'Evil Dead: The Game' gets the band back together for a modern horror makeover
We didn't know it at the time, but the arrival of the horror film The Evil Dead back in the early 1980s was the start of something big.
The movie had a tiny budget, an over-the-top gory style, and, perhaps most surprisingly, a twisted sense of humor.
Author Stephen King called it, "The most ferociously original horror movