It’s been 20 years since Army of Darkness was released, closing out the Evil Dead trilogy, a series of films that practically defined cult classics. While there’s no immediate plans for our hapless hero Ash making a return, Bruce Campbell talked at New York Comic Con about why he thinks now is the perfect time to relaunch the Evil Dead.
The new Evil Dead is slated to hit theaters next Spring, and it will mark a few firsts for the series– it’s the first Dead movie not helmed by Sam Raimi (that honor now goes to rising star Fede Alvarez), and it’s the first one not to star the iconic idiot/ hero Ash. Even without these signature features, Campbell asserted the new film is very much cut from the same cloth. “This is an Evil Dead story,” he stated during roundtables at NYCC. “It’s a brand new story– five new kids have a really bad night, with a book they should have left alone.”
New director Alvarez believes the most important way to approach remaking such a beloved franchise is to come up with a good idea, that respects the source material but offers something new. “One day [Sam Raimi] goes ‘Fede, would you do Evil Dead for me?’ I would never say ‘No, I don’t like remakes. I don’t believe in that, I don’t think you should remake that movie.'” he said. “You go ‘I gotta do everything I can to try to come up with which one makes the most sense,’ because it has to make sense. It has to be relevant.”
“Let’s pitch the right idea, let’s try to make sure this makes sense,” the director continued, admitting that part of the equation is also never playing things too safe. “[Movies] are never amazing when you play it safe. That’s why I think we get along with Sam,” he explained. “He saw me and my co-writer, and he saw we were fearless about ideas, stuff we were throwing on the table. Fear is the worst enemy of all good things in general. I’m proud to think that we weren’t scared in the beginning.”
The director did admit it can still be nerve-wracking to present an idea to someone as iconic a fimmaker as Raimi. “We were nervous– you want Sam to like whatever you’re gonna pitch– but Sam is a little crazy,” he recalled. “It’s not like you’re pitching something to your mother… the crazier it is, the more excited Sam gets.”
With a great new concept in place and the original creators on board, the next piece of the puzzle became, are the fans ready for a return of the Evil Dead? Campbell believes so. “We havent touched the Evil Dead movies in 20 years, and I think that’s built up enough anticipation,” he explained. “When fans get itchy, they get itchy.”
One of the big risks of any remake is burning bridges with your most loyal fans, but Bruce thinks this movie has everything it takes to not ostracize fans who want to give it a chance. “Evil Dead fans are not shy. They were, at first, hesitant about this– some were violently against it– but I think the tide is turning,” he said. “They realize that we’re all involved– the original producers are involved. We’re not some cigar chomping asshole producer.”
Being “Hollywood outsiders” is a big deal not only to Campbell but everyone on the new Evil Dead— this is much more a passion project than a cash-grab. Coming from outside the Hollywood machine as a short film director in Uruguay, Alvarez made sure he was having fun more than aspiring for the big time, starting with the writing process. He and his co-writer drafted the script over the course of a year, each writing half the story and merging them together. “It was a long process,” he said of the abnormally lengthy writing session. “It was a year, I think, of writing. In Hollywood you hear ‘Oh, I wrote that movie in a weekend.’ You can tell.”
Campbell also feels we’re on the cusp of another great cycle in the history of horror cinema, and it would be great for Evil Dead to be a solid entry in the new wave of “good” horror movies. “They come in waves,” he said of horror films. “In ’79, Time Magazine had ‘The year of the horror movie.’ We’ve seen a lot of bad filmmaking. And we’ve seen a lot of over-editing… if you’re confident in your material, and your ability, and your actors… you don’t have to do that. You’ll find a very well-edited 90 minute movie, that will still freak your shit in a very professional way.”
He also hopes the new movie will find its place alongside his original cult classic. “I hope that for years from now– for the next 30 years of my life– I will be invited to double-bills of the original Evil Dead, show that first, and show the remake. I think it’d be an awesome double-billing. It’s two different versions of a creepy story, told 30 years apart.”
Check back next week for More from the Evil Dead at New York Comic Con, as we spotlight the new star of the film!