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Butcher Block is a weekly series celebrating horror’s most extreme films and the minds behind them. Dedicated to graphic gore and splatter, each week will explore the dark, the disturbed, and the depraved in horror, and the blood and guts involved. For the films that use special effects of gore as an art form, and the fans that revel in the carnage, this series is for you.
Director Fede Alvarez made one strong feature debut with 2013’s Evil Dead, made even more impressive by it being a remake of a film with an ardent, vocal fanbase. While producer Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi were interested in modernizing The Evil Dead, giving it updated effects and bringing in a new generation of fans, hardcore fans weren’t thrilled with the news at all. Alvarez’ viral short Panic Attack, about a full GC robot invasion, caught Tapert’s attention. As a huge fan of the original films Alvarez was very interested in the job, but against Tapert’s initial concept for the remake, the first-time feature defied his background in CG and wanted to go straight practical effects. Also recognizing there could be no other Ash but Bruce Campbell, Alvarez wasn’t interested in trying to fill his shoes either, which meant Bruce Campbell was now very much on board. So, with a practical effect driven reboot that pays homage to its predecessor at every turn while still creating its own identity, Evil Dead became a big box office success upon release on April 5, 2013. It also managed to exceed the gore and violence in every way.
The initial cut received an NC-17 rating, just like it’s 1981 counterpart, due to the gore and blood.
Realizing that this meant no wide theatrical release, it was trimmed enough to earn an R-rating, and yet it still doesn’t diminish the sheer volume of blood in the final cut. Early reports around the film’s release have stated the film used around 70,000 gallons of blood. The final scene alone, a torrential downpour of blood, used roughly 50,000 gallons of blood. For comparison sake, the original film used around 300 gallons of blood.
Because of the time-consuming process of the practical effects, and the metric ton of gore, Alvarez shot the film in chronological order. The violence, deaths, and viscera got worse as the film progressed, so it was the only way to allow the freedom of letting the blood splatter everywhere and not have to worry about continuity of shots. Though there are innumerous talents involved with this remake, from cinematography to score composer, Roger Murray and Jane O’Kane deserve special mention for their amazing work on prosthetics and makeup design.
Murray, more recently responsible for prosthetic work on Ash vs Evil Dead and prop supervisor work on the upcoming shark film The Meg, had his work cut out for him on Evil Dead. Between a lot of dead cats in the basement, a ton of self-mutilation, and a couple of hacked off limbs, Murray and his team’s work on realistic prosthetics and special effects work is utterly breathtaking.
O’Kane, who also worked on Ash vs Evil Dead and the upcoming The Meg, not only created the demonic Deadite look, but had to layer on the injuries as the film progressed. From Mia’s initial attack in the woods to her severe scalding burns, to her various demonic evolutions, O’Kane had to retain a sense of realism before the makeup veered too far into over-the-top gags. Between O’Kane and Murray’s combined work, grisly scenes like Natalie cutting off her own infected arm with an electric kitchen knife becomes so ridiculously cringe-worthy in the best possible way.
In terms of the amount gore and blood, not much beats Evil Dead. Alvarez’ choice to go practical, and the lack of technology in the film, means this remake will hold up well for decades to come. It’s only been five years, and it’s still as exhilarating as it was then. The loving nods to The Evil Dead are endless, from the dialogue to the cards to the visual cues, but it’s the extreme gore that convinced fans that they want to see Mia team up with Ash someday.