AUSTIN – Three decades after Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” violently tore itself into the hearts of horror movie buffs the world over in 1981, Fede Alvarez makes his directorial debut with a “rebirth” of the film. This year’s “Evil Dead” premiered to much applause at the Paramount Theater on Friday night.
I got to sit down with a couple of other journalists to talk with the cast, director, writers and producers for round tables the next day, and here is the first. Cast members Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, and Elizabeth Blackmore talked about “zombie classes,” the original “Evil Dead,” and working with practical effects.
AG: So how are you enjoying Austin?
LTP: I’ve actually only been here less than 24 hours, and I’m leaving in four hours. It’s been crazy. I got a pilot, so I’m working in New Orleans. Like, right now. Literally, it’s starting in two days. They didn’t want to let me go.
EB: We went to Stubb’s on Thursday night.
LTP: They did. I wish I had been able to. Stubb’s is iconic. The first time I came here, I went to Stubb’s. Amazing. Then, I go home, and I look at my mom’s kitchen. On the stove, there’s Stubbs’ face. Like, what the fuck? They started bottling his barbecue sauce after I was there, not before, so I’d never seen it before. I was telling them all about the best barbecue ever, and now everyone can have some.
Q: So I don’t know exactly how it works for you all, but when you got the script, did you know right away that you were interested in it?
LTP: Immediately, I was not interested at all. I didn’t want to do it at all. I thought it was a terrible idea. Why would you remake Evil Dead? It’s so good. Someone was just showing us the Rotten Tomatoes score. The old Evil Dead is still at 100%. It’s a perfect friggin’ movie in some ways. So yeah, I didn’t think it was a great idea. It was written like we were 30 years old. The characters were a bit older than us by like five to ten years, so I was like, “I’m not right for this.” When it came down to it, to get the callback, Bruce Campbell was going to be there, and I just wanted to go meet Bruce Campbell. And then shit happened.
AG: What kind of influence did the original have on your interpretations of the characters?
EB: I actually hadn’t seen the original. I didn’t know Evil Dead, didn’t really know what it was. I hate horror films. They scare the crap out of me! When I got the role, my boyfriend made me sit down and watch the original then. I think we were given so much freedom. Having Bruce and Rob there, I feel like it took care of that. For us, they gave us the freedom to make something beautiful.
LTP: We were safe. We were in such safe hands. You can’t be in better hands than with Bruce Campbell being a producer on it.
Q: Was he on set with you guys?
LTP: No, he wasn’t there.
EB: He was filming. Rob was there most of the time.
LTP: To answer your question, I was a huge Evil Dead fan. That’s why when I got the script, I was like, “This is dumb. How are we going to do this? We can’t do this.” But obviously, it was the right thing to do. When I found out they were going to do it all practical, I was like, “This is it. This is going to be so cool.” I can’t believe they even came up with that idea. They were in such good taste.
Q: The practical effects have obviously come a long way since the original. What was it like working with them?
LTP: They came out even better than I thought.
JL: My stuff was pretty much practical. It was a prosthetic piece on my face that blacked out in the middle, and then they put white dots on it to be able to follow it. So the actual inside of my mouth is CGI, obviously. That was not real (laughs). Everything else was practical. It was like three and a half hours of makeup.
EB: I think my most was six or seven hours.
JL: I probably had it the easiest out of everyone.
EB: We spent a day in New Zealand, about a month before we started anything, just getting body cast. I had like five different arms in different positions. We all had our faces cast. He had his chest cast. We spent a whole day doing that, so I knew it was going to be big.
AG: I’m a huge baby. Scary movies creep me out. So what was it like filming? I feel like I’d be scared all the time.
EB: It’s not scary at all!
JL: Really, you’re so uncomfortable, too. You’re just grumpy and trying to make a great scene, wanting to get it as crazy and out there as possible, so you’re more focused on that. You don’t have time to think about it.
