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comedy

Why the Coen brothers' Hail, Caesar! should have been a series instead of a movie (SPOILERS)

Feb 09 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220337:42831:0[/embed] Both Tasha Robinson at The Verge and Lesley Coffin at The Mary Sue mentioned in their reviews that Hail, Caesar! feels more like a TV pilot than a film, which is accurate. The film introduces a rich cast of characters, many of which could have carried their own films about the trials and tribulations of 1950s Hollywood. There's Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a studio head and fixer dealing with the difficult day-to-day grind of running Capitol Pictures and managing his talent. There's Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), a leading man who's kidnapped by a group of subversive Communist screenwriters while he is shooting a swords and sandals epic about Jesus told from the Roman point of view. There's Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), a singing-cowboy who's trying to be turned into a debonair leading man. There's DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), a pregnant starlet trying to figure out how to keep her situation under wraps. There's Thora Thacker and Thessaly Thacker (both played by Tilda Swinton in increasingly ridiculous hats), twin sisters and rival gossip columnists. There's Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes), a high-toned director of stylish pictures. And there's Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum), a tap dancing leading man who looks great in a sailor outfit. It's almost like Joel and Ethan Coen had about six or seven ideas about different Hollywood movies they wanted to do and just decided to jam them all together in one picture. It's no wonder everything feels just half-developed with that ensemble; at a certain point, the characters felt more like cameos, and Hail, Caesar! feels less like a story with actual stakes and more like a pretext for fun gags (one of the standouts is a theological debate over a script), amusing scenes (Hobie killing time before a film premiere by twirling a lasso around), and extended homages to Hollywood's past (overt nods to On the Town, ditto Esther Williams water ballets). When I think of The Big Lebowski, it feels like a film even though it's so packed with colorful characters, but Hail, Caesar! feels like the start of something rather than a self-contained story. I'm obviously in no position to tell the Coen brothers' how to do what they do, but in my head, I could envision Hail, Caesar! as a six-episode miniseries on Netflix, with each episode running 45 minutes. The entire series would still, like the film, take place in just one day, but each episode would focus on a particular plot in the film anchored to a character or group of characters. One episode could cover Baird's kidnapping and the whole Communist conspiracy subplot. One episode would be about the dueling Thacker sisters trying to out-scoop each other. Another about DeAnna's dilemma, what it was like to be an over-scrutinized starlet at that time, and how she winds up with Jonah Hill's character by the end. (About 95% of Hill's total screentime is in the trailers and commercials.) Another episode could be about Lorentz and Burt, their possible clandestine relationship, and the experience of closeted gay talent in Hollywood during this era. Hobie's episode would be a comedy of manners as he drifts between high and low genres as well as casual and formal situations. And of course, there'd be an episode about Mannix and his choice of being the fixer of a studio or accepting a better and easier position at Lockheed. Each episode would occasionally intersect with other episodes, presenting the same scene, but possibly offering a different point of view of that scene. (Think Elephant or Jackie Brown.) The constant in every show, however, would be Mannix. He's the moral core and center of the studio, and without him these lives would fall apart. The final episode, which would be Mannix's episode, would cover all of the things he did in the day that weren't in the other episodes, like the bookending confessions, his theological meeting, his big decision about the Lockheed gig, etc. It would also give a chance to see more interactions with his wife (a wasted Allison Pill), his secretary (Heather Goldenhersh), and an editor (Frances McDormand). The Coen brothers have shown a knack for aesthetic shapeshifting, and had Hail, Caesar! been a series instead of a movie, they could have made each episode have its own style and mood befitting the character and plot being covered. Most importantly, though, the characters would all be given their due and have their stories told--plots rather than subplots, an ensemble cast rather than a collection of cameos. We're in a golden age of television, streaming, and episodic storytelling. It would have been great to see the Coen brothers pay homage to that waning golden age of Hollywood in a serialized medium that is now coming into its own.
Hail, Caesar! as a series photo
The Golden Age of Hollywood: The Show
The Coen brothers' Hail, Caesar! is not a bad film. The Coen brothers are such expert craftsmen that they are incapable of making a bad movie. They're always at least watchable. If you look at their filmography, they have mad...

Larry David #FeelTheBern photo
Larry David #FeelTheBern

Watch Bernie Sanders appear on SNL and make Larry David #FeelTheBern


Totes biffles and bros
Feb 08
// Hubert Vigilla
The presidential race is heating up for the Democrats and Republicans, with the New Hampshire Primary taking place tomorrow. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders got away from the campaign trail and made a brief stop in New York to...
Deadpool Superb Owl photo
Deadpool Superb Owl

Deadpool talks about the football in this here Superb Owl TV spot


Chimichangas
Feb 08
// Hubert Vigilla
I think we all can agree: the Superb Owl is one of the best sporting events in all sport. To explain his love of sportball, here's Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) talking about his athletic aspirations. Remember, sports fans: there...

Review: Hail, Caesar!

Feb 05 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]220336:42811:0[/embed] Hail, Caesar!Directors: Joel and Ethan CoenRelease Date: February 5th, 2016Rating: PG-13  I feel for whoever it was who had to cut together the trailer for Hail, Caesar! I imagine it was a nightmare scenario, trying to take what is really just a series of occasionally linked comedic sequences and turn it into something that appears to be dramatic and compelling. And so whoever it was built a narrative, one where George Clooney, a big-name actor who sometimes forgets his lines at key moments, is kidnapped by a mysterious organization, and stars like Channing Tatum and Scarlett Johansson are enlisted to help get him back. Cameo appearances by Tilda Swinton and Jonah Hill and the like just serve to make it all one big star-studded Hollywood mystery. But… no. That’s not what Hail, Caesar! is at all. A couple of those things happen, but the context presented in the trailer is, to put it bluntly, bullshit. In fact, that opening, with George Clooney’s big speech? That takes place less than ten minutes from the end of the film. Yeah. That’s not the introduction to that character. It’s the resolution. In fact, much of the trailer comes from the second half of the film, and it almost feels like it went in reverse chronological order. The “reveal” of the secret society that ends the trailer feels like a big end-of-act reveal. Maybe the end of the first act? And sure enough, that does happen around then. Problem is, all of the imagery the trailer subjected us to up until that point takes place after we already know who they are. Because it’s not even really a secret. I’m not going to tell you, but that’s pretty much entirely because you’ve already had the ending spoiled, so why not give you something?  You don’t watch Hail, Caesar! for the narrative, because there is no narrative. As I said, it’s a series of occasionally linked comedic sequences. That’s honestly the best way to describe it. Characters come in, do their funny thing, and then are never seen from again. Or they come in briefly a handful of times, all teasing some far more interesting existence than the one we’re seeing. It’s all potential. This is a film of unending potential. Each character has a backstory that seems rich enough to justify not necessarily a movie, but certainly an episode of a series. I would watch Hail, Caesar! the series. None of the myriad characters really gets their due, and it’s such a shame. I wanted more of damn near everyone. And arguments could be made that being left wanting is better than the alternative, but I have to wonder: What’s the point of it all? It’s like a cupcake with a nice foil wrapper. You look at it, and it looks good. You take a first bite, and it is good. But then you pull back the foil wrapper, and you realize that there’s nothing more to the cupcake. It’s just air. You liked those couple of bites you got, but you’re so disappointed that that’s all there was. No cream filling? Heck, you would have even accepted just more cake! But you don’t get that. Instead, you just have a well-crafted cupcake top in the guise of something more. Of course, what is there is good. Let’s not pretend otherwise. The Coen Brothers are beloved for a reason: They know how to make good movies. Hail, Caesar! is pretty, funny, fun, and any number of other adjectives, but that’s just baseline. There’s nothing more here to remind you of why the Coen Brothers are a household name. You get some really fun sequences – and I sincerely hope that the musical numbers are practice for a full-blown musical film that they’ve got up their sleeves – but there’s nothing to really bite into. You go from fun thing to fun thing, always expecting more. Always hoping for more. Always feeling that there is more, but the Coen Brothers don’t think you’re cool enough to see it. When I think about the movie, I don’t really have any “complaints,” per se. I have my big fundamental issue, but from moment to moment, there’s not really much negative to say. But there’s also nothing wildly positive to say. This is a movie that is Good and nothing more. It doesn’t even really aspire to be more. It seems content in its Goodness. I don’t have a problem with Good movies – I appreciate any movie that has the audacity to be simply enjoyable – but I wanted this to be great. And it just isn’t. I never thought that word, or felt it, but I wanted to oh so badly. I felt like there were times where I should have thought, “Wow! That was great!” but I just… didn’t. And from the Coen Brothers, that stings. They’ve made so many classics, comedic and otherwise, that something merely Good from them feels lazy. This is a Coen Brothers puff piece, some something they did to fulfill a contract. And a Coen Brothers puff piece is still worth seeing, but it’s certainly not something worth celebrating.
Hail, Caesar! Review photo
Act One?
Joseph Kahn, director of Detention, the best film ever made, is an exceedingly well respected music video director. Most recently, he’s known as the guy who makes all those amazing Taylor Swift music videos. Together, t...

