Production has officially commenced on the still somewhat unbelievable Ash vs. Evil Dead, the series that amounts to a long-awaited, oft-hoped for sequel which reunites Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert in the Evil Dead universe or something like it. On day five of shooting, star and producer Campbell, writer/director/producer Raimi and producer Tapert joined a conference call with a host of reporters to discuss the upcoming ten-episode series and what to expect. With little context of the show itself, Ive selected the ten most interesting pieces from the call: a sometimes spoiler-ish primer for the return of Evil Dead.
In the upcoming series, Campbell returns as Ash, older but the same responsibility-dodging antihero. Of course, deadites return, forcing Ash to face his demons in half-hour long adventures. Whats most striking about the way the three filmmakers speak about the project is the space where fan desire meets creative intent. Raimi and Campbell arent shy about discussing the fan outcry is really what brought them back to Ash and the world of Evil Dead, but it seems along the way theyve found creative, and possibly fan service-dodging ways of reviving the series. For instance, the lack of Army of Darkness direct nods, or maybe the pseudo-lack of Army of Darkness in continuity:
What world is Ash vs. Evil Dead in, exactly?
Sam Raimi: It [Ash vs. Evil Dead] doesnt really exist in the exact same universe. Its a slightly altered universe. It takes place somewhere in an alternate universe after Evil Dead 2. That might seem like a confusing answer, but I dont want to spoil too much for the audience, but thats the truest answer I can give you.
Rob Tapert: We will be seeing similar locations, meaning it lives in a modern day world. Ash battling evil in this era, the modern day. Army of Darkness, certainly Ash lived through that experience, but were not really referencing it, specifics from that. He certainly has that in his memory.
Raimi: We want the audience to be open, with no previous expectations coming into the show. We want them to have seen one or all of the Evil Dead and be completely up to date on everything they need to know. So we designed it to live outside of having to see any of the movies, but if youve seen one, two or three of the movies, it will still work very well.
On the tone and blend of horror & comedy
Sam Raimi: Its a mix of both. We have elements of the Evil Dead films, which have always had hard edged, intense horror designed to really frighten the audience. Starz has really taken the reins off of us and allowed us to go to town and try and thrill the audience, chill em and scare the heck out of them. But also, there is a comedic element that is alive in this and its the thing we found the audience has always liked the most about Evil Dead movies. More and more, we seemed to realize the thing that made them different was Bruce Campbell. More and more, we brought him to the forefront of the pictures.
First, he was just a guy that happened to star in the movie because he was the last survivor and our best friend and the only actor I ever worked with. Then we started to realize, gee the audience really likes this guy and hes the thing that makes it special. By the second one, it all became about him and finally we delved into Bruces natural strength. Comedy is one of his inner strengths as a performer and I think Army of Darkness really tried to capitalize on that. The character that he had been creating over the first two. My brother Ivan, Bruce and myself on this one, what we tried to do is go back to the horror of the first and the second Evil Dead, but with the character of Ash that Bruce had created over the second and third Evil Dead. So thats really a combination, something we havent quite seen before.
There will be new deadites and other creatures
Tapert: We certainly will play to what we once did with deadites up through the remake, but were trying to expand the universe, so the storytelling over the first ten episodes will encounter deadites which are very different than other forces of evil out there. And then we will expose the audience to new entities that were not yet presented in the Evil Dead universe, so the audience is surprised.
Campbell: Because youre doing a TV show now and not a feature film, you have to structure everything differently. You have to structure the storytelling differently and you have to create a much larger world, because the demands of the audience are such that every week, youre now entertaining them. You have to have a multiplicity of stories and angles and tangents. Its going to be a much bigger story.
The makeup FX will be appropriately hardcore
Tapert: Yes, we absolutely want to continue the Evil Dead tradition. Were working with great makeup FX artists in New Zealand called Roger Murray. Weve worked with him on various things over the years. Thats one of the expectations from the franchise: Makeup FX, Gore FX. Absolutely we plan to have those and to continue on with what the audience expects from the franchise, yet in a new and different way.
Campbell: Also, this is not going to be a watered down version of Evil Dead. The very first Evil Dead has no rating, the second Evil Dead has no rating, only Army of Darkness was the one that was ever rated. By partnering with Starz, the gloves are off and we have no restrictions, almost literally. Thats going to suit Evil Dead fans because they dont like it watered down. They want the hardcore stuff and theyre going to get it.
What of the chainsaw?
Raimi: Bruce has stored his rig these last 30 years, just in case this TV show ever came up [laughs]. Hes been living in fear of a resurgence of the Evil Dead, of the deadites and so that old, rusted hulk is the one thing hes kept oiled up and in tip top shape. So, I think we will see that sweet baby come back, come roaring to life and slicing and dicing on the deadites.
Campbell: Its important we dont use a digital sound, that we use analog, something that was recorded on reel-to-reel tape for that chainsaw. It has to have a bite and that edge. Digital is very clean and wonderful, but it doesnt have the gnarly sound. I hope we can get a 1979 recording of that. Maybe well steal it from the original movie.
Ash is the same-old guy
Campbell: Were going to find potentially Ash is damaged goods and god forbid, this is our hero, which really appeals to me as an actor. We have a lead guy, who in Army of Darkness was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people because he couldnt remember three words. This is a guy who has to save the entire world, so Im excited to see what will happen.
Raimi: Hes no finer or nobler or saner of a character than when we last saw him. If anything, I think hes regressed. Hes aged quite a bit and his courage hasnt been whipped up into a frenzy. Hes kind of sunk into all of our lowest instincts and thats where we find him. Its from that low point that I think our hero will have to be born. Thats the start of our show
The deadites have been waiting
Raimi: The deadites have been fairly dormant over the last 20-30 years and Ash has been living a low life, hiding out. Our story really begins when they come back, and someone is needed to stand up against them. When asked if Ash is the cause of their return, Raimi said: Of course. [Laughs]
Time Travel wont play a component in the first season, as of now
Raimi: The first season takes place in the here and now, with Ash 30 years laterwhat hes become and what hes going to have to face. But it certainly was an element of the Necronomicon, some of the passages not only call forth demons, but portals in time and space and perhaps by the end of this seasonwe havent really discussed episodes nine and ten so muchor the second season, if the story took us there, we know its a part of the Evil Dead universe. Its always a possibility, but right now its not in the work that were doing.
Raimi and Campbell couldnt take fans asking any more
Raimi: When I was on promotion for any other movie, the reporters who Id be speaking with would feign interest in that picture that Id be working on and theyd say to me, whens the next Evil Dead coming out? I tried to ignore that for the longest time because I really wanted to make different kinds of pictures and try to grow as a director and a writer. I kept hearing that again and again. I said to my brother Ivan, we should probably start working on an Evil Dead story, it seems like theres really people want to see that. So, we tried to write some different stories and we tried a number of times with a lot of different ideas, from futuristic versions that follow an ending thats only on some of the Army of Darkness; to pick up where Evil Dead 1 left off; to all sorts of outrageous possibilities, never really being satisfied.
Even when I was finishing up on my Spider-Man promotions or even other horror movies, people kept coming back. So I said, Ivan weve got to write this thing. When we presented some ideas to Rob and Bruce, it was a little too expensive and it didnt seem to make sense as a feature. Theres never been a big crowd for the Evil Dead films, just the very small, but fanatical, devoted, loyal fans. It was never a big enough crowd to merit a Hollywood-sized movie. Some of the ideas we had were that. Rob, I think, suggested, how about as a TV show? I never thought about Evil Dead as a TV show, but Bruce is actually a TV star, Robs a great TV producer, we can learn how to work in TV. Supposedly weve heard that the strength of television is character, and thats the strength of our show.
Army of Darkness editor and Grindhouse Releasing co-founder Bob Murawski is back
Raimi: Well be working with some older generation talent in post-production, like the older gentleman Bob Murawski, whos going to be editing this pilot episode. He cut the original Army of Darkness.
Campbell: Bob has since won an Academy Award.
Who else is directing?
Tapert: We have Michael Bassett out of the UK. Michael is a horror director in his own right, he also created and ran a show called Strike Back. We have a director, David Frazee out of Canada, off Orphan Black. We have a director that Ive worked with a great deal, Michael Hurst from New Zealand. We have a director from Australia who Ive always wanted to work with, who worked on the Underbelly series, Tony Tilse and the season finale is done by longtime collaborator Rick Jacobson. Hes done many season openers and finales.
Ash vs. Evil Dead is expected to premiere this fall on Starz. Campbell is joined by Lucy Lawless as Ruby, a mysterious figure who believes Ash is the cause of the Evil outbreaks; Ray Santiago as Pablo Simon Bolivar, an idealistic immigrant who becomes Ashs loyal sidekick; Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly Maxwell, a moody wild child trying to outrun her past; and Jill Marie Jones as Amanda Fisher, a disgraced Michigan State Trooper set to find our anti-hero Ash and prove his responsibility in the grisly murder of her partner. Sam Raimi directs the pilot episode.