EB: It’s just not scary. It hurt, because you’ve had your arm folded for three days, and the blood is sticky. I got allergic to my prosthetics, and my face was all fat.
LTP: It was hours and hours and hours in makeup and all that. So no, it wasn’t scary, but it was fun. You had to keep up the fun and keep up the energy, and that was about it. That’s really the hardest job the whole time, having to do that where you look scared again.
EB: Like, how many ways can you look scared? We got to take three, and I was like, “I’m not scared anymore, what else can I do?”
LTP: “What other faces can I make?”
Q: Did you guys have to do a lot of takes for each scary reaction?
LTP: Sometime yes, and sometimes no. Sometimes it was very little. It was minimal. But some days we would work for five days on one scene.
Q: Which scene?
EB: Guess (laughs).
LTP: It wasn’t action-y, but there was a lot of stuff to do. And even those days, we’d still only get like a take or three takes.
JL: We didn’t do a lot of takes ever. They would spend a lot of time setting up and all that.
LTP: We spent a lot more time on wides than on close-ups.
Q: This is kind of a big breakout for a lot of you. I mean, Fede [Alvarez], this is his first big film. Was there a feeling of that on set?
LTP: I definitely felt that was the coolest thing. Knowing the original Evil Dead so well, stepping onto the set that first day was like stepping into the old Evil Dead. It was the same house. It looked the same, and I was in that house. That was cool and scary. That was cool.
JL: I never thought about it, really.
EB: I think you’re safe with Fede. You knew he was going to make a really cool film.
LTP: The biggest thing when we got there was he wanted rehearsal time. He wanted to get us able to work with these people who were doing a sort of interpretive dance, yoga-zombie training, so we could learn to move as if we were being marionetted or something.
EB: We spent a day writhing on the floor.
JL: There’s tape of us doing crazy, weird stuff with our faces and bodies.
Q: There was an actual teacher?
LTP: Yes, a zombie teacher.
EB: She was a choreographer.
JL: We just learned to move our bodies.
LTP: How cool is that? They thought to do that for us. We didn’t ask for it. We just got there, and they were like, “Okay, zombie class is tomorrow at 1:00.”
JL: It was great, because I think we all felt like kind of anxious about that. How do you act like a zombie? We were trying to figure that out.
Q: If you all want to apply for “The Walking Dead,” you have that on your resume now.
LTP: I know! It was easy then, though, to really get to know each other, because we were all on the ground going like (enacts a seizure). They were like, “Okay, the poison is going through your body, so you’re on the ground again.” Interpretive improv dance zombie stuff.
Q: You just kept coming back, you never died.
LTP: (laughs) Seriously, Wes gets stabbed, like, 30 times.
AG: It reminded me of “Pineapple Express,” how Red never dies.
LTP: (laughs) Yeah! That part, though, with the crowbar, that was nasty.
EB: That was awesome. I really hurt the stunt guy that day. I bruised him so bad. They gave me a crowbar! It wasn’t a real one. It was firm, but the core is still metal. They were like, “Beat the shit out of him,” so I did. I cracked his rib! I had contacts in, so I couldn’t really see what I was doing.
LTP: That was the thing, you couldn’t see anything most of the time.
EB: I didn’t want to hit his head! It was sick.
AG: Obviously, this was really physically grueling for you all, but emotionally, how did you prepare?
LTP: Like I said, I just needed to have fun. It was really about keeping that energy fun and not making it too heavy. It was already written pretty heavy. It’s a detox and all that, so we all had to just be light with it.
JL: We knew what we were getting into, too, so nothing was that surprising to me.
Q: Was this the first time you saw the final film?
EB: First time ever.
JL: Good audience, and they were really into it. It was nice.
LTP: Insane. I thought it was going to be at the Alamo Drafthouse with 150 seats, and then I walk into the Paramount with 1,200 seats.
EB: I didn’t know there was a balcony!
JL: Me neither!