Trump vs. Trump photo
Trump vs. Trump

Watch Stephen Colbert moderate a Donald Trump vs. Donald Trump debate


Giant Douche vs. Turd Sandwich
Jan 29
// Hubert Vigilla
This year's presidential primaries have been fascinating and occasionally terrifying if you're a political junkie like me, especially watching the rise of unbridled derp on the Republican side. If you've been following the le...
The Chickening photo
The Chickening

Watch The Chickening, a NSFW and WTF parody of The Shining


What has been seen cannot be unseen
Jan 27
// Hubert Vigilla
Nick DenBoer and Davy Force's The Chickening is a poultry-centric parody of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. I want you to pause a moment, read that sentence again, and then just watch the NSFW video below. That was the Citize...
Awwwww photo
Awwwww

Red Ban trailer for Keanu brings us Key and Peele and kitten


Greatest movie name since Die Harder
Jan 21
// Matthew Razak
Parody movies come in all shapes and sizes, but most of us think of something like Scary Movie when we think of them.Those can be funny, but truly great parody comes from creating something original that riffs on tropes...
Neighbors 2 Trailer photo
Neighbors 2 Trailer

First trailer for Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is Neighbors all over again


Jan 20
// Nick Valdez
Remember Neighbors? It was the decent Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg produced film released in-between juggernauts This is the End and The Interview. Well, if you've forgotten about that movie than Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising ...
Groening/Netflix photo
Groening/Netflix

The Simpsons' Matt Groening developing animated series for Netflix


Jan 18
// Nick Valdez
We're pretty big fans of The Simpsons here at Flixist. We've done lists, we've made every possible reference we could, and poke around our posts long enough and you'll find at least 65% of them have Simpsons gags as the lede ...
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See Kung Fu Panda 3 early and free


Washington DC, Baltimore and Norfolk
Jan 14
// Matthew Razak
Has the shine worn off the Kung Fu Panda franchise yet? It's a long time between these sequels and I've just gotten less and less enthused about the series, but both 1 and 2 were enjoyable so maybe three will w...
Rush Hour TV trailer photo
Rush Hour TV trailer

Rush Hour TV series trailer reminds me how much I liked Martial Law with Sammo Hung


What's Cantonese for "shark sandwich"?
Jan 13
// Hubert Vigilla
The three Rush Hour films starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker earned more than $849 million worldwide. The trilogy combined some pretty solid action and the odd couple/buddy cop formula. So why not try to turn that into TV ...

Review: Sisters

Dec 18 // Matthew Razak
[embed]220235:42741:0[/embed] SistersDirector: Jason MooreRated: RRelease Date: December 18, 2015  Sisters is about Tina Fey and Amy Poehler playing sisters Maura and Kate Ellis. Maura is the goody-two-shoes and Kate is the partying train wreck and despite the fact that they clearly didn't do anything together as children they grew up the best of friends. But now their parents are going to sell their childhood home and so the two decide to throw one last "Ellis Island" party recapture their youth and get Maura a new man.  The comedy revolves around the somewhat tired trope of old people doing young people things. Because of this the movie really only survives on the strength of its two leading stars. As is par for the course Poehler and Fey turn it performances and chemistry that elevate the quality of the entire film. A lot of the jokes would just be flat out bad if you they weren't the ones delivering them, and the fact that they clearly act like sisters in real life makes it all the more fun to watch them joke around on screen. There's nothing special about the comedy here, but they make it work. The rest of the film is kind of perfunctory at best. The usual cast of SNL alum march out to deliver whatever comedy they've been assigned and most of the movie is taken up by the big party, during which a ludicrous amount of things go on. This includes the destruction and complete drywalling of an attic ceiling as if it was a ten minute project. I can suspend disbelief for most things, but as someone who has put up drywall this is just completely unbelievable. Thankfully it was followed up by a pretty hilarious scene where Ike Barinhotz gets a ballerina music box stuck where the sun don't shine. It's this really weird balance of Fey and Poehler's honest comedy and the far out slapstick that makes Sisters feel entirely unbalanced. At one point you're enjoying it thanks to the cast and at the next you're wondering how you accidentally started watching Grown Ups 2. That's not entirely fair. One shouldn't just throw around an insult like that. I went to far and I apologize. The point being that Sisters is a movie with some jokes that work and some jokes that don't. It features funny comedians who can take tepid content and turn it into something decent to good. You will laugh and you might even at some point feel something, despite the movie's insipid ending.  To conclude: this is a movie that is not Star Wars and there really isn't much more to say. 
Sisters Review photo
Movies that aren't Star Wars
For some reason someone out there thought that releasing a film the same week as Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a good idea. You can kind of see the logic in releasing Sisters this week, I suppose. The studio is h...

Ghostbusters photo
Ghostbusters

Four new Ghostbusters photos accompany first official image


No beams crossed yet
Dec 17
// Matthew Razak
The new, all-female Ghostbusters is coming and it is probably going to fantastic considering the cast is awesome and Paul Feig is directing. However, we haven't had any official looks outside of a few social media posts....
MST3K Kickstarter photo
MST3K Kickstarter

MST3K is back with 14 new episodes, breaking Kickstarter records


Rowsdower!
Dec 13
// Hubert Vigilla
The Bring Back Mystery Science Theater 3000 Kickstarter campaign has been a resounding success, earning $5.7 million as well as some additional cash in "add-on donations" for a grand total of $6.3 million. This is the most mo...
Screenings photo
Screenings

See Daddy's Home early and free


Washington DC screening
Dec 10
// Matthew Razak
A little while ago Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferell made a fantastic comedy called The Other Guys. I think we were all looking forward to them teaming up again, but I don't know if Daddy's Home is the movie we were hoping for. W...
Patton Oswalt joins MST3K photo
Patton Oswalt joins MST3K

New MST3K cast is Jonah Ray, Felicia Day, Patton Oswalt, Hampton Yount, and Baron Vaughn


Crud BoneMeal! Fridge LargeMeat!
Dec 01
// Hubert Vigilla
The Bring Back MST3K Kickstarter is continuing to be successful. Joel Hodson has raised more than $3.4 million with 10 days to go, which means that six episodes of the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 will be made. If they hi...

