Three minutes and 50 seconds was all Uruguayan director Fede Álvarez needed. That was the total runtime of “Ataque de Pánico” (“Panic Attack”), an impressive, albeit micro-budgeted, short film Álvarez made about robots destroying Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, which he uploaded onto YouTube in 2009. It quickly garnered attention from a number of Hollywood movers and shakers, including filmmaker Sam Raimi and actor Bruce Campbell, who first offered him another movie project and then chose him to direct the “reinvention” of their “Evil Dead” franchise. Despite never having made a feature film before, Álvarez, 35, jumped on board faster than Raimi and Campbell could say, “Join us!”
A lot of 20-year-olds are going to see this movie and not know it’s a remake from an ’80s cult classic. As a fan of the original film, do you think that is a problem?
No, I don’t, but I’m also part of that group of people that bitches when they find out someone is going to remake a classic movie. When I look back to some of the movies I loved in the ’80s when I was a kid, I didn’t know some of them were remakes. Take, for example, “The Fly” (1986). It was a horror cult classic from the ’50s. [Director] David Cronenberg brought that title to a whole new generation. That’s what I think we’re doing here — bringing it to a new generation of 18-20-year-olds that would never have known [the original] existed.
Do you think new audiences will miss out on certain aspects of the remake because they haven’t seen the original?
I don’t think so, because we wanted to create a film that worked for new audiences, but at the same time please the fans of the original. That was the big challenge for me as a writer and director, but we discovered that it definitely worked both ways. If you’ve seen the original 100 times, it still works as a new film because we took the time to change a lot of things from the original. The story may feel familiar for the first 20 minutes, but then it goes into completely new places. Then, of course, new audiences will have a blast because they’re exposed to the “Evil Dead” universe for the first time.
Would you consider this horror movie only for fans of the genre?
Not at all. There’s something special about the “Evil Dead” movies. In most horror films, the characters are always just victims. Whoever survives sometimes just barely makes it out alive. But in the “Evil Dead” movies there is always a character that turns around and fights back. That’s what I love about this movie. People have told me they thought they were going to hate this movie because they don’t like horror movies, but said they had a lot of fun watching the film. “Evil Dead” movies always tend to get away from the standard slasher or supernatural horror.
When it came to the gore in the film, were there any unwritten rules you tried to follow during production or was nothing off limits?
Well, you don’t want to hold back, but you also don’t want it to turn into something too funny. When gore gets over the top it tends to not be scary anymore. The challenge was to show the right amount of gore without turning it into something that was ridiculous. I think there is really an art to it. Anybody can grab a knife and cut a body apart, so we tried to think about what triggers the pain in people’s lives. We wanted to show the gore at the right place, at the right time, and in the right amount.
What would you find more rewarding with this remake: to shock horror movie fans or scare them?
I wanted to go out there with the same spirit Sam had when he made the original — to make the scariest movie ever, but I think what I want to do most is entertain them. That’s the main goal. You can make the goriest movie and it could still be the most boring thing ever, even if you’re a fan of gory horror movies. I want to hook the audience into the story first. Then, it’s about scaring them with the right combination of shock and suspense.
This interview was conducted for the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival.