"Evil Dead": How a First-Time Uruguayan Filmmaker Reinvented an American Horror Classic

Teaming up with his longtime friend Rodo Sayagues, Fede Alvarez got to work on the Evil Dead script. The first order of business: come up with a story worthwhile enough to offset the extreme violence and gore. And then go all NC-17 on the page.

Fede Alvarez: "The script took some time. It wasn't easy to reinvent such a classic story. Why would five friends go to a creepy house in the woods together? Rodo [Sayagues, Evil Dead's co-writer] and I wanted to put every idea from the original movie to the test and make sure they were all still relevant and made sense for a new audience.

"It would be pointless to make this movie if it's not relevant for a new audience. Kids who are 18 are going to walk into this film and not care that it comes from an '80s horror classic. When I was a kid watching David Cronenberg's The Fly, I never knew that it was based on a cult classic from the '50s. A lot of those '80s horror movies were remakes of classics from the '50s, but as a kid I didn't care about that. So I knew that a lot of kids would watch this movie with that same frame of mind. We couldn't depend on today's audiences having seen the original.

"The challenge while we were writing was, How are we going to write this story so that fans of the original respect it but new fans will be excited about it and it'll make sense to them? That was the big challenge. The only thing we knew immediately was, like the film's poster says, we wanted to make the most terrifying film that today's audience has ever experienced. Because for me, when I first saw the original Evil Dead, it was by far the most terrifying experience I'd ever had as a 12-year-old. That was the spirit we wanted to capture with this film."

Bruce Campbell: "He did a couple drafts, and we gave him some notes. We weren't really worried about the horror elements at that point; we were more concerned about the story and the characters. It wasn't like we were forcing him to put more gore in or take some of the gore out."

Fede Alvarez: "Sam, Rob, and Bruce gave us that freedom. There were no constraints or rules for things they wanted us to do. At first, they were giving us notes to help keep it an R-rated movie. At one point, I said to Rob, Sam, and Bruce, 'No, no, let's write an NC-17 movie. Let's write the craziest movie that we can, and then we can dial it back from there if we have to,' and they were cool with that idea.

"In 2004, Rodo [Sayagues] and I got our Master's degrees in screenwriting through the Binger Filmlab program. We moved to Amsterdam and wrote our first script together. One lesson from that program really resonated for me when we started writing Evil Dead. The Zucker brothers, who wrote Airplane! and a lot of spoof comedy movies, said that the way they write their comedies was, they would come up with the story first and they'd never write a joke until the story was solid. They wanted to make sure that the story made sense, had character arcs, and everything was there to give it some weight. It wasn't until they had the perfect story, one that they could hit with a sledgehammer and the story would hold together, and then they would start writing jokes. The jokes were always the last part.

"That's how we approached Evil Dead. We wrote the actual story first, and once we felt that the story was solid, strong, and didn't leak, that's when we started focusing on the gore, the fun, and the pain moments. Everything came after we had a strong story. That's the right way to do it. You can get overly excited about bringing all of the crazy horror shit into the mix and forget about the story, but that would be bad."

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