Given the squeaky-clean sitcom role she’s become best known for, seeing a crazy-eyed Levy splitting open her tongue with a straight-razor before forcing her tongue down the throat of one of her female co-stars comes as something of a shock upon first viewing the trailer. What makes the moment so terrifying (for my money, this is one of the outright scariest trailers to come down the pike in years) is that in the gleam of her deranged stare something recognizably human lurks. So it's not surprising to learn that that combination of the demonic and the mortal is something the young actress was aiming to convey with her performance.
“We’ve seen possessed people a lot of times in movies, and as an actor you’re always interested in trying something new,” said Levy of portraying the Deadite version of Mia. “I actually chose to humanize my Deadite a little bit, and I hope that turns out to be scary. I tried not to do much of like spider crawling up wall, psycho body contortion…just because I guess I wanted to try something new, and I also thought, and Fede thinks, that the idea of there being a human quality is almost scarier. …Finding something that you can relate to about this person who’s also doing horrible things, I thought would be terrifying.”
Clad in a gray sweatshirt and glasses and with a full head of long, curly hair, Fede Alvarez leads us through a soundstage-bound replica of the cabin we toured earlier on location, this one completely ravaged by the aftermath of no-holds-barred “Man vs. Deadite” warfare.
In the kitchen, the infamous electric knife glimpsed in the trailer lies dormant on a blood-splattered floor, while a nearby refrigerator has also been doused with gore. In the bathroom, a broken mirror and sink share space with a carnage-soaked shower, while one of the bedrooms contains a shotgun and, most tellingly, the Book of the Dead that holds the keys to unleashing the demonic forces of the title. It too, is smeared with blood.
Later we follow Alvarez up two flights of stairs onto a tall wooden platform, only to be directed to a square hole in the center of the floor. A ladder descends into the dark opening, at the bottom of which lies the “cellar” that in the original film was used to contain Ash’s possessed sister Cheryl. Equipped with a flashlight, Alvarez leads us down into the black pit.
As we enter the caliginous space, one of the first sights on offer is a dead white cat wrapped in barbed wire. Moving further inside, we soon come across dozens of them – cats in wire, hanging from the ceiling; and chains too, slick with blood. Also present are countless melted-down candles, a blood-coated straight razor, and even a chunk of brain littering the floor - a remnant, we are informed, of a human head explosion.
“I don't remember the cover, but I remember the back cover,” says Fede, back in the interview room and recounting that fateful day in the video store as an impressionable 12-year-old. “I remember it was Cheryl in the basement. …We were talking about this the other day…we had to do a Deadite in the cellar. It was kind of a flashback to then, remembering what it was like to see that face for the first time and to try to make something scarier when remaking it. That was the biggest challenge.
“Basically what we pitched to Raimi was doing a movie in the same tone, with the same horror that I personally experienced when I watched it for the first time,” he continues. “Today you can watch 'The Evil Dead' and go, ‘oh it's campy!’ But then I didn't laugh at any moment. It was traumatic. I was 12 and it was something I shouldn't have [watched]. I should have been way older.”
Speaking of tone, Alvarez makes it clear that this new “Evil Dead” will be a straight-up horror film, shorn of the trappings of black humor running through Raimi’s original. He’s approached it this way, in a sense, out of respect for his predecessor’s unique vision.
“It's his style definitely, that kind of very violent horror that’s at the same time over-the-top comedy,” Alvarez tells us. “So going in to make a movie is not about doing that same style or approach. It would have been so wrong…right away we agreed that we wanted to make a more serious movie. And Mr. Bruce Campbell was like, ‘okay, this is a new set of characters.’ We don't want to remake the old characters. In particular, we don't want to remake Ash. I've been a fan of this forever and I'm not going to touch Ash. That's something you don't do.”
A former contributor to sites including MTV's The Backlot and Bloody-Disgusting, Chris Eggertsen worked in film development before indulging his love of pop culture writing full time. He specializes in horror, the intersection of social issues and entertainment and Howard Stern. He's on Twitter @HitFixChris.