Review: The Night Before

Nov 26 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220167:42716:0[/embed] The Night BeforeDirector: Johnathan LevineRated: RRelease Date: November 20th, 2015 When Ethan's (Joseph Godon-Levitt) parents pass away, his friends Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris Roberts (Anthony Mackie) decide to start a new holiday tradition where they combine all of their usual traditions and party. 14 years later, that tradition is coming to an end as Isaac's becoming a father and Chris is now too famous an athlete to hang out. As their lives drift apart and Ethan's seems to be going nowhere, he clings to the last hope for their tradition: The Nutcracker Ball, a secret super party which the three have been trying to go to for years. As they look for the party, drug laced Christmas shenanigans ensue.  Night Before is incredibly nostalgic. From the outset you'll notice plenty of shout outs to films of Christmas past (like Home Alone and It's a Wonderful Life), but your enjoyment of these references and gags only really work if you remember them well enough. These gags don't have much at face value, but utilize that nostalgic work around to get a pleasant chuckle every now and then. Thankfully the film doesn't do this too much, but the gags that don't work because of this stick out even more so when the original jokes land much better. These little references feel too much like an afterthought, so I'm just left trying to figure why'd they'd even include these in the first place. It brings the film down a notch since this noticeable roughness often comes paired with bouts of awkward silence rather than laughs.  We could debate taste in humor all day, but the main core of the film is decidedly within its three main characters. Each one having their own little adventure, with only two getting true resolution, Ethan, Isaac, and Chris are crafted well. Thanks to the writing, and how comfortable the trio of actors is with one another, these guys feel lived in. Each character has a strong emotional, and most importantly human, center that helps anchor the film when it goes off the rails. Unfortunately, there are points when they get a bit cartoonish (especially during most of Isaac's drug binge or Chris' encounter with a strange thief) and the story goes through these weird non-sequitors which only serve to diminish the film's actual plot. It just seems weird to, at one point, focus on cocaine shenanigans and then try and remind us there's a Christmas story being told. Rogen and Goldberg's films do this all the time, but I guess there's just a more noticeable juxtaposition when the main story is all about holiday niceties.  Johnathan Levine, who's directed Rogen and Gordon-Levitt before in 50/50, captures the spirit of the holiday film quite well. The little details sprinkled throughout the film like the trio's holiday sweaters, the entrance to the Nutcracker Ball feeling appropriately magical, or even not including any holiday music to keep it all inclusive, help to make it timeless, but there are some odd cameos that really date the film and will set it back. And I know the trio have to separate to serve the story, but I wish we were able to enjoy Rogen, Gordon-Levitt, and Mackie in the same room more. Each of their scenes together is an absolute highlight as they bounce jokes off one another and generally charm up the place. Even some of the film's occasional wonky dialogue comes across natural for them. It's pretty neat to see in action. I hope they find themselves all together in another project someday. Also, if they could somehow get another appearance from the actor that plays Mr. Green, I'd be there day one.  In the end, there's not really much else to say about The Night Before. I had a good time watching, even if there were a couple of times I found myself scratching my head over their comedic choices. If you've seen Rogen and Goldberg's films in the past, you already know what to expect and have decided whether or not to see this already. The addition of Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to the mix helps take the film to a more emotional place than usual, but you're constantly reminded that this is another film in a long line of others like it. It's like that one Christmas where you got a cool Nintendo 64, and you're older cousin keeps telling you he got one first. You're going to have a good time, but it's a little less fun than it should be. 
Night Before Review photo
A partridge in a burning tree
When Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg produce a film, you pretty much know what you're going to get. As the duo have made their way through the romantic comedy, high school buddy film, stoner comedy, old Hollywood existential, su...

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Check out the trailer for Adam Pally's new movie, Night Owls


A hell of a one-night stand
Nov 24
// Matt Liparota
Tons of people have stories of bad or awkward one-night stands, but it might be hard to top this one. The upcoming comedy Night Owls sees Kevin (The Mindy Project's Adam Pally) wake up after a one-night stand to discover he's...
MST3K Kickstarter cast photo
MST3K Kickstarter cast

MST3K Kickstarter: Felicia Day is new mad, Hampton Yount is Crow, Baron Vaughn is Tom Servo


TUSK!
Nov 24
// Hubert Vigilla
The Bring Back MST3K Kickstarter has already met its $2 million goal. Last week we reported that Jonah Ray is the new host of MST3K, and noted some rumors about who the rest of the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 cast would ...
Parody photo
Parody

Fifty Shades of Black trailer actually plays parody well


The Wayans can get it right sometimes
Nov 19
// Matthew Razak
We have to thank the Wayans family. If it weren't for them the movie spoofing genre would have completely died with Leslie Nielsen. Now you may be thinking, "Matt, that would be a good thing," but believe it or not there some...
NSFW photo
NSFW

Dirty Grandpa red band full of a dirty grandpa


Cussing is evidently comedy
Nov 19
// Matthew Razak
I'm going to take a stab at this one and say that Dirty Grandpa isn't going to be very good. When the basis for most of your comedy is Robert DeNiro cussing you've got some work to do. The new red band trailer does show ...
Zoolander 2 trailer photo
The beautiful people, beautiful people
A wise man once said "There's a fine line between stupid and clever." That probably best describes the first Zoolander. Well, Zoolander is back, and if this first trailer for Zoolander 2 (2oolander) is any indication, it's as...

Screenings photo
Screenings

See The Night Before Early and free


Washington DC, Baltimore and Norfolk
Nov 16
// Matthew Razak
As far as Christmas comedies go we haven't had a good one in a while, but that could change with The Night Before. It's got the casts and the director to become an instant classic... for adults. Sometimes you need a little cu...
Ash vs Evil Dead online photo
Ash vs Evil Dead online

Watch the first episode of Ash vs Evil Dead for free online


This is legit, guys
Nov 03
// Hubert Vigilla
Ash vs Evil Dead debuted on Starz over the weekend, and the reviews have been fantastic. What's that? You don't have Starz? And you want to see the show? Well, you can now watch the first episode of Ash vs Evil Dead for free ...

Interview: Bruce Campbell (Ash vs. Evil Dead)

