Montevideo nasty: remaking the ‘Evil Dead,’ Uruguayan-style

Fede Álvarez was handpicked to update Sam Raimi classic

Fede Álvarez on the set of Evil Dead with actress Elizabeth Blackmore.
Fede Álvarez on the set of Evil Dead with actress Elizabeth Blackmore.

One short film was all it took to convince Sam Raimi that Uruguayan filmmaker Fede Álvarez was the man to direct the remake of his 1981 horror-comedy classic The Evil Dead, which is released in Spain and the US on Friday.

On November 3, 2009 Álvarez uploaded on YouTube Ataque de pánico! (Panic Attack!), a five-minute science-fiction piece, shot for 223 euros, in which Montevideo is destroyed by giant robots. It was an instant success, and by the 18th of that month he had already signed with Raimi’s production company to make a sci-fi movie.

By the time that fell through, he had gained enough trust for Raimi to put him in charge of the remake of the film that had made his name. “They didn’t want an established director. A producer-director who knows will always want a storyteller by their side... and what’s more, by then they had already seen another of my shorts, El cojonudo, which was a horror movie.”

Álvarez wrote the script for the new Evil Dead with Rodolfo Sayagués, his co-writer on the shorts. It departs substantially from the original: “Many horror films work within the context of their time. When you remake them you have to think about how the audience has changed; the cultural context is different.”

Curiously, the rights for the film did not belong to any studio but had remained with the original creators — producer Rob Tapert, director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell. “They loved their movie, but they left all the decisions in my hands,” says Álvarez. “They understood that I had to start from almost zero. [...] For example, I have taken out the humor of the original because I wanted to reproduce my experience at 12 years old.”

The original had had a profound impact on the young Álvarez when he saw it back in 1990 in Montevideo. He and his friend had asked the guy at his local video store for the scariest movie he had: “That night we waited for my parents to go out, we put it on... and it was the most terrifying experience of my life,” he remembers.

Other daring decisions Álvarez took for the remake were to commission Spanish composer Roque Baños to compose the score — “I am a big fan of Álex de la Iglesia, which is how I discovered him” — as well as to up the gore. The film contains no digital effects: everything is created on the set, in the traditional way: “When you want to create tension it is better to show real things,” Álvarez explains. “The other reason is that I like my films to survive over time. Digital effects are the latest technology in the moment you shoot — in five years’ time they will already be looking old.”

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