With a cult following that has sustained three decades and the rare achievement of a 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the 1981 film The Evil Dead has certainly become one of the benchmarks of the horror genre. As such, the institution of a remake has got to inspire some skepticism. Why reattempt a movie that has made such a prominently positive affect on cinematic culture? Well, according to Bruce Campbell, star of the original flick and producer on the developing Evil Dead remake, the decision came about “organically.”
“Sam Raimi [the original’s writer/director] met Fede Alvarez [the remake’s writer/director] and in a roundabout way,” Campbell told Hollywood.com during an interview at New York Comic Con, “Fede did a short called Panic Attack that went viral on the Internet. Three weeks later, he’s in Hollywood, meeting everybody. And I mean everybody. And Sam was one of his meetings.” Apparently, the idea for a new Evil Dead feature wasn’t even the duo’s first choice for a collaborative project.
“Sam was a big fan, and he was a big fan of Sam’s,” Campbell continued. “They were going to develop a feature version of [Panic Attack]. It got bogged down, like a lot of projects do in Hollywood — in development hell. Fede wound up pitching an Evil Dead story, and Sam was intrigued … We all got behind it and decided to go for it.”
Campbell delved into some of the motivating factors that made the idea of a remake so attractive to the team. “[We had] the desire to maybe make the effects a little better, get better actors. We can make a modern version of this movie, with all the gadgets, and a little more use of digital to help you out when you need it. We didn’t have it back then … It’s the chance to apply what we’ve learned from the last 30 years, too.”
One of the updated elements we’ll see in the new movie will involve the dialogue, which is where writer Diablo Cody comes in. “She did a pass so that we could put it in this century, and have people talk like twentysomethings rather than middle ages old men,” Campbell explained — Cody is famous for the unique, vividly timely speech patterns employed by her characters in movies like her beloved comedy/drama Juno. “She brought it into the modern world, kind of.”
On top of this, Campbell suggested that the new film will also take more exploration of its ill-fated cabin dwellers. “I think there is more character development in this than in the original … They all have complicated pasts. The sister and her brother had issues. The old friend and the guy had issues. Through the cathartic experience, you confront and resolve those issues.”
And of course, there is the biggest change: the shifting of the story to the point of view of a female. In The Evil Dead, Campbell played hero Ash, who strove to save himself and his friends from the demonic woodlands. But in the new movie, Jane Levy takes the lead as Mia.
“She’s not Ash,” Campbell said, insisting that Levy’s character is entirely her own. “It always changes the dynamics when you have a woman involved. It’s a little more traditional. Ash actually broke the mold. Normally, it’s Jamie Lee Curtis running around screaming. Evil Dead was different, because Sam felt if you put a guy through that same thing, and he screams like a woman, then that must be bad. That’s his theory.”
But despite any changes in character, dialogue, technology, or the horror genre itself, Campbell maintains that the new Evil Dead will be “very familiar.” He said, “Fede didn’t go crazy and completely remake it … The story’s always going to revolve around young people and a book in a remote cabin. Those are the elements. Those didn’t change, thankfully.” Campbell added,
In fact, Campbell calls the new Evil Dead, “A ‘come-get-your-old-fashioned horror movie,’” adding, “Whether you like that style or not, that’s what we did.” The actor/producer is very confident in the legacy of his horror classic, and is unconcerned about living up to the contemporaries of the genre. “The movie does not try hard to compete with anything. We’re Evil Dead. They need to compete with us. I just think the movie is going to stand out because we’re true to the genre.”
Campbell continued: “People who don’t know Evil Dead, but are just horror fans, hopefully will just view it as a successful horror movie. But to chase a trend, that’s a losing venture. It’s just going to change again. We’re not trying to influence or change anything. We just want people to come and enjoy and scream their faces off.”
The entire team is very invested in making this just as scary as the original. “Sam is a filmmaker who tries to scare the s*** out of them. Or entertain them. Or divert them. Or make them laugh. Surprise them. There are many shades of horror.”
And just as gory too: “[The remake] is pretty gross too. Hopefully we’ll have a few walkouts. That’s the sign of a good horror movie.”
On the topic of a cameo by Campbell, the star mentioned his aversion to the idea. “Basically, we discussed it: ‘Should I, shouldn’t I?’ And we decided not to, because we didn’t want to distract from the movie. Let it be Fede’s. Let these actors do their thing.” Campbell added that there isn’t really a place for that sort of humorous element in Evil Dead: “The tone is not right for a funny cameo. If it was Army of Darkness, a remake of that movie, you could probably fit it in. But not this. Once you see, you’ll realize, it wouldn’t have been right.”
Lastly, the logical question: as The Evil Dead spawned Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, might the new film inspire sequels of its own? “We would do it,” Campbell said. “But no point getting all crazy about it until it happens. Our main focus is just doing this. If this one works, success will beget success.” It has to come about origanically. “Just like the first Evil Dead series. Ash is dead at the end of the first movie. But we resurrected him because the second movie bombed. I guess we could always reconstruct it any way we want. I wouldn’t mind having more.”
Evil Dead hits theaters in the spring of 2013. Click here for our coverage of the new Evil Dead footage from New York Comic Con 2012.
[Photo Credit: New Line Cinema]