Oct 30 // Hubert Vigilla
Bruce, could you put this in perspective for us: a couple years back there was a very pleasant surprise when we see your character at the end the Evil Dead remake. What sort of happened between that and the series? Did you already know that the show was percolating? Bruce Campbell: No, this happened fast. This happened really fast. Shockingly fast for this industry. These things are usually developed for years. We did a remake because people would not shut up about it, and we wanted to give them something. Sam didn't want to direct the remake himself but he thought, "Let me handpick a guy, Fede Alvarez, and let him have a shot at it." We think he did a great job, and it made a lot of money around the world, which at least convinced us that people are out there, the fans are still out there somewhere, but they want Sam and they want Ash. So, we're going to give it to them. We're tired of fighting it. But, the economics of making another movie... We could get enough money to make a remake directed by a first-time director, but we couldn't get enough money to make another one directed by Sam Raimi. I mean, as famous a director as Sam has become, he needs money. Sam thinks big, really big. So TV made sense. Rob Tapert had worked with Starz on Spartacus. I worked in television for years on Burn Notice. So we were TV guys. I feel like I'm a TV guy as much as a feature guy, so I couldn't wait for this. We pitched it to Sam, we went over to try and bend his ear. How was it working in unrestricted TV land? Bruce Campbell: Fantastic! It's where you need to be. You know, we don't have to do an alternate take to say something. "Gosh! Golly! Darn it! Put that over there!" None of that bulls**t. You can just talk like an adult, Ash can talk like he needs to talk. I like it a lot. The first two Evil Dead movies were unrated; only Army of Darkness had a rating because it was made for a studio and we had to have a rating. This is how people need to see it. I can't wait. Has Ash changed— Bruce Campbell: This is glorious violence, by the way. This is like, when our blood goes, it's celebratory. [laughs] Bruce Campbell: You know what I mean? This is not going to be dreary violence. This is going to be, if it's possible, fun violence. This is not going to warp your life. We take the horror seriously, but there's other things to like. We want to keep Ash the trash-talking hero, so there's going to be plenty of that. Over the years you and Sam talked about how you enjoy the Marx Brothers, classic comedy, things like that— Bruce Campbell: Yeah. The Stooges. Are you more free with the show to do more of that? Bruce Campbell: We can do whatever we want. I mean, the coolest thing ever is to be able to show up on a set and to know that you have no restrictions. You have an idea, you shoot it. If it works, you keep it, knowing that if it doesn't work you get rid of it. You know what I mean? So it's a great way to work as an actor or anybody in the arts. You want to function in an environment that's creative. And you'd be surprised how many environments you get into that are not really that creative, where someone is very controlling ,or a writer doesn't want you to change anything, or a director treats you like his little pawn and he wants to put you here and he wants to put you there, or certain DP/camera guys want to shoot things in a certain way. I'm like, "F**k you, let's make this show!" You know what I mean? Creatively, that's what I'm all about. I'll go to the ends of— I'll go to New Zealand to do that. Was there a lot of ad-libbing? Bruce Campbell: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Bruce Campbell: And the kids—I call them "the kids," Ray and Dana—they're getting on board. Not like it's a competition, but there will be things that occur to their character to say. A lot of times a writer won't do what I call "a button." You know, like button up a scene. Sometimes there are things that just make sense. Do you have any favorite ad libs you remember but didn't necessarily make it? Bruce Campbell: Umm, no, they just keep coming. So that's the beauty of TV—there's plenty of it. One of the great things about Ash in this is that he's sort of acknowledging that he's a little bit longer in the tooth. Bruce Campbell: Yeah, he's over the hill. Yeah, I love it! Got to put on a man-girdle and pop his dentures in. I mean, that's hilarious. Sam was talking about putting a box of Depends in the trunk. [laughs] Bruce Campbell: And you just see the box. You don't really talk about it. Or Ash says, "Pull over." "Why?" "I gotta get something." "What?" "Don't worry about it, just pull over." You know, and he throws the Depends in the back, and he doesn't have to say anything. I think that's awesome! Why not? Why do our heroes have to be so perfect? What a bore. Jesus Christ! What was it like getting back into this demanding of a role again. Bruce Campbell: Hard. Hard and painful. I usually have a good time on film sets, and the Evil Dead movies never are really a good time. That's okay, because I find the, very creatively satisfying, but none of them are comfortable or fun. You've covered with blood and s**t 12 hours a day. It gets old fast. Wearing stunt rigs, and you can't breathe, and every time you scratch your head you pull the hair out of you arms because of the dried blood. And you get ants all over you because you're wet and sticky and sweet with the fake blood. You attract rodents, that type of thing. [laughs] You've worked with Lucy Lawless in the past. Bruce Campbell: 20 years ago Were you guys searching for a project together? Bruce Campbell: Well, the second we knew we were going to shoot in New Zealand, I'm like, "We've got to get Lucy as part of this deal. ASAP." And so we're trying to make the show worth her time now. So upcoming season, she's going to get busy, and we like that, because she's such an ass kicker. Ash needs some more ass-kicking help, and why not get f**king Lucy Lawless? [editor's note: In retrospect, I wonder if this was some early indication that Ash vs Evil Dead was going to be renewed for a second season.] [laughs] We asked Sam before if he'd taken it a little bit easier on you now than he has in the past. And when I asked him, there was a slightly sadistic glow to his eyes. Bruce Campbell: Oh sure! It would suggest probably not. Bruce Campbell: But thank goodness he's getting older so he doesn't have as much punch anymore. He doesn't have the right hook that he used to have. Now he has people do it for him. No, Sam's always the blood deliverer. If someone's getting the blood in the face, he's the one doing it. Of the Three Stooges, Moe was always the guy who threw the pies. He just had the touch. He was like, "Get out of the way," to the prop guys and he would take the pie. BAM! He would hit it dead on every time. Sam's got that touch. [turns to me and gestures as if repeatedly throwing a cup of fake blood in my face] Because you can't get into the frame. It's a very delicate line, literally. So he knows where the edge of that frame is, and his cup is right there. He never goes in, it's perfect—he hits you every time. Because you don't want to redo that. You got to practice it to get it once. So is Ash your favorite character that you've played? Bruce Campbell: I'd say so. Especially now. I'd say it's been cemented now, because he's much more of a full-blown character. And if we can do this for a couple of years, then we can really kick some Ash, and really bring that character full throttle. And I can't wait. You do a TV show and you're going to have to throw that son of a bitch into all kinds of scenarios that you never had to before. You have to tell a lot of story for the show, so we'll see what happens to our hero. I'm looking forward to it. I hope ridiculous things happen. This is going to sound like a really goofy question, for which I apologize profusely, but do you reconcile the Ash we see at the end of the Evil Dead films with the one we see in the TV series, or is it a clean break between film and television? Bruce Campbell: Same guy, he just didn't do s**t for 25 years. [laughs] Bruce Campbell: Same guy! What has Ash been up to? Bruce Campbell: Nothing! [laughs] Bruce Campbell: Drinking at bowling alleys at closing time, lying to women about how he lost his right hand. [laughs] That's what he's doing—he's doing nothing. People love to ask, "Oh, what kind of character development?" We don't have any! [laughs] Bruce Campbell: He's the same guy. Now, you'll see him develop over the course of the show. He has to become a hero. When we find him, he is not a hero. He thinks he's a hero, but he is so lost. He's lost his edge, he's lost everything.
Interview: Bruce Campbell photo
Hail to the king, baby
Bruce Campbell didn't just enter the room—he swaggered. As he made his way to the first roundtable interview, he nodded to the various tables and press. "I will get to you all eventually," he said with equal parts mock-...

Interview: Sam Raimi and Craig DiGregorio (Ash vs. Evil Dead)

