“Let the boomstick do the talking.” There’s a moment in the full-length trailer for Ash vs. Evil Dead that makes you feel that swell of nostalgia that so many features attempt and fail to capture. Some might even say that the initial remake of The Evil Dead could be added to that list, something that Bruce Campbell claims that fans could sniff from the start.
“We made a remake a couple years ago trying to satiate fans, but it didn’t quite do it,” the beloved actor said during the new show’s roundtable at San Diego Comic-Con. “They were like, “Where’s Sam? Where’s Bruce? And, you know, they’re not idiots. They like what they like.”
And that’s the spark. From there, an effort was born to bring Ash back from obscurity and place him against the forces of evil once again. The difference this time is that the battle would appear on the small screen. That’s what brought The Evil Dead to Comic-Con, where Campbell and the rest of the cast and crew shared the trailer and set the stage for what fans can expect once the series premieres this Halloween.
It’s been a long road to this point, something that’s caused a pit of guilt to form in Sam Raimi’s stomach. He’s made attempts to replicate the feel and return to the splatter genre, “Drag Me to Hell” being an honorable mention, but it’s clear that the fans have wanted to see their hero from housewares back in action.
Sam Raimi, Creator: I’m thrilled I have a chance to be one of the guys to tell these stories. I appreciate the opportunity. It’s a sad state that we fall into when we see people dressed as Ash. I feel guilty responsibility. It’s cool. It’s surprising. When we made Evil Dead, we were hoping to make something good enough that wouldn’t be rejected by the drive-ins. So, all these years later when we see people dressing up like these characters at Comic-Con, it’s like Science Fiction.
Bruce Campbell, “Ash Williams”: I want to tell the fans to shut the hell up. No, I feel good because we’re able to bring it to them in the way that they need it… It is a pain in the ass to play Ash. It’s a very uncomfortable role to do. Just get covered in blood for one day and you’ll know what I’m talking about. The hair on your arms get messed up because your sleeves are stuck. I have to sort of pull myself apart at the end of the day.
Lucy Lawless, “Ruby Knowby”: He was covered in blood for three days solid and had to sleep in it because they didn’t have money to redo makeup, and one day, Bruce just lost his mind. People do this all the time. The makeup seems really good, they’re so gung-ho to do it, but, at some point, they just hit a wall. He’s got much more stamina than most. So, it took him three days to lose his sh*t.
It’s apparently worth it at the end of the day. If it wasn’t evident, you won’t have to worry about silly looking CGI effects when “Ash vs. Evil Dead” premieres. The blood is pouring in buckets, the effects are as practical as they can be, and there will be pus. Oh yes, there will be pus. Lawless got to see it first hand.
Lawless: We had this pus rig attached to a dagger and… did he tell you about the beer keg that explodes blood? This is pretty intense stuff. I have the pus rig, and I’m cutting around this dude’s face and it oozes pus, and then it hits the heart of it, and all this blood goes *blooosh*. We only shot it once. It was so good, the whole crew went WHOA behind the monitors. They’re constantly inventing and taking things to another level in an innovative and gruesome way. How do you keep topping yourself when you’ve got someone in a meat grinder, or whatever? But they keep coming up with new ideas that keep being realized on screen.
Lawless is playing a character named Knowby, likely related to Professor Knowby, a nod to the owner of the Necronomicon in the original film. And the actress notes that this is hardly the only reference to the past films that will appear in Ash vs. Evil Dead — calling it “truer to Evil Dead 2” — something that was almost spooky at times, according to Campbell.
Campbell: They recreated one of the original sets in the most meticulous fashion. It gave me chills when I walked in for the first time. I’m like, “Holy f*ck. I’m back here again.” Everywhere you looked, every angle that you looked, every window… it was the same. The hallways, the doors, the furnishings in it… it was mind boggling.
