For a guy who has spent a lot of time planning how to brutally murder people in the woods, the most shocking thing about Fede Alvarez is his well-adjusted nature. As the co-writer and director of Evil Dead (in theaters Friday, April 5), the new remake of the 1981 gore classic The Evil Dead, Alvarez was tasked with somehow topping one of the most violent and shocking horror films of all time.
The original was a gleefully low-budget affair, and Alvarez says he had more money to work with. But to rival the first, he also had to create a splatterfest, one requiring around 25,000 liters of blood and about 300 liters of vomit.
But even with gallons of gross-out material, Alvarez says, "we couldn't spare a dime. Really, we had to recycle a lot of prosthetics and gore. We had to be as resourceful as we could... One of my favorite pain moments in the film is when Mia [Jane Levy] is hiding behind the shelf and the machete is going through her knee," he recalls with a wistful look generally reserved for thoughts of childhood pets or a first kiss. "That knee is actually Natalie's shoulder because we didn't have enough prosthetics to do everything we wanted.
"We thought we'd shoot it in 16mm at some point, actually, but then we didn't have enough money to shoot on film, ironically," he continues. "So we had to shoot digital, but I thought that was the right spirit too, because if digital had existed back in '78, '79 when they shot it, they would have used digital. Back then, 16mm was the cheap format."
Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Rob Tapert, the team behind the initial The Evil Dead, gave Alvarez and his co-writer complete freedom to make a new film for a new time, he says.
"The goal was it had to be too much, it had to cross the line, it had to be over-the-top. Otherwise, it would be pointless."
And Alvarez is adamant that his version of Evil Dead stands apart from the original. Alvarez, a Uruguayan native, wrote the film with his best friend since age 12, Rodo Sayagues. The two had conversations about and filled notebooks with the kinds of ideas that, were they not filmmakers, would likely have landed them in some kind of facility with very thick walls.
"Some things that happen in the story are similar of course to the original because we're in the same mythology," Alvarez says. "The woods in these movies, they like to rape girls. So when the girls run through the woods, they get raped. So there are a lot of similarities, but our story is original."
Though some viewers might think there is an imbalance in the violence, directed mainly toward the female characters, Alvarez claims preview screenings are tracking strongest with young women.
"I think they enjoy the feeling of women being empowered. You know, being possessed, yes, but it's women doing whatever they want and going crazy. So I think there's something fun about that."
To Alvarez, Evil Dead is a break from the typical misogyny of horror films.
"Compare them with the classic horror tales, where a scream queen is being chased by a dude with an ax," he says. "Evil Dead is different. It's the guys who are being attacked, and the monsters are the girls.
"The worst that happens to Olivia [Jessica Lucas]" — and, not to spoil too much, let's just say it's pretty gross — "she does to herself. You never see her being victimized; you never see Mia victimized," Alvarez says.
Then he reconsiders. "Well, you see her victimized by a tree, but not by a man."