Oct 29 // Hubert Vigilla
What's the motivating factor for returning to territory that's so early in your career, Sam? [gesturing to DiGregorio] And why did you drag this guy along? Craig DiGregorio: [to Sam Raimi] Why'd you drag me into this? [laughs] Sam Raimi: [gesturing to DiGregorio] This guy! Craig was the best man for the job, and he still continues to be, and he's learned the main voice of the character. He's a good leader for the writers, it turns out. I mean, the time you hire a showrunner you don't know if they are the best man for the job, but he turned out to be. You've got to have so many skills of leadership for the team, recognition of all these egos of the writers and dealing with them, good communication skills with the studio and production that's happening elsewhere, and being able to juggle the budgets and the timecrunch that's coming down on you. And then having to take the script and re-write it overnight. Too many talents and skills to ask for in one person, and that's why we settled with [Craig]. Craig DiGregorio: I haven't thought of those. [laughs] Sam Raimi: [laughs] As far as the first question, Sam, what made you return to this character from very early in your career? Sam Raimi: Five words: The fans... [long pause] [laughs] Sam Raimi: The fans... [long pause, counts on his fingers] The. [laughs] Sam Raimi: So, umm, they've been demanding this. I didn't want to return to it for many years. I wanted to go on and make Spider-Man movies, other characters, other stories, and I've already made three of them. I love Bruce, but I just didn't know if there was more to do. But they really wanted it, and so we listened to them. It's never happened to me before like that. I think that's— I just didn't know we made movies based on the audience's desire to see them. It's very rare for me. Like nobody asked me to make another Spider-Man picture, nobody asked me to make another Darkman picture, or a Simple Plan sequel, or whatever I did. Just this one. So it was really me finally listening to them, and that's it. That's the only motivation. Did the series break down from an Evil Dead 4 movie that you had in the works? Sam Raimi: Yes. For many years my brother Ivan and I were writing an Evil Dead 4 movie. Different versions of it, some great ideas. And we just realized that no one would really want to distribute an Evil Dead 4 movie. It would be really big and it'd another fake-spectacular, but it would be too expensive. It would never really make much money. Then Rob [Tapert] said, "Oh, the economics might work out for TV." And that's how it started. How does the mindset change going from a film to a television show? Are you freed up? Do you feel like there aren't any restrictions for you? Sam Raimi: There's no restrictions from Starz. They really want us to make something as wild and crazy as we'd like. They want the flavor of whatever Evil Dead was brought to the small screen in a big way. They've only been really supportive and we don't really have restrictions. There are the budget and time constrictions of TV. I can't set up those— I only directed the pilot, but as a team, we can't take the time to set up all these really cool camera shots to suggest the supernatural in abstract or artistic ways. Craig DiGregorio: You have to pick your spots. Sam Raimi: Yeah, you have to pick your spots to direct. And instead we focused on the character of Ash, which I think the audience really likes anyways. What was the decision to shoot in New Zealand versus shooting in the States? Sam Raimi: [to DiGregorio] What do you think? Craig DiGregorio: There are a couple of things. I mean, I think your money goes a really long way there, so you can really get a big show for whatever your budget is. Also, the crew we have down there is amazing, and they can turnover horror and action and give us more of those cool camera shots just in the time that we have. And also Sam's longtime producing partner, Rob Tapert, lives down there and has an infrastructure built-in already, and he's very comfortable getting the scripts and feeding it into his machine. I think that's also part of it. So, you know, practical, financial, and also creative. Building on that, how beneficial was it to have that great core of makeup effects artists already there for you? And what was it like working with them to create this sort of world? Sam Raimi: It was great having a team of makeup effects artists that have worked with Rob and have proven to be able to deliver on a TV schedule. The demands that it encompasses—they survived it and excelled. So Rob already had a great relationship with this team and it made things wonderful. Wonderful. There were already 30 people on employ when we began, from another project. It was great. They were up and running. Is this a show that's going to be accessible if you've never seen the properties before? People who've never seen the movies, can they come in and know what's going on? Craig DiGregorio: I mean, I've never seen the movies and I like it. [laughs] Sam Raimi: It continues for the Evil Dead fans. And we hope that they'll be good with it. We really pray that they really will, it's made for them. But we've also taken steps to introduce new audience members to characters in the pilot. Craig DiGregorio: I've talked to people who've seen the first episode—fans versus people who've never seen Evil Dead before—and I think it's equally liked, because it's such a fun, weird universe to put yourself into, and I think people just like that. It's different from a lot of things on television. So I think even new viewers who haven't seen the movies enjoy being put in an interesting place. We're helping catch people up or let them know what the world is at the same time. And I have seen the movies. [laughs] In terms of doing a series as opposed to doing a film. In films, you could basically kill off a lot of lead characters that people have really started to really get a rapport with, whereas if you do that with a series it creates a problem that you're replenishing your cast every couple of weeks. Sam Raimi: Well, I think that's absolutely right, and we feel that we've got to kill some characters so the threat of the Evil Dead is real. There's going to have to be some suffering and missing of characters in this equation. Craig DiGregorio: Yeah, so I don't think it's a complete replenishment, but for the danger to be real, you have to let [some characters be killed]. Especially people close to Ash always end up dying. Sam Raimi: Yeah. It's harder in TV, I agree. What was Bruce's reaction when you came to him and said, "Hey, guess what? We're going to have you play the same action character you played 30 years ago?" Sam Raimi: Well, it wasn't really a surprise. People would always ask Bruce about it. "When are you coming back [to the Evil Dead franchise]." And he'd say, "I don't know when I'm coming back. Sam keep dragging out his Spider-Man movies and..." So it's always been in the air. And I would tell Bruce and Rob that I'm writing with my brother. And ummm still writing with my brother. And then at some convention for Spider-Man a fan said, "When are you doing another Evil Dead movie?" I said, "Okay, I'm writing it this summer with my brother." [editor's note: it was actually an Oz the Great and Powerful press conference. You can read our old report about it here.] And so Bruce saw that, so he wasn't really surprised. The information that came out told him what was coming. Craig DiGregorio: But as far as how Bruce reacted, he started working out. Getting in shape. Sam Raimi: Yes, you're right! Craig DiGregorio: He really did! [laughs] Going from Burn Notice to— Craig DiGregorio: He just looks like an action hero now. [looks over to Bruce Campbell at another table.] Look at that guy! He looks really good! Early on in the writers' room, there's some jokes in the script about Ash being really overweight and looking rough, and Bruce came into the writers' room and said, "F**k you guys! I'm gonna make you eat your words!" And he went and, well, he looks damn good. Started putting himself together. [turns to Raimi] I feel like we kind of turned his life around. [laughs] The amount of misery you're able to inflict on Bruce—have you sort of curtailed that in recent years because you don't want him to break a hip or something? Or has it gotten worse? Sam Raimi: We got to inflict a little pain on him in the pilot, and a little bit all through the series so far. And I'm kind of waiting to hear whenever the last show is, you know, depending how many seasons we go. God help Bruce for those last three episodes, because I'm taking all that's left out of him! [laughs] Craig DiGregorio: [to Raimi] Is this how you kill your friend? [laughs] Sam Raimi: I'll make him wish he was dead! [laughs]
Interview: Sam Raimi photo
The director and showrunner talk Ash
It's been nearly 40 years since Sam Raimi directed Within the Woods, the $1,600 horror short that would become The Evil Dead. Decades later, Raimi has returned to the series that kickstarted and defined his career, directing ...

Ash vs Evil Dead II photo
Ash vs Evil Dead II

Ash vs Evil Dead renewed for a second season on Starz


Good, bad, I'm the guy with a 2nd season
Oct 28
// Hubert Vigilla
Just a few days away from the series premiere on Halloween, Starz has already renewed Ash vs Evil Dead for a second season. The new season will feature the return of Bruce Campbell and Lucy Lawless, with Campbell, Sam Raimi, ...

Interview: Lucy Lawless and Jill Marie Jones (Ash vs. Evil Dead)

