An image from the 2013 remake of the horror classic "Evil Dead." (South By Southwest Film…)
AUSTIN, Texas -- It might be hard to imagine a film better suited to an opening-night slot at the South by Southwest Film Festival than the world premiere of the new remake of “Evil Dead.”
Directed by Fede Alvarez, in his feature debut, and produced by Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell -- all involved in the 1981 original -- the film elicited gasps, screams and giggles from the amped-up audience as it played as terrifying but fun, gory but not grim and relentless without being depressing.
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There was turnover in perhaps more ways than one at Austin’s Paramount Theater on Friday night, as an audience emptied out looking glum and stonefaced following the world premiere of the Jim Carrey/Steve Carell comedy “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” walking smack into a buzzing and expectant throng waiting to enter the theater for “Evil Dead.”
Introducing the film, Alvarez noted that Raimi could not be there because “he’s a little bit busy with a small indie movie he just did called ‘Oz.’ ”
The story in the new “Evil Dead” is tweaked somewhat from the original, as this time five young people go to a secluded cabin in the woods to help one of them, Mia (Jane Levy), quit her drug addiction cold turkey. She is joined by her estranged brother (Shiloh Fernandez) and three friends (Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Lou Taylor Pucci). After a strange book they discover in the basement seems to unlock a demonic force, Mia becomes possessed as the others fight for their lives.
There are numerous nods to the original, which has become a beloved horror classic and spawned two sequels and even a musical adaptation, such as the swooping camera moving across a forest at ground level or how when Levy is first seen in the film she is sitting on the 1973 Oldsmobile that Raimi has included in every one of his films. As Campbell pointed out during a rollicking Q&A after the screening, the car was included even in the Western “The Quick And The Dead” and the new “Oz The Great And Powerful.” (“Try and find it,” he added.) The audience couldn’t seem to get enough of Campbell, cheering heartily for him both before and after the film and directing much of the questioning his way.
Describing the impulse behind crafting the new story, Alvarez said, “It’s like two movies in one, it’s like a real drama and then they walk into an ‘Evil Dead’ movie.”
“It’s like ‘The Big Chill’ with carnage and mayhem,” added Campbell to a big laugh from the audience.
For Levy, star of the sitcom “Suburgatory,” the role was too good to pass up despite such physical challenges as shooting three different variations of a scene in which her character is buried alive.
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“I felt the script was bananas and ridiculous in a good way,” Levy said, “and I thought that could be a lot of fun. And also being able to be a woman in a horror film and be the villain and be scary, that was a challenge and a really exciting thing to explore.”
Alvarez said he is already writing a new “Evil Dead 2” and Campbell mentioned that he would like to see a trilogy of new films.
“It’s time to start a whole new deal,” Campbell said. “I hope one day you can go to a movie theater and watch the first three and then the second three and enjoy them all. I think people are so concerned, like we’re burning the negative of the first original ‘Evil Dead.’ It’ll still be there on your shelf .… This is new.”
Alvarez said that he and co-writer Rodo Sayagues started by simply trying to remember their favorite moments from the original and using that as their guide.
“We knew because it was ‘Evil Dead’ it could go anywhere,” Alvarez said. “There was no place the movie could go you would think, ‘that was a little bit too much.’ Anytime someone asked, is this too much blood, too much makeup, whatever, my answer was always there is never too much.”
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