'Evil Dead' film re-maker set out to make scariest movie he could

(l to r) Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, and Lou Taylor Pucci, from left, star in “Evil Dead.”

Photo by Kirsty Griffin, Evil Dead LLC

(l to r) Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, and Lou Taylor Pucci, from left, star in “Evil Dead.”

In the much anticipated remake of the 1981 cult-hit horror film, five twenty-something friends become holed up in a remote cabin. When they discover a ...

Rating: R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language

Length: 91 minutes

Released: April 5, 2013 Nationwide

Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore

Director: Fede Alvarez

Writer: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues

More info and showtimes »

PHILADELPHIA — Fede Alvarez is wired.

He’s had too much coffee for sure.

But mostly, the Uruguayan filmmaker is riding the buzz surrounding his debut feature, a stunning, in-your-face remake of Sam Raimi’s beloved 1981 cult picture, the gory, joyfully hyperbolic demonic possession yarn “Evil Dead,” that has horror fans in a tizzy.

Everyone wants to know Alvarez’ story.

A TV commercial director and special-effects whiz based in his hometown, Montevideo, Alvarez, 35, wasn’t even a blip on the Hollywood radar until four years ago, when he posted a five-minute sci-fi film on YouTube called “Panic Attack!” (“Ataque de Pánico!”).

“It’s about a massive alien invasion (of Montevideo),” Alvarez said on a recent afternoon in Philadelphia. “We shot it for $300, in one day.”

Coproduced by Alvarez’ longtime creative partner, Rodo Sayagues, “Panic Attack!” is a remarkable, explosive short, souped up with stock special-effects footage the filmmakers bought online. (“There are these two kids in Texas who do nothing but shoot explosions against a blue screen for $10, even $1 a shot,” he said enthusiastically.)

The short went viral.

“The next morning there was a hundred e-mails from Hollywood,” said Alvarez.

“The next morning?

“Oh, yeah, it was fast. I mean it was crazy,” he said. “And 10 days later I was in L.A. signing a deal with Sam Raimi to expand it into a feature.”

Alvarez relocated to L.A. and began developing the picture. One day Raimi approached him and asked if he’d like to take a break and remake “Evil Dead” as his first picture.

Raimi’s original “The Evil Dead,” which spawned two sequels (“Evil Dead II” in 1987 and “Army of Darkness” in 1992), is one of those pictures fans adore with passion — and guard jealously.

Raimi has wanted to remake it for years. His decision to take a backseat as producer and anoint Alvarez the director caused a flash-fire in the blogosphere.

“Blasphemy! charged some.

“Oh, yeah, of course!” Alvarez said. “Me too. ... I would have thought the same thing.”

“Evil Dead” has a simple setup: Five twentysomething friends decide to spend a weekend in a cabin in the woods, where they find a mysterious book. Titled “Naturom Demonto” (it’s also referred to as “Book of the Dead”), it’s bound in human skin and wrapped in barbed wire.

That ought be enough to stop anyone from investigating further. Not so our foolish youngsters, one of whom reads aloud a strange incantation.

It brings back to life a demon who proceeds to possess the hapless victims, causing all sorts of bloody, gooey, bone-crunching mayhem.

“Our biggest challenge was to take the same story and make it fresh again,” said Alvarez, who cowrote the film with Sayagues, and with help from Raimi and “Juno” writer Diablo Cody.

Alvarez added a back story. The friends — played by Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, and Elizabeth Blackmore — are at the cabin to help Mia (“Suburgatory’s” Jane Levy) face her (symbolic) demons and kick her drug addiction, only to face real demons.

While some fanatical critics continue to resist, Alvarez has proved himself an “Evil Dead” purist every step of the way, including his decision to honor the original film’s do-it-yourself ethos by insisting that virtually every special effect shot be done with cameras and physical props, and not computer-generated imagery.

To allow for the arduous makeup and effects process, the $15 million picture took 70 days to shoot.

“That’s a lot of days for a horror movie,” Alvarez admits. He avoided quick MTV-style edits, instead “letting the actors do their thing,” he said.

“I wanted to be more honest with the camera, be more explicit with what you see,” said Alvarez, a lifelong magic-trick fan who devised some remarkable effects shots. One has a character whose face has been irreparably cut up put it back together using a nail gun. In another, a woman saws off her arm, at the elbow, with one of those electric knives you use to carve the Sunday roast.

Digital effects would rob the scenes of their shock effect, Alvarez said. “Everything you see and every texture is real,” he said.

It also affects the actors’ performances. If you have an actor cut off a prosthetic section of her actual arm, Alvarez explained, it has an effect on the performer. “She knew she wasn’t actually cutting herself, but her arm felt the vibrations (of the knife) and she really looked traumatized.”

She was traumatized, Alvarez admitted: He found her an hour later, still in a daze.

“I went off to make the scariest movie I could,” said Alvarez. “The most violent, most obscene movie that would really shock the audience.”

© 2013 Knoxville.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Already activated? Login