Oct 28 // Hubert Vigilla
Could you tell us a little bit about the characters you're playing in Ash vs Evil Dead? Lucy Lawless: [to Jones, with a twang] Well, Thelma? Jill Marie Jones: [to Lawless, with a twang] Well, Louise? Both: We're Thelma and Louise. Lucy Lawless: She's my gal-pal and we're gunning down that moron and his loser buddies. [laughs] Jill Marie Jones: What I love so much about [my character] Amanda Fisher— She is a Michigan State Trooper, she's a badass, she knows her way around a gun, she doesn't like the word “no.” She's one of the good guys, and she really does fight for good. And she meets this mystery over here [gestures to Lawless]— Lucy Lawless: I'm an enigma! My character [Ruby], her father was Professor Knowby, who was the original holder of the Necronomicon in the movies. Her whole family got destroyed by Ash and his deadite plague. So now that he's released it again, she's absolutely going to put him in the ground, because he's responsible for all the ill in her life. She's very fixated on Ash, and not in a sexy way. [laughs] Lucy Lawless: [looks at Jones] She's a little bit fixated with her in a sexy way. Who could not be? [laughs] Were you both fans of the series before coming onto the project? Lucy Lawless: I saw the first Evil Dead when I was 16 or 17. My first boyfriend and I stomped out after the tree rape. We were going, "The people who made this movie are sick, misogynistic, 'unprintable'!” And 12 years later I was married to one of them. [editor's note: Lawless is married to producer Rob Tapert.] [laughs] Lucy Lawless: From Mount Albert, New Zealand—bottom of the world. Who would've thunk it? And here we are. The series is more like the second two Evil Dead films, because tree rape ain't funny. We're not reprising that. Jill Marie Jones: Also, what I love so much about Ash vs Evil Dead; I call it "Evil Dead for Dummies." Lucy Lawless: [laughs] Jill Marie Jones: The first episode, if you've never seen the films, I feel like new fans will be able to— Lucy Lawless: [snaps fingers] Jump in. Jill Marie Jones: You get it real quick. They do it so well. And I know the die hard fans, they did 'em really well. Lucy Lawless: Yeah, did 'em really proud. Jill Marie Jones: Really proud. So I think people will really love it. Lucy, you've plays so many strong, badass women. Is Ruby going to get in there and kick some ass? Lucy Lawless: [sarcastic] She's so weak in this show. Jill Marie Jones: [sarcastic] Vulnerable. Lucy Lawless: She's so— Both: Needy! [laughs] Jill Marie Jones: [sarcastic] Ruby's always asking Amanda, "Please, help me through life?" [laughs] Lucy Lawless: [meekly] "I just don't know which way to go." No, Ruby's a crazy bitch! Jill Marie Jones: Yeah, she's strong. Lucy Lawless: She's tough, and a little obsessive. Jill Marie Jones: And thank god, by the way. Thank god. Lucy Lawless: All the women are tough in this show. Jill Marie Jones: The three female leads of this show all kick ass. They're not waiting for the man to come and save them because they can all handle things themselves. It's really refreshing, you know. So your characters are teamed up together? Jill Marie Jones: Well, something happens, and then something else happens, and then something else happens, and then I meet Ruby. [laughs] Building on that, what physical demands were on both of you for this show? Obviously in the past with Evil Dead, you can tell it's a really physically demanding story. So what are the things you've had to do or overcome? Jill Marie Jones: I came home with bruises. We really went all the way in with all the characters. We committed. And also we have an amazing stunt department. There was a gym in New Zealand. It was right on set, and we'd go in there and punch heavy bags. Lucy Lawless: I didn't know there was a gym! Jill Marie Jones: Are you kidding me? You could go in and shoot guns— Lucy Lawless: Nobody tells me anything! [laughs] Jill Marie Jones: So there was a full-on gym. I didn't know until I got to New Zealand, but someone said to me, "Oh yeah, you have MMA training tomorrow." I was like, "Excuse me? MMA? Oh, that's— I've seen one— Oh, that's scary, but okay." But it was awesome. We had a great stunt department, but it was still physical. Lucy Lawless: We do have a world-class stunt department, who go back a ways to Hercules and Xena... [editor's note: at this point Bruce Campbell at a neighboring table interview says something that catches Lawless' attention or vice versa. Campbell turns to Lawless and Jones and there's a pause.] [to Campbell, in an old Bronx mother voice] You'll be all right, honey! You keep talking! Bruce Campbell: Hey! Lucy Lawless: [still in accent] You keep talking! [laughs] Lucy Lawless: Uhh... Yeah. Jill Marie Jones: We've got a great stunt department. [laughs] Lucy Lawless: I've got to say, it was painful to me. I don't do as much action today as I used to, but it's painful. [laughs] I'm like at the chiropractor for two weeks after doing some really lame stunt, like something that I used to do before breakfast, and now you do one and it's just murder. But the show is funny. Because it's a half hour, you don't waste a minute. It's really punchy. I think it really does do the fans proud and their expectations are going to be met. That's quite bold talk but we're really proud of what we've done. Jill Marie Jones: Absolutely. Lucy Lawless: And nobody's in more pain than Bruce, by the way. He's really put through it. Jill Marie Jones: He really is! Also, I felt like a 13-year-old boy, honestly. Because I'm shooting guns— I'm from Texas and you'd think I have like 10 guns in my purse, but I don't. I'd never held a gun before, I'd never shot a real gun before. Lucy Lawless: Oh my god! You were amazing with a gun! Jill Marie Jones: I felt like a 13-year-old boy! I was living. Lucy Lawless: The power of it, yeah. Jill Marie Jones: I was getting the power of it. The bruises that I would get from banging up to something. I was like, "Yeah, baby! I worked hard today!" It was awesome. Lucy Lawless: I was sick of being bruised. [laughs] Lucy, you mentioned earlier in this conversation the possible misfortune of being married to a certain producer. One would think this would get you off easy in terms of what you're asked to do on set. Lucy Lawless: I know. [sighs] But the past several shows you've done you've proven otherwise. Does that sort of continue into Ash vs Evil Dead as well? Lucy Lawless: Rob [Tapert] will write the character and whatever's best for the show. Sometimes it goes against me; what's best for the show, sometimes you do things that are extremely distasteful to you, but you know that it's right. And what I respect about Rob so much is that telling the stories comes first. He's not going to make things softer or better for me. We're of the same mind in that way, and I would not like him better if he made my life cushier. Were there any scripts that you looked at at the time and just shook your head? Lucy Lawless: Oh, all the time! [laughs] Lucy Lawless: Not on this, not on this! Because it's comedy. Jill Marie Jones: Well Ruby was brunette at first, and she was like, "Hell no" to that. "That's where I put my foot down!" [laughs] Lucy Lawless: "Wait, wait, wait, wait, wha?" We didn't know what the character was in the beginning. Thing is— Jill Marie Jones: She's kind of a mystery. [laughs] Lucy Lawless: [laughs] The "mystery" thing. That's because we didn't know what the hell the character was. I came late to it, they do a slow burn because you've got to establish the world of Ash and his family before you bring in the shark—you know, I'm Jaws, I'm a shadow, I'm a [audio unclear], I'm a bloody music cue—before you see her teeth come out. So bit of a slow burn on Ruby, but it's necessary because you have to establish something to lose before you can fear for Ash and the loss of his family. Could you say what you brought to your characters that maybe wasn't in the script? Jill Marie Jones: Well, for me, one of the things I was attracted to in Amanda: my mother was a federal investigator for like 40 years. She just retired last February. So there's a lot of my mom I see in Amanda. Just the strength and the fearlessness. I think in a lot of ways I was pulling from that to bring her forward. Lucy Lawless: And she's effortlessly cool on screen. Jill Marie Jones: Oh, effortlessly cool. Lucy Lawless: And in real life.
Interview: Lucy Lawless photo
The cop and the enigma with an agenda
As Lucy Lawless and Jill Marie Jones approach the table, Lawless smiles and says, "Hello, darlings," in a half-disarming and half-joking way. Jones looks at the assembled journalists then back at Lawless. "I feel like we're s...

Interview: Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo (Ash vs. Evil Dead)

Oct 27 // Hubert Vigilla
Can you guys tell us about your characters since you're newcomers to the Evil Dead franchise. Ray Santiago: I play Pablo Simon Bolivar, who is this idealistic guy who came from Honduras and ended up meeting Ash at the Value Stop. He is the heart of the unit and the eyes of the audience. Pablo is Ash's main homie, and he was warned about evil lurking in the world by his family, and he didn't believe it. He comes face to face with it and believes that Ash is the man to save the world from evil. He's Ash's biggest cheerleader and sees beyond all of his flaws and believes in him. Through idolizing Ash, he realizes that he doesn't want to be like Ash, but he wants to be his own man and he wants to be his own hero. And I'll turn it over to Dana, because her character comes along for the ride because she sort of gets dragged into this whole situation by me. Dana DeLorenzo: That is true. Kelly is best friends with Pablo and, like Ray said, gets dragged into this fight against evil. But she is a real badass in the making. She's tough, she tells you like it is, she's not afraid to speak her mind. And she's really smart. She's quick on her feet. She can turn anything into a weapon if she needs to. Even though she's a little hesitant—or a lot hesitant—to join the fight at first, she eventually gets her own reasons to fight the deadites and becomes the common sense of the group, which is great for Ash. I think Kelly and Ash are a lot more similar than either would care to admit, and for that reason they push each other's buttons but they have each other's backs, which is really cool. I think it's very much a big brother, younger sister relationship, and something Kelly and Pablo are big sister and little brother. So these are her boys; this is her new family that she has found, and ultimately Kelly find her purpose in fighting evil. A reason to get out of bed every day. Ray Santiago: I don't think I've ever looked at my sister the way Pablo looks at Kelly. [laughs] Dana DeLorenzo: [laughs] No, I'm saying from Kelly's point of view. I know. Ray Santiago: But I'm just saying Pablo looks at Kelly with a different set of eyes. I don't think I've ever looked at my sister that way. But, I just want to say, the show is ultimately about a group of people who are trying to escape who they're really meant to be, and they are running from the demons that they have to fight and the demons that they have inside. And once they come into contact with them and overcome them they become this super-strong monster-fighting squad. So somehow these three dysfunctional people come together and they become a unit that is responsible for saving the world from evil. How did you prepare yourselves for physically demanding roles? And also being covered in blood and gore the entire time? Dana DeLorenzo: Oh, we would just throw everything on each other when we were prepping. It was just like, "Oh, I've got some maple syrup. Here!" Ray Santiago: I— I— Dana DeLorenzo: He went and ran in the woods in his underwear. [laughs] Ray Santiago: Yeah. I worked out a lot. Dana DeLorenzo: He did! Can I just commend his commitment to the gym? He looks very— Ray Santiago: I would wake up... Dana DeLorenzo: Kelly has noticed! Kelly is like, "Maybe Pablo's—" Ray Santiago: I had to keep it up! It's like, "Dammit! She's not looking at me the way I want her look at me!" Dana DeLorenzo: Meanwhile, I'm eating every dessert everyday. Ray Santiago: They have a lot of meat pies and a lot of biscuits in New Zealand. Dana DeLorenzo: It was amazing. And their desserts. Oh god! Everything there was so good. Well, and also, I was actually terrified a lot of the time filming Ash vs Evil Dead. I didn't think I was going to because it's make believe, but seeing the actors coming and playing the deadites—seeing them normal, like we are today, and seeing them in hair and makeup four hours or five hours with this incredible special effects team—[laughs] and then they'd just be walking around the lunch room. I couldn't eat! I couldn't look at them! It was that terrifying a place. And they didn't even have the contacts in. So I would get an extra dessert and go to my trailer and have my comfort food. It was honestly very terrifying. And weird things happened. I still think that the set was possessed. Things would just fall over at the strangest times. The noises when we were filming in the stage. The roof would be banging like there were a million, I don't know— Ray Santiago: Deer? Dana DeLorenzo: Yeah! Deer up there. Ray Santiago: They were birds. Dana DeLorenzo: There's birds! Yeah. Are the birds doing Chicago right now on Broadway? [laughs] Dana DeLorenzo: But no. It's just the wind, it's just the birds. I'm telling you, weird stuff happened. We summoned evil for sure during this. Ray Santiago: The fact we were able to leave Los Angeles and create our own bubble in New Zealand. Dana DeLorenzo: Incredible. Ray Santiago: With Bruce and Lucy and Jill Marie Jones—who cooked for me on many occasions, and just made lovely chicken soup. Dana DeLorenzo: Jill Marie Jones. Ahh. [sighs] Ray Santiago: It was possible to create this family unit outside of our normal habitat. It really helped. I just want to give props to the New Zealand crew. Dana DeLorenzo: Yeah, Kiwis! Ray Santiago: The Kiwiss were amazing, and Auckland took really good care of us. We're excited to hopefully be going back. Dana DeLorenzo: Yes, hopefully. Ray Santiago: Like you guys are not going to be disappointed in what we've done. It's kind of groundbreaking because Sam created this genre of cult classic horror-comedy, and we're bringing it to television in a single-camera, half-hour format. And I don't think there's anything like that right now on television. You've got all these other horror shows, but ours isn't taking itself too seriously. You can pop some popcorn and it's quick, you're gonna love it. Dana DeLorenzo: It's like walking into a comedy club, but inside the scariest haunted house you've ever been in. It's jam-packed in thirty minutes. There's action, but then there's also some good drama. Honestly, it's entertaining. I'm really excited. What was your exposure to the Evil Dead films before going into the show? Dana DeLorenzo: I just watched them five minutes ago. [laughs] Dana DeLorenzo: He just showed me really quick. Ray Santiago: Yeah, I was showing her [on my phone]. Dana DeLorenzo: We just did a montage. Ray Santiago: I had watched the second one, which is my favorite. And after I found out we were doing this, obviously I watched all of them. And I would watch them— A couple times I would come home and I would watch them before I went to bed. OH! And speaking of being scared and possessed, I had a bat that we were training with. Dana DeLorenzo: [laughs] Ray Santiago: I was training with a baseball bat for something on the set, and I brought the bat back to my place. [Sam Raimi] signed the bat, and I was so excited. In my apartment in new Zealand I started hearing this noise every night and I couldn't figure out what it was. And I actually got really scared that my place was haunted. So I'd sleep with this bat next to my bed. But it was just— Dana DeLorenzo: It was me hiding in the closet. Ray Santiago: It was just the pipes from the restaurant underneath [my place]. [laughs] [laughs] Dana DeLorenzo: I'd go over and we'd run lines and Ray would be like, "Do you hear that?" We'd get really quiet and I wouldn't hear it. I'd start talking and he go, "No! There it is again!" [laughs] Dana DeLorenzo: So we were— Ray Santiago: We were on edge, basically. Dana DeLorenzo: Yeah, we were on edge. Ray Santiago: Because we were a little traumatized from all the situations we— We were put in a blender of scary and gross situations. Dana DeLorenzo: And crazy. I mean, I couldn't even watch the first Evil Dead by myself in the daytime. I had to have people come over. I thought, I'm an adult. Am I really going to be scared? Still holds up, terrifies me. I still have nightmares about it. I'm getting clammy hands talking about it. [laughs] Following up on that question, if you guys have seen the films, you know most of the characters don't really last for too long. Dana DeLorenzo: Right. So do you guys sort of read ahead in the scripts just to see if your names keep coming up? Dana DeLorenzo: You know, they only gave us the scripts like two days before we would shoot it. So, ummm. [turning to Ray] What were you going to say? Ray Santiago: I was going to say that I had a system going. I'm from the South Bronx. Dana DeLorenzo: This one! Ray Santiago: She called me "New York" all the time. Dana DeLorenzo: He is so New York. We could not get the scripts until we were two days away from shooting, and maybe doing a table reading. Meanwhile, Ray was like, "This is what's going to happen." I was like, "How do you know this?!" Ray Santiago: "I can't tell you! I have my ways! I know what's happening! We're good!" Look, I think that you're right. It is something to be scared about because the people that Ash care about ultimately end up dying. Dana DeLorenzo: It keeps it exciting. Ray Santiago: I'm just going to say this: Even if you die on Evil Dead, you can come back and taunt Ash for the rest of his life. So I honestly think that's what this show's about: staying alive. So you have to see what happens. Dana DeLorenzo: And the fact that anything can happen. I think that's what gives this show an edge. You never know who can go, and you never know who's real, or who's a deadite in disguise.
Ash v Evil Dead Interview photo
Meet Ash's two sidekicks
Bruce Campbell has flown solo in each of the Evil Dead movies, which ran our hero Ash through the wringer as well as gallons of blood. Ash vs Evil Dead changes that up. Older and wearing a girdle, Ash can't kill the deadites ...

Interview: Makeup/Special Effects Designer Roger Murray (Ash vs. Evil Dead)

Oct 26 // Hubert Vigilla
Having worked on the Evil Dead remake, how does Ash vs Evil Dead compare in terms of the blood and gore and extent of the makeup effect? Oh man. It's a lot more intense, basically. I mean, there's a huge amount of special effects, blood, gore, dismemberment, beheadings. I think it's just a lot more fun of a ride. It's just a lot faster paced and crazy fun, really. When did the series come up after working on the film? Pretty quickly after? No, it wasn't. It sort of matured over quite a bit of time before we actually talked about that maybe we should do a series. It took a bit to build it, and I got pulled in about two months before they started pre-production. So there was quite a bit of a time gap between them. Moving to cable—to Starz—were there any limitations at all on what you could do as far as effect goes? We haven't had any limitations yet! They haven't set any limitations. I think most of it gets set up through the writing, and the writers have been fantastic about building certain effects as we go along. And also as the series evolves, they get an idea of what we're capable of and the amount of time [required]. That's been really great. So no, they haven't set any limitations yet, and I don't think they will! [laughs] Can you tell us about one of your favorite effects that you got to work on? Hmmm... It's a tricky one without giving too much away. I think just generally we've done a lot of character makeups, right? And those have all been really fun. Pretty much every deadite is its own character makeup. So we've got a tone for the whole show, but we've personalized every one. It's been quite good. And I think just generally making rigs. Going back to the old school rigs with dummy rigs, dismemberments, beheadings. We've made a few puppets! I can't say what's my favorite. It's like we had a lot of blood on our hands, let's just say that. How did the cast react to being constantly covered in blood? Well, they sort of got used to it. Though Bruce gets a lot of the blood, you know. The whole cast were amazing, really amazing, and really stepped up to it. Because, you know, it's a fast turnaround TV show, so it's on. I mean, we do a lot of effects in our turnaround episodically, so there was no downtime from blood. And they just got used to it. It was really good, yeah. Is there enough of a talent pool in New Zealand now that you can actually pull off this kind of show? There's been a lot of new productions down there. That's a really good question. Look, there's a huge gravitas with Evil Dead. I was working with two really good makeup artists—Jane O'Kane and Denise Coomb—down there who both share a credit in prosthetic design, because we basically allocated some of the tonal stuff to the on-set makeup artists, the designers. And that was really great. We've had a really good pool of effects makeup artists through the whole Lord of the Rings, and New Zealand ended up getting people from America, we drew people from Australia. Just the tone and the want for people to work on the show was enough to draw people to New Zealand. We're really lucky. We had some great technicians come down, great makeup artists, great technicians who worked a lot in the States. They love being in New Zealand. It's quite different down there, you know? So no, we were really lucky. It is one of those things where we're a small country so when a lot of different projects get going, it does get quite tight, but I think Evil Dead will always draw people in. The coolness factor of it? Yeah, I think it's the coolness factor, but I think it's also that we run our workshop so that makeup artists—the special effects makeup artists are usually technicians too—they'll get the ability to potentially sculpt some of the designs and do the technical side and do the makeups; so it's quite a holistic sort of way we run it. So for them they feel a little bit more connected to the show, and they really enjoy it. It's been great fun. And, you know, they come out of the workshop, get some blood on their hands, come back, wash their hands, go back out. It's been really good. When you read a gory set piece in the script, are you allowed to ratchet it up and make suggestions, or do you usually stick to what's there? Oh man! It's always getting ratcheted up, you know what I mean? The thing is trying to contain that so it actually works and is scary and not too over the top, you know what I mean? So it depends on the pace of the gag that we're doing. Some of the gags we'll do we'll go completely berzerk, mostly when Bruce is involved. [laughs] So in [Sam Raimi's] episode, it was like, "Let's really ratchet it up!" because he really loves seeing Bruce covered in blood. "But let's just ratchet it right up— Let's go craaaazy!" So we'd barge on set with kegs of blood and blood pumps, and we're pumping. That's really fun, but there are times when we want to build the pace of the show; we want it to be scary, a lot more potentially like the remake where there's a bit more of a sense of impending doom. We'll sort of tone it down a little bit. So there's a nice variation, yeah, yeah. It's worked really well, it's really fun. And... [laughs] You guys are gonna love it! It's crazy. It's a crazy half hour. It's one of those shows that I, personally, would love to go and see. Like when I get home from work, I just want to sit down and watch it. It's really fun. Could you talk a little bit about what's the aesthetic, the look, the tone of the— The tone, yeah. The tone. That's another great question. Of course, that's one of the things because the tone changes in the movies from the first Evil Dead to the second one to Army of Darkness. There's sort of an overriding feeling to it, but the actual makeup and the look of the makeup changes quite a bit. So what we've done is we've kind of gone back to look mostly at Evil Dead 2 and get the tone from there, and sort of lifted a little bit for the TV show. We always wanted to make Ash vs Evil Dead our own sort of thing. We didn't want to copy [previous movies] outright because I think [the movies] had their time and place then. So we're drawing on that, we're drawing on the palette and different hues of what they've used initially. And I love [Evil Dead 2]. I love that movie, it's great. So to be able to go over and deconstruct it, talk with Sam about where they sort of started and what the background was; just sort of change it and work with him and get a feeling of what the deadites were going to look like. It's just pushed a little bit, pushed a little bit toward the modern. How do you do Evil Dead 2-esque makeup effects when [back then] they were doing things with peanut butter? Now you've got fantastic technology and amazing materials. How do you dial it back? Well, that's the thing. We didn't want to dial it right back to then. We actually wanted to enhance it for the show. We've actually taken all the appliances we make—they're silicone appliances... There's more of a naturalism. That's probably the best way I can describe it. We didn't want it to look too theatrical, we wanted you to actually feel like the characters had gone through a transformation. There's definitely a harkening back to Evil Dead movies, but I think it's its own thing too. It's just a natural progression of makeup effects, generally. We're taking our own riff on it. How does it feel working in the industry now with the resurgence of practical effects? You're seeing a lot of films and TV shows going back to practical and going away from digital. I'm extremely happy about it. [laughs] My company, Main Reactor, is extremely happy about it. It really is a bit of a dream come true because, look, there was a point when we all thought that lots more things would be digital. We still work with a great visual effects company in New Zealand, Pacific Renaissance Pictures effects (PRPVFX). Our approach is we're not going to discard our visual effects, we're going to work together, and we're going to make effects that you don't know where the practical-effects and visual-effects sides begin and end. Marrying both of those together is hugely effective. Most of it's practical, but there's some tweaks with visual effects, things you can do easily now like wire removal and all those sort of things, enhancement of blood. It helps storytellers tell their story. We're making Evil Dead as a TV series in 2015. It's insane. I couldn't be happier. The producers are up for as many practical effects as possible, and it's just going to be a nice combination of tweaks so you're not sure how we did it. It's the veneer, you know? The polish on the— Yeah! Yeah, yeah yeah. And you'll see it. Most of the effects are practical. [laughs] Yeah, but I don't want to dismiss the fact that working with visual effects artist and working in that medium is a really fantastic way to go too. It's a great marriage. You probably run into this a lot in recent years where you'll be sitting at a production meeting and the visual effects guys say "We'll take that" or "We'll do that," and you're sort of left with the scraps. So now this seems like this is the opposite. Well, I think there's a mentality initially that's starting to change where visual effects supervisors and stuff would try to pick up lots of effects in pre-production meetings. But what we've found was that— [Let's take the show] Spartacus. I think Spartacus is a great example because when you start birthing a show, everyone starts trying to figure out what jigsaw piece they are and what's going to be best for the show. I definitely know that there's a big gravitas on Spartacus with the visual effects to actually do stuff as practically as possible because the turnaround on television is really fast. You know, the post-production side is really fast because it's matching where you are in the shooting schedule. They don't seem to be putting their hands up as much now saying "I'll take that." They're being a lot more clever about it. I think for [visual effects artists], it's great. If they can get something in-camera and we've got a plan from the start, we can come up with a great product. We're doing Evil Dead, so there's a lo-fi aspect to some things. If you're got dummies being chopped up with chainsaws, and you've got dismembered arms, or we've got some really lovely silicone bodies, you know, all that stuff. We don't have to hide that with visual effects, and the visual effects people don't have to clean it up. It just is what it is, and you're carried by the story and carried by the characters.
Interview: Roger Murray photo
On the look/feel of this new Evil Dead
Roger Murray's been working in props, makeup effects, and practical special effects for more than two decades. His credits include The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, 30 Days of Night, the 2013 Evil Dead remake, and Crouch...


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