The original Evil Dead was made for less than $400,000, so, naturally, the special effects look a bit cheesy today. Thus, the remake's producers were eager to modernize the visuals with real money this time (the film's reported budget: $15 million). Fede Alvarez wasn't having that.
Fede Alvarez: "When we started thinking about how to do this, I immediately spoke out against CGI. In some stories, of course, you need CGI. Panic Attack!, for example, is something that needs CGI. Horror movies, though, are too visceral for that. Grown-ups know that what they're watching is fake, and these people aren't really being killed, but something happens in your brain and in your body that doesn't agree with what you know as the truth. When you put CGI in a horror movie, your brain automatically tells you, 'OK, this is definitely fake. No need to worry.' Even if the CGI looks great, it's a turn-off.
"We knew we were going to need some visual effects, though. Visual effects have existed since movies first came to be. Some of the greatest CGI today will look weird in five years and like shit in ten years. Dated CGI can turn a movie into something that's unwatchable, but classic visual effects can make a movie last longer. That was something we owed to the original three Evil Dead movies, which have all lasted for so long—if you make a new Evil Dead movie, that movie better not disappear in two years. That would be terrible."
Rob Tapert: "Naively, I thought that the fact that we now had money and resources would mean we could use fancy effects to improve some of the stuff that in the original movie that now looks cheap. But then Fede didn't want to do it. The first Evil Dead had a whole face meltdown done via visual effects, and had we had CGI back then we could have made things blend better. But when Fede said that he didn't want to go that route, some of the sequences I initially thought could be remade in a cooler fashion went out the window."
Bruce Campell: "I think it was a good call. It was harder for Rob because he was the day-to-day producer on this, since they were shooting in New Zealand and he lives in New Zealand. Rob and the crew had to deal with that decision, which made things trickier. If you can just slap a digital effect on something, that makes the whole process that much easier, but then it has a different look. But Fede's decision to go practical gives this film a very retro look.
"Fede has an effects company. It's his effects company that did the end credits sequence. He's not just some kid groping in the dark—he's a fully trained professional in visual arts."
Fede Alvarez: "It helps a director to understand the potential that every department has if you know a little bit about everything. I once read this great description of what a director is, and it basically said that the director is the one who's not as good of an actor as the actor is, a DP as the DP is, who doesn't know as much about the production design as the production designer does, but he's the only one who knows a little bit about everything.
"The more you know about each one of the departments, the more you know they can do if you give them enough room. In a way, that helps a lot. When we had to create those effects, it helped that I went to school for computers and learned how to come up with visuals in creative ways. A lot of the film's effects come from some crazy idea that I gave to our effects team. The idea of putting a tube down her throat to make the vomit look better as it shoots out of the actress' mouth, that was something I thought about and presented to them. I was pretty hands-on with all of those effects, and I had an amazing effects team.
"The things we were able to pull off are pretty insane. Each time I see the movie, I can't believe it."