There’s good reason for this level of dedication. “Ash vs. Evil Dead” will act as a sequel to events seen in the first “Evil Dead” films, particularly “Evil Dead 2” (“Army of Darkness” was sadly off limits, according to Sam Raimi). It’d be easy to just allow the show to phone it in with Bruce Campbell boomsticking it up all over the place, but it’s clear that this project means a bit more than just a cheap grab at vacant spirits. There’s some TLC involved…
Campbell: We’ve always been over the top, so I never thought we’d have to be over over the top. I think if you have more experience as a filmmaker, your means to entertain remains viable. If something scared you in the ’70s and you do it right, it’ll scare you 20 years later. If it works, it works. There’s a lot of tried and true ways to scare people that havent changed. To me, torture porn is not scary, though. Put a guy’s dick in a vice for a half an hour and poke it with a stick… that’s just disturbing. It’s not scary. To me, that’s lazy writing and lazy filmmaking.
One of the driving forces behind keeping the spirit of “Evil Dead” intact seems to be the Starz network. It has approved an experience that plays to the strengths of the story that Raimi and company have crafted, as well as freedom to take it to the limits of what we’ve seen in the previous installments.
Campbell: I wouldn’t be sitting here if we didn’t have Starz because I don’t think it would’ve happened. Starz was the only one who gave us what we were looking for, which was unrestricted content because, look, the idea is we’re not out to offend anybody with this material or intentionally take advantage of that, but we don’t want anyone to say, “Oh, you need to shoot an alternate version of that where you say ‘Golly’ instead of ‘F*ckface,'” you know?
Now, we get to say whatever we want, and there’s no issues. I tell ya how liberating that is and, as a filmmaker, as the years go by, those are the things that I look for. What’s going to be an enjoyable experience here? Are we going to be able to do what we want and have fun doing it, or are we going to have to constantly be looking over our shoulder?
One thing that Campbell attributes at also helping to achieve that same feel is producer Rob Tapert, the mind behind the decision to trim the show to a half an hour and bring in a crew in New Zealand that’s tested with the action and intensity needed on the show. Now instead of a long march through the story, “every season is like making a big feature film.”
Campbell: Rob Tapert is a great television producer, so he got a crew in New Zealand. People are like, “Why go to New Zealand?” It’s the other end of the Earth. It is, but, these are crew members who were weened on Hercules and Xena and Lord of the Rings and Spartacus. All they know how to do is stunts and special effects. Green screen. Sword play. Special props. Explosions. These guys can do anything… One thing I know from working in New Zealand, I’ve never been embarrassed of anything that’s come out of New Zealand. I’ve been embarrassed by a lot of things I’ve done in my professional career. But not out of there!
But not everything is about the past with this show; there are new grounds to bloody and new characters to cover in ooze. That’s where the new characters, like Lawless, come into play.
Lawless: What’s different in the series is we have to have him [Ash] playing off this rag tag family that has been introduced, played by Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago. God, they’re funny! They’re beautiful, these actors, and they give him kind of a family. And then, when my character comes into the fold, it adds a really nice element to the group. But in Evil Dead, nothing nice lasts very long.
Just don’t expect much change out of Ash Williams, according to Campbell.
Campbell: Ash hasn’t been doing sh*t for the last 30 years. There’s no character development there. You know what you’re getting with him.
Ivan Raimi, Writer: It’s great to be able to play with Ash after so long because we like him and wondered what happened to him. We left him at a place that wasn’t completely finished. Either in the far along future [from the AOD director’s cut] or back at S-Mart, both will suffice as they are totally unfinished places. There’s a lot more story to tell with him, and it’s fun to tell the story when he’s older now. He still has the same — or even more — problems, but much less insight.
We’ll get a chance to see for ourselves this fall when “Ash vs. Evil Dead” premieres on Starz. At least we have the comfort of knowing that the folks involved aren’t just mailing it in. And as Lucy Lawless put it, “Everything you’ve dreamed is about to happen.”