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

Three years before Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead screened for the first time, Federico Alvarez was born in Montevideo, Uruguay—into a household where movies were everything.

Fede Alvarez: "My father [Dr. Luciano Alvarez] is a big film lover, and a big fan of genre movies. He wrote books on TV and film, and he'd appear on TV shows that talked about films, to give his insight. That's how the whole thing started. I was completely overexposed to movies while I was growing up—not many cartoons, just a lot of movies.

"When a lot of other dads were showing their kids cartoons, my dad was showing me live-action movies. We had a VHS player and there were three movies that I would watch over and over again every time I'd come home from school: The Crimson Pirate (1952), with Burt Lancaster; The Mark of Zorro (1940); and Young Frankenstein, by Mel Brook—for me that was a scary movie! You know, I was just a kid, so I didn't realize that it was such an amazing comedy. It was so tense and unbearable for me, but I loved it. Young Frankenstein was a huge influence on me. I'd literally watch that VHS everyday.

"Naturally, I started doing things at a very young age. My dad had a VHS camera, the one you had to connect to the VHS player. I had a chance to use that camera when he was away at work; I'd take the camera, shoot stuff, and sneak it back in before he got home, because I would never be allowed to use it otherwise as a 7-year-old. I had a stash of VHS homemade little films hidden in my room. One day, my father found it, and I thought he was going to be so pissed, but he was actually like, 'Wow, did you do all of this? This is great!'

"It didn't make me realize I wanted to do this as a living at first; it was just something I did for fun. When I was a kid, I was being trained to become a classic piano player. That was what my career was going to be; I'd be in piano class everyday. Shooting was a hobby.

"Once I finished high school, that was the first time I thought, 'Maybe I can have a career out of this.' But in Uruguay, it's a small industry. There are two movies a year, and back then, during the '90s, there were no movies being made. It was impossible to think about this as a career, so I'd do it just for the fun and pleasure of shooting shorts and music videos.

"I went to university, but I went for computer engineering because I wanted to design games. I went for two years but then I quit. I was always shooting stuff, so I decided that I wanted to go to film school. My father was like, 'OK, you're not going to have a career out of it, but go ahead and knock yourself out.' [Laughs.]"

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