This Halloween is a special one fans of the Evil Dead movies. For the first time since 1992’s Army of Darkness, the team of director Sam Raimi (who executive produces and directs the pilot), actor Bruce Campbell, producer Rob Tapert and writer Ivan Raimi have reunited for a new chapter in the story. Campbell again plays Ash Williams, our reluctant-but-available hero idiot hero who stands up to an evil, otherworldly force that possesses people, cabins, and the woods. Ash vs. Evil Dead premieres this Saturday on Starz, and we had the chance to speak with Sam Raimi about coming back to Evil Dead, something that he created 30 years ago.
Okay, the first thing I want to say is The Classic looks like it’s handling great.
I think it does.
I was really happy to see it and I was really happy to see it burning so much awesome rubber.
Did you see Bruce do that slide in with the car into that bar?
He does a T.J. Hooker, we call it. William Shatner used to love to drive his car on the set of T.J. Hooker, his golf cart, wheel in without cutting, get out of the car and storm into the scene. Bruce wanted to do a T.J. Hooker, and so that’s what we call that shot.
I feel like Ash, despite his constant and reliable screw ups, has just gotten cockier.
Is that possible?
How has he not learned that he can’t read that book?
I don’t know.
How has he remained so stupid after all this time?
He’s the dumbest monster fighter in the world.
Yet so confident.
Yeah, he’s so full of himself. He’s like a blowhard and a coward and a braggart and just the worst hero that they ever made.
It’s so great to see him again.
It may be a spoiler, but how many times do you think Ash has read the Necronomicon while stoned?
I think this is the first time. I think he wanted to impress this girl who wanted to hear poetry and she says, “That shit really turns me on,” so Bruce is trying to score with this girl, and he’s such a dope that he’s impressed her with the one thing he shouldn’t, and that is when he opens up the Pandora’s Box again.
That opening shot in the woods right after the credits: Was that shot the way you shot it in the movie, in classic “Raimi-cam” fashion?
No, no unfortunately we used modern technology now. It’s really two pieces put together as one using digital technology, unfortunately. I wish I could say that it was the old-fashioned way but we use this device called a MōVI, which is a computer-controlled, gyroscopic camera stabilization system. It used to be a 2-by-4 but it was more efficient to use the tools that modern technology has to offer. We did try and recreate the same feel of that thing, the lens and the movements and the weird floating camera heights.
Did you try to do a lot of old-fashioned practical effects when you could, or did you find it more convenient and easier and better to do more modern stuff?
Well, we always try to do the makeup effects the old-fashioned way with prosthetics and makeup artists taking casts of the actors, building their rubber latex-type arms and legs and planting the blood bags and tubes within them. Sometimes they would fail, and on a TV schedule — unlike the movies we made where we had a lot more time — on a TV schedule when they would fail we usually wouldn’t have time to do them again and we’ve had to augment with digital, which I really did not like to do.
Were there any gags that you were able to do this time or effects that you were able to do this time that you weren’t able to do when you made the original movies? Was there anything that you had wished you could have done 30 years ago that you finally got to be able to do?
It didn’t just happen on this movie but, yeah, 30 years ago we didn’t have video playback, for instance. We just had to film with our 16mm cameras and we didn’t know what we got until two weeks later when the dailies came back. It’s awesome to have digital playback. It’s also great to not have to change motors on a camera when you want to change film speeds. For a lot of what I do, I play with film speeds. Sometimes I’m a frame or two off, it’s 23 frames a second or 22 and we used to have to change motors and use special devices to get the cameras to run those speeds. Nowadays, most cameras that we work with are equipped. You just need to change a card and a little bit of reprogramming. So much has changed from when we started, it’s so much easier to make a movie now.
There are so many more tools at your disposal so it’s changed from using sound recording and wireless microphones now to not having to use as much equipment as we did 30 years ago to light the scene because these digital recording nowadays are so sensitive you don’t need to. You can work much quicker and with much less fuss.
With the experience, resources, and technology you’ve accumulated, was this a breeze compared to making the movie 30 years ago?
