According to various reports, Sam Raimi made his horror classic “The Evil Dead” for $375,000 in 1982. Twenty-five years later, he’d make “Spider-Man 3″ for $258 million. Somewhere in between is the career of a diverse, beloved filmmaker still in love with the art of painting a great spook story, regardless of the size of its canvas.
Who better, then, to give us a Halloween visit? These days, Raimi is hard at work on “Drag Me to Hell,” a thriller about a cursed woman, due in theaters in May. Read on to learn exclusive new details about the film, why he considers Barney the purple dinosaur terrifying, and the first question in his decades-long career to ever make him respond, “No comment.”
MTV: A lot is being made about how “Drag Me to Hell” is a return to your horror roots . Did you look at it that way?
Sam Raimi: Not really. What happened was, I’ve been very fortunate to make these big “Spider-Man” movies — which I love making — with very big budgets. I was going to make a very small movie. … This script was one I wrote with my brother many years ago, but we couldn’t get the money to make it with the director we wanted at the time. I decided it would be a great change for me to get back to the basics of filmmaking, a chance to work with a smaller budget and challenge myself with the more old-fashioned ways — not being able to afford a crane every day, covering five or six pages of material every day, back to those basics of less luxurious filmmaking. I thought that would be refreshing.
MTV: This film has a great name. What do you look for in a title?
Raimi: Well, in general, I think the title should describe the product. That would be the most generic, but truthful, answer I could give you. Like, if I was shopping for applesauce, I’d want a big label that says “applesauce” on the front of the jar. For a horror movie, it should be something that grabs you and represents what the experience is going to be. It’s the same way with applesauce.
MTV: What does the title mean, then?
Raimi: This is the story of a woman, Alison Lohman, who is very much in love with Justin Long’s character. She makes a sinful choice so she can be with the man she loves, and then she ends up paying the price, dearly. The thing she’s running from is this curse. … In three days’ time, unless she can figure out how to get out of it, she’s going to be dragged by this demon down to hell.
MTV: There have been very few actual depictions of hell in the cinema — the most recent one I can remember is “What Dreams May Come.” Will you take us there?
Raimi: I don’t want to say, because I want to surprise the audience. This film is trying to be like a “spook-a-blast,” which is those cheesy carnival rides you get on and you’re jerked around in the darkness, wondering if a skeleton will pop out. You’re asking me, “Is a skeleton going to pop out?” So I just can’t, in good conscience, answer that question. Instead I’ll say, “No comment.” [Laughs.] I’ve always wanted to say that: “No comment.”
MTV: You’ve been giving interviews for 30 years, and you’ve never said “no comment” before?
Raimi: Never! I spoiled it, though, by talking too much. I should’ve just replied to you, “No comment!” Isn’t that what they say?
MTV: Usually, yeah. We have some Halloween questions for you, Sam. Are you ready?
Raimi: Sure, but I warn you, kids, these answers are going to be kind of spooky.
MTV: Program a Sam Raimi Halloween film festival for us. What five movies would we watch?
Raimi: Wow. Robert Wise’s “The Haunting,” based on the Shirley Jackson novella. George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead.” These aren’t in order, by the way. The great European filmmaker Alejandro Amenabar’s “The Others” with Nicole Kidman — that was spooky. Then there’s Takashi Shimizu’s original Japanese “Ju-On,” or the American remake, “The Grudge.” But unfortunately, I was involved in the American one, so I’d better say “Ju-On.” Fantastic spooky is what really scares me, so I would also recommend “Chinese Ghost Story” for fun.
MTV: What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever had?
Raimi: I’ve never had a good Halloween costume. I used to hate the ones with the plastic masks that dug into your eyeballs — there are sharp edges, I can’t breathe, and I’m stumbling through the darkness? It’s really criminal to put those on kids at nighttime. And I would not recommend the old sheet-as-a-ghost thing, because that also never worked for me as a kid; I’d always be falling off the curbs. I like when you’ve got a friend who’s really into makeup, and they’ll do something special with latex and tissue paper and colors on the face to really make it look like you’ve got some serious head wound. I like the creative approach, nothing store-bought.
MTV: But you came up with so many horror pioneers! You’d think somebody could hook you up with some sweet makeup.
Raimi: You know what, I was always the guy who made the zombie punch. [Laughs.] However, one of the most uncomfortable outfits I’ve ever had was for one of my kid’s birthdays. I was Barney.
MTV: Sam Raimi dressed up like Barney the dinosaur?
Raimi: I was, and it really scared the kids. [Laughs.] I’ve never seen children more frightened. They ran away, and I found them hiding behind a little orange tree. To show them it was OK, I took the head off to show them it was me underneath — and that sent them into hysterics!
MTV: Bad idea. That’s like rule #1 at Disney World: Don’t ever take off the mask.
Raimi: I found that out! I didn’t know that I’d be scarier than the Barney face. In a way, I think that was the most effective costume I’ve ever had.
MTV: We always hear stories about people who get their houses egged because they give out bad Halloween treats.
Raimi: They do? That’s so rude.
MTV: Well, the kids want candy, not an apple. What advice would you give as far as candy selection?
Raimi: I’m big into using Halloween to bring around those little charity boxes, to give whatever to charity. As far as the best candy to give? I’m into chocolate, that always works, and most kids really like it. A good Hershey’s bar. Get really generous and give the kids a big candy bar.
MTV: You don’t do the fun-size candy bars?
Raimi: No. “Fun size” means lame size! Just give a normal-size candy bar to those kids, for crying out loud! They got all dressed up, and they came to your house. Give ’em a candy bar! Just spill the chocolate already.
Don’t miss the rest of our Halloween Week features! Come back here every day for exclusive sneak peeks of the new “Friday the 13th” movie and other upcoming frightening flicks.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Drag Me to Hell.”
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