The new Evil Dead movie is brutal to watch — but it was also brutal to film. The film is full of horrible ordeals, many of which actually happened to the actors on set. What were the most horrific things the stars of Evil Dead had to cope with? And which character is both the audience surrogate and the person whose death you root for most? The stars and director told us everything. Spoilers ahead...
Jane Levy, star of Suburgatory, plays Mia, the main character in the new Evil Dead, and she suffered the most of all the actors in this film. She gets raped by a tree, she gets buried alive, she has a tube down her throat so she could vomit on one of the other women in the film, and a lot more. In fact, she tells us, there were two instances where she was intubated. "I did also have a tube down my throat, so there's a moment where I could kiss a girl on the mouth and spit all the blood from my mouth into hers."
Every day was a new exciting challenge, Levy tells io9:
[It was like:] Today, you're going to run through the swamp. Today, you're going to get in a car accident. Today, you're going to get raped by the tree. Today, you're going to vomit. Today, you're going to vomit. Today, you're going to run around in the rain. Today, you're going to get buried alive. Today, you're going to shoot some guy in the arm. Today, you're going to rip your [own] arm off — spoiler, sorry — yeah. There wasn't any moment where it wasn't like that.
But she says it wound up feeling empowering, to have gone through all that and survived. "Yeah, I feel like I can do anything. I feel like a badass girl." But she did have thoughts of going AWOL: One day, she woke up feeling like, "'I don't know how I'm going to do it. I don't know how I'm going to get through another day.' But you just have to."
Director Fede Alvarez says the goal of all this insanity wasn't just to torture the actors — it was to make the scares as real as possible. "If you want to scare people, you'd better show them something as real as possible. If you show them fake CG effects, people can spot it. It's fun to watch in other kind of movies — if you watch the scifi or something, it's fun to be carried away by the cool visual effects." But in horror, "it just plays against the scares." If the actors are reacting to real stuff, and are "a little bit scared" by "witnessing something that is happening in front of you," then that's way better. That way, the actors can transmit their actual fear to the audience, instead of reacting to something on a greenscreen.
Alvarez says they were never going to be able to replace Bruce Campbell — "that's impossible" — so coming up with a protagonist who's as different as possible seemed like a good idea. And the fact that they ended up with a female protagonist was just down to the nature of the story they were staying. "There are a lot of things going on in the story, and the way it's crafted is quite different from the original."
Levy feels like the story of Mia conquering her addiction to heroin is sort of a metaphor for confront your inner darkness in general, with the real demons in the film standing in for your own personal demons. And she really hopes she gets to play Mia again, so we see what she's like when she's not a drug addict.
Alvarez sees Mia's story as a triumph, partly because she does succeed in kicking heroin over the course of the movie. "That's all that matters."
Jessica Lucas tells us her character Olivia is the driving force behind getting Mia to the cabin to help her kick heroin. Olivia is a nurse, who's determined to keep Mia on lockdown and keep everybody there until Mia goes cold turkey. And when things start to go nuts, Olivia is the one who tries to explain everything away using rationalizations — and she won't let anybody leave, even after the insanity starts ramping up.
"She's the skeptic," says Lucas. "As things start to go wrong, she explains everything away as symptoms of withdrawal. So she's kind of the reason they stay as long as they do. And so I think her fate, what happens to her, is very fitting."
Lou Taylor Pucci plays Eric, Olivia's nerdy boyfriend who reads from the Necronomicon and starts all the insanity in the first place. He tells us that he was very conscious while filming that scene that the audience would all be yelling at the screen for him not to do that. "That's the best part of every horror movie," he laughs. "[Eric] feels guilty. He did it. He killed everyone, by accident. What are you going to say?"
And Pucci sees Eric as the character who most knows what's going on:
I'm definitely the clichéd, nerd passive-aggressive character, who starts out as kind of a douche. But in this one, what's really cool is, he turns into the — in my opinion, he's the favorite to watch. Because he sort of is the audience. He knows what the audience knows, while everybody else in the story doesn't know what's going on yet. So it's fun to watch him, because he can laugh with the audience. You can see it through his eyes.
And yet, the audience is also rooting for Eric to get killed, especially since this is all his fault originally. "I was. Just because it's fun to watch the characters you've started to love die."
"I get stabbed like 30 times," says Pucci. His makeup got more and more bloody every day, because they filmed the movie in order so it was easier to keep track of the accelerating damage to the characters. "Getting all the blood right, and getting just the right amount of blood" was a challenge in makeup. The main stuff that got cut out of the movie was just gore or carnage that was too extreme for the movie to get an "R" rating — but those sequences will be on the DVD, Pucci believes.
And Alvarez told us, once again, that his "personal dream" is to connect the two Evil Dead universes and have Ash and Mia team up. Let's hope that crossover takes place in the apocalypse!