Yes. It was a breeze and it’s really those other movies that are hard. Making the Spider-Man movies was very difficult, but we have to pretend to be grown-ups and pretend to be sophisticated when working with all the departments and the studio. But in this movie we can just be our dumb selves and have fun. That’s what we try to do.
What was it like coming back to this particular property after all these years after doing something like Spider-Man? You’ve worked with Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell consistently, but this is really yours, and that must have felt amazing.
It was great. It was so comfortable and fun to be with those guys and to work with them. It was all over too quickly, but at the same time as I was embracing this homecoming with my friends and familiar material and was really working in a comfort zone, I was in the process of giving it away to other directors and writers to carry on at the same time because I don’t have that much experience, very little, in TV and part of this is turning the project over to a writing room and Craig DiGregorio, who is our show runner, and it’s really his responsibility to take it forward from here. As much as I was enjoying becoming reacquainted with it, I was also saying goodbye to it at the same time.
Are you going to have any input in future episodes as far as storylines go? I remember reading that this was originally going to be an Evil Dead 4 movie and it transformed into a series. Are you going to try to make some of those elements materialize in the series?
I did try. My brother and I wrote the story for the second one but eventually these writers come on and they really have to make it their own. And even though we had a plan for the whole season I was pulled away to pre-production. I was there for four or five weeks but then pulled away to New Zealand and really I’ve got no choice but to say “Good luck, guys, I’ll be in pre-production in New Zealand for three weeks.” They’ll be writing and it was more like them telling me what they had come up with and then me saying “good luck” again and going to New Zealand again for another eight weeks, this time to do more pre-production and actually shoot the pilot. Despite what I wanted, it’s a process of handing over. It’s like the Spider-Man movies. I carried the torch and now I’ve got no choice but to give the charge to another and let them tell the stories of Spider-Man.
Was there one particular reason or an event that really made you say that you were ready to do Evil Dead again?
It was going to these conventions. I’d go to promote Spider-Man and people would say, “Yes, it’s fine but we really want to see another Evil Dead.” I’d go “okay,” then I’d go for Spider-Man 2 and they’d say, “That’s fine, but we really want to see another Evil Dead.” That’s the only movie that people would ever ask me for. They never asked me for another Spider-Man or another Simple Plan movie or whatever I was making. They just kept coming back about this nutty film. I just kept thinking it would go away and it didn’t, so then Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert and I said these fans are insistent 30 years later. We need to do something. Let’s give them a remake. We’ll get this great filmmaker who I so admired, a friend of mine, Fede Alvarez, and we’ll get him to make a remake and that will shut those kids up. We made this movie and people really liked it. I loved it.
I thought it was genuinely creepy and scary while having the spirit of the original.
Yeah, I thought so too! And it was very original in and of itself. Then we heard from fans, “Yeah, we really did like that. We loved it but we still want to see Bruce Campbell. Let’s put Bruce Campbell in the role of Ash with you directing.” I kept hearing that and I think that movie just kind of whet their appetites for another Evil Dead that we do and so I finally said okay, “Ivan, you know what? We’ve never been asked to make anything more. Why am I running from this? Let’s embrace the fact that people want to see something that we’ve worked on and write this script.” It was me finally sitting down to listen to what the fans wanted and trying to please them.
Do you think that it was a little too much fan service or do you still feel just as connected to it?
No, I did it only for the fans and in doing so I find that I have done it completely for myself. It’s the strangest thing but sitting in the audience, we had our sneak show the other day and to hear them getting into it and saying, “Oh, my god. Thank god they seem to think it’s okay.” It’s such a relief and so enjoyable. I really am an entertainer, not so much a film artist. For me, if the audience likes it, that’s all I care about. I’ve got nothing to hide behind if they don’t like it. I’m just an entertainer, so to hear them like it was everything to me.
Are we going to see Ted [Raimi] in the series?
I really want Ted to be in the next season if they give us another season, so I hope so. I hope we can come up with a part for him and he’d take it. That would be my greatest wish.
Ash Vs. Evil Dead premieres on Starz at 9:00 PM on Saturday, October 31.