NZ-shot movie screams to No. 1

By Yvonne Tahana

A New Zealand-shot reboot of an 80s cult horror classic has rocketed to the top of the US box office, making it the malevolent baby that keeps on giving, according to its producer.

Evil Dead, which took US$26 million ($31 million) in the US and a further US$4.5 million worldwide in its opening weekend, was shot at Auckland's Woodhill Forest and a studio in East Tamaki for $17 million last year.

The original 1981 gore-fest starred Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams who struggled with loved ones who have been possessed by deadites, the evil souls of the dead. Sequels featured hilarious use of a chainsaw and tongue-in-cheek humour.

The 2013 version tells the story of five friends who awaken a demonic presence while visiting a rural cabin.

Producer Rob Tapert says the first film was the darkest of the original three and the remake starring Suburgatory actress Jane Levy is a return to that.

"I just wanted to go back to straight hard-hitting horror," he said.

"Myself and my two partners [director Sam Raimi and Campbell] made the original 30 years ago and one of the reasons why we've always felt it would make a good remake is nobody saw it in the theatre. Everybody saw it on DVD or, realistically, on VHS tape. We just thought 'We want everyone to see it in the theatre and we want to make a move where everybody screams at the same time'.

"The first one's like your first baby; even though it'll always have a special place this one was a joy to work on - the original was so hard. It was us getting our foot in the door."

Tapert, who is married to actor Lucy Lawless and who made Hercules, Xena and Spartacus, made the new version of Evil Dead for a relatively modest amount, qualifying it for the Government's 15 per cent grant on productions spending more than $15 million. Keeping New Zealand competitive meant looking at Auckland's infrastructure. In terms of potential large scale projects the city lacked a seriously big studio. A facility which was at least 3000sq m would increase incoming film traffic, he said.

In taking out the top spot in the US box office, Evil Dead beat out the 3D re-release of Jurassic Park which was also in its opening weekend.

Film New Zealand chief executive Giselle Carr said that result made her job easier. "When we have production that is this visible it all just says New Zealand is a great place to make your film.

"What this also shows is that Rob Tapert, who's been bringing in production to the country for two decades now, continues to bring strength in the Auckland region."

- NZ Herald

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