On Saturday, at New York Comic Con, darkness rolled over the IGN Theater, as a special presentation from next spring's Screen Gems remake of Sam Raimi's immortal horror classic "Evil Dead" was unveiled, including the first-ever screening of footage. In attendance were the remake's director Fede Alvarez, along with the movie's lead, Jane Levy (star of "Suburgatory" on ABC and this month's Halloween feature "Fun Size"). Oh, and there was also this dude named Bruce Campbell. Fans of the franchise might be familiar with him. Starred in the original, produced the remake — you know the drill.
Firstly, they showed the trailer for the film, which stood, towering, as the highlight of the entire day at Comic Con. The trailer started out with some spooky text and things looked scary enough and also fairly referential – shots of a rickety old cabin in the woods, Levy sitting on top of an old car that looked very much like Campbell's in the original films, a thick, soupy layer of fog coating the forest floor, and a beat-up old book which you should never, ever read from. And then shit got real. This was an explicitly red band trailer and the attendees in the auditorium were losing their shit. While the moments flashed by, we caught the following: possession; demons; someone chainsawing off his arm or possibly another character's arm; the return of the rapist trees (this time with extra grope-y vine action); and a character's graphic self mutilation, which involved them splitting their tongue down the middle with what appeared to be a rusty pair of scissors. Take that Lars von Trier!
People were shrieking, screaming, laughing, and generally going ape. From the brief assembly of footage it looked like Alvarez and his confederates had gleefully captured the demonic spirit of the original and funneled it into something new and altogether more extreme. At the start of the panel, Alvarez told a story about seeing "Evil Dead" at a young age ("Too young," he noted) and how large an impression it made on him. He said he wanted to duplicate that experience but for a modern audience, using newfangled technology that wasn't available at the time of the first film, and it looks like he's accomplished it. Even Levy was impressed. "I haven't seen that yet," she said, climbing back into her seat after watching the footage. "That scared the shit out of me!"
But honestly, Saturday's panel was more or less devoted to one man: Bruce Campbell. Outfitted in a suit that can only be described the color of Satan's tongue, he sauntered onstage and held the audience in rapt attention. There was the moment he gave a woman in the audience a five-dollar bill because she praised his performance on cable series "Burn Notice" (and then pantomimed roundhouse kicking her in the head) and his utter befuddlement at the caliber of star that had just exited the stage, saying of "Carrie" actress Julianne Moore, "Where's your art film now baby?" Mostly though he answered questions along with with the film's star and director, and tried to quell any fears about the reasoning behind remaking such a rapturously received franchise.
"As middle-aged filmmakers now, we realized maybe it's just too late to strap on that chainsaw one more time," Campbell said about himself and producing partners Raimi and Rob Tapert. After the crowd enthusiastically booed this response, Campbell came back with, "You think we should? Alright. There will be an 'Evil Dead 4' after all. But in the meantime…" After trailing off, Campbell returned to his thesis:"The point is, it's time to give these people what they want – a new experience done with handsome young thespians covered in new buckets of blood, from a new director hand-picked by Sam Raimi himself. You are impatient people and we know you need blood pouring out of every orifice. Your shit will be just as freaked as it was in the original. If you want me to crown her the new Ash? I will put that crown on my fucking self." Campbell's utterly infectious used-car-salesman shtick had us sold.
After Campbell confirmed that there would be references to the original films' mythology, he elaborated: "This movie will be like putting on a comfortable shoe. It will squeeze you. You will say, 'That feels just like an Evil Dead shoe.' But then you say, 'I can't get this shoe off!' " He then screamed for a few minutes before Alvarez actually answered the question about references. "There are some things that people who never saw the original will enjoy but there are a lot of hints out of the original and there are a lot of very small details that you have to be an 'Evil Dead' freak to notice," Alavrez said in his charmingly rambling way. He then added: "There's a lot of those, all the time."
When an audience member asked about the involvement of the lovely and talented Diablo Cody on the film's original screenplay, Campbell stated, simply, "As middle aged men we don't know how young people talk." He then took a pregnant pause for maximum impact before growling: "Oh and she won a fucking Academy award." Alvarez said that she was brought in to punch up the dialogue, particularly for Levy's Mia character (Alvarez teased, "There's a play on words maybe if you listen to all the characters' name – it might spell something out"), and to tie some things together in the last act.
Later in the panel, Campbell summed things up nicely. "It's time for something fresh. It's nice to see a movie where you don't see the green garden hose spewing the shit out," he said. "We've got some really talented people who kicked their ass off. I know you fans were pissed. Don't think I didn't read about it every single day. Just wait and see the movie. I will accept all of your collective apologies. We don't want to screw this up. Even though I make fun of you fans relentless, we want to make you happy horror filmgoers."
We imagine there will be many happy horror filmgoers when "Evil Dead" is released next spring on April 12th. You might want to bring some kind of plastic sheeting, though. Things are going to get gooey.