Tonight is the first episode of Ash vs Evil Dead, and millions of horror fans will be tuning in to see Ash and his trusty chainsaw do battle against the forces of evil. This is also a welcome return to horror for Sam Raimi, who created the series, directed the first episode, and couldn't be happier to give fans what they've been asking for. Ahead of the premiere, I had the honor of speaking with Sam Raimi, and he was very candid about bringing Ash to the small screen and the challenges of shooting for TV. He also settled a debate among Evil Dead fans on where the 2013 Fede Alvarez movie fits within the Evil Dead universe:
It's been more than 30 years since you first created the world of The Evil Dead. How did it feel to get back behind the camera with Bruce to continue the story of Ash?
It was like old times. It was very comfortable and easy returning to my buddy and the character that I've made three movies together with. It was nice because we were doing it for the right reason: because the fans asked us to make another Evil Dead. We would have jumped to it years ago if my dumb brain would listen and say "Sam they want to see Ash. This is all they're asking for... just give the audience what they want."
What do you see as the major benefit to going with the TV format versus a feature film?
The challenge for me was that I don't know TV very well and we had written a feature script, my brother and I. There has been many variations of feature scripts for a new Evil Dead. We realized we probably wouldn't be able to get the money for this because some of the Evil Dead movies have never been major financial successes.
Cable seemed to be the way we could get it made and it seemed like a way where we could seize creative control. Which is absolutely important. I needed to have complete creative control because, this is not about my ego, the reason we're making this is because of the fans. If I had to compromise even in a reasonable way with studio executives it would not be what the fans wanted. They want outrageous gore. They want the main characters to be incredibly stupid and unappealing at times. A coward, a blowhard and a braggart... all these things that we would have probably run into trouble with if we had to share creative control.
It's amazing how many people are now watching horror TV shows. The audience for this type of show has really grown in recent years.
I didn't think a lot of people would like it because Evil Dead movies have never pleased big crowds. It's always been the weirdo here and there. Now there is a bunch of weirdos. Times have changed such that the weirdos moved into the mainstream. So its really weird. An army of geeks now rule the world.
I thought the first episode had a great mix of humor, character chemistry, and also plenty of blood. Like you said, it feels like it was made just for the fans. It's a return of everything they're looking for and I'm happy to see that practical effects are still a big part of the show. Can you talk about your use of practical and digital effects on the series?
Evil Dead has always been an old fashioned horror movie with practical effects and we thought that that style should continue for this. Even though practical effects are our primary goal, with this TV shooting schedule, we've got to knock out these shots one after another, but primarily our recipe is the old recipe of doing these practical effects with good old fashion make up geniuses and artists. It's great being around teams of artists.
It's an exciting place to see these makeup artists and mechanical effects engineers working side by side with actors and great photographers and cinematographers. I love sets. Its such a cool combination of craftsmen and artists. Its a very invigorating and exciting place to be. Make up effects wise, I hope it can continue with the practical effects as much as possible and as much as time will allow.
Our last run in with Deadites was in the Fede Alvarez movie in 2013. Do you see it interacting with the TV series, whether Mia shows up or the events are simply referenced?
I opened my big mouth at the last San Diego Comic-Con and said "We were making this show and said I'd love to see Bruce and Jane side by side battling the Evil Dead." The truth is, I have learned a lot in a short amount of time. Maybe that was too bold of a thing for me to say because I'm not really in control of the writing room. The writers have to have control of their own stories. Led by show runner Craig DiGregorio, and its very complicated to know where they're going to end for a season, and simultaneously be working on a movie where Bruce meets Jane and still have to fit into their storyline.
I don't quite know where their storyline is going. They're figuring it out. I would love to see it, but I don't quite know how to engineer it at this moment.
That makes sense. That brings up something that many fans seem to debate about the Fede Alvarez version. I always saw it as taking place in the same Evil Dead universe. Is what's happening with Ash and what's going on with Mia taking place in the same world?
Absolutely. I would love to see a feature... maybe Fede and me could direct it together sometime, if it was ever possible. We brought Bruce into the modern world. I know he was at a cabin in the eighties, and then in the nineties he was running up in search of the Necronomicon. Now he is back and this is the world that he'd have to fit in. His world was a little goofier. [The Fede Alvarez version] is very straight. We can find the middle ground in a world that would host both realities.
What's next for you? I loved Drag Me to Hell. Is another original horror movie in the cards for you?
I don't have my next script. I wish I did. I love horror movies and I'd love to make an original horror movie. It would be so cool with a good character story. I'm open to whatever possesses us.