Twenty-three years ago, Fede Alvarez, a 12-year-old movie fanatic living in Montevideo, Uruguay, never could've guessed that he would one day write and direct one of the strongest horror movie remakes of all time.
Back then, all Alvarez wanted to do was watch as many films as humanly possible, which meant frequent trips to thee local video store. During one particular visit to the tape shop, the adventurous young cinephile approached the counter with an agenda: He wanted to scare the crap out of himself. "I went to the video store trying to find the scariest movie ever," recalls Alvarez, now 35. "The guy who worked there gave me The Evil Dead. I watched it as soon as I got home, and it really did terrify me more than anything I'd seen before then." The experience was so visceral that he unconsciously blocked it from his memory, moving forward. "I'm part of a generation who fell in love with [The Evil Dead writer-director] Sam Raimi's movies when Darkman came out. Darkman came out, and then Army of Darkness, so I started reading up on Sam's earlier movies. And that's when I realized I'd seen The Evil Dead back when I was 12, and I got scared all over again."
If unaware filmgoers from today's generation were to give The Evil Dead a look, chances are the same traumatic reaction wouldn't take place. That's not a knock against Raimi and his film school buddies—it's just a matter of the film's age. Made for somewhere between $350,000 and $400,000, The Evil Dead (which premiered in October 1981) was a labor of love for the Royal Oak, Michigan-born Raimi (only 22 at the time), along with his longtime friend Bruce Campbell (the movie's star) and his Michigan State University pal Rob Tapert (co-producer).
The film's story was simple: Five friends (led by Campbell's now-iconic character, Ash) unwittingly summon a hell-storm of demonic possessions and gore-soaked anarchy after reading from the "Naturon Demonto" a mysterious book they find in the basement of an isolated cabin in the woods. Though its plot was bare-bones, The Evil Dead's visual sensibilities—with kinetic camerawork, giddily shot scenes of liquid nastiness pouring out of multiple human orifices, and balls-to-the-wall energy—were incredibly ambitious and effective.
Having accrued an enormous cult following over the years, as well as spawning two similarly beloved sequels (Evil Dead 2, 1987; Army of Darkness, 1992), The Evil Dead also launched three major careers: Raimi directed the Tobey Maguire-led Spider-Man trilogy and last month's box office hit Oz the Great and Powerful, Campbell is a genre icon and co-stars on the popular USA Network series Burn Notice, and Tapert's TV producing credits include Xena: Warrior Princess, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, and Spartacus: War of the Damned.
For hardcore Evil Dead followers, an all-new Campbell-led sequel has been dreamed about and wished upon for upwards of a decade now. But a remake made by someone other than Sam Raimi, and starring a cast of fresh-faced young actors? For many of those followers, that was a blasphemous notion—until now. Riding a major wave of buzz following its triumphant worldwide premiere at last month's SXSW Film Festival, the 2013 Evil Dead—produced and completely cosigned by Raimi, Campbell, and Tapert—is finally here to prove the skeptics wrong, one severed arm, blood/vomit-covered face, and sliced tongue at a time.
The plot is slightly modified: Instead of heading into the woods to party, four of film's protagonists (Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, and Elizabeth Blackmore) check into the creepy cabin to stage an intervention for their friend, Mia (Jane Levy), who's addicted to drugs. But then comes that damned "Naturon Demento," bringing forth insanely gruesome and in-your-face horror.
The man responsible for both coming up with the new Evil Dead's elaborate demonologies and directing it without any inhibitions? Fede Alvarez, who's out to give modern-day moviegoers the same unbelievably terrifying experience that he had when he was 12-years-old. And so far, he's on the right track. During one of the film's pre-release buzz screenings, held in Phoenix, AZ, in late March, one audience member couldn't handle it. "A guy actually fainted while trying to leave the theater during the movie," says Alvarez, with the audible glee of a kid discussing Christmas morning. "He didn't even make it all the way to the exit."
How exactly did an unknown directorial newcomer from Uruguay land such a high-profile debut project? Complex got all of the behind-the-scenes info straight from Alvarez, Campbell, and Tapert. And don't worry, no words from the "Naturon Demento" were used in the making of this feature.
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Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)