Alvarez is making an extremely violent movie filled with death, dismemberment, and destruction. He’s not going for middle America. He’s not trying to placate casual moviegoers. He’s making a horror movie for horror fans and I really think he’s doing it right. I can’t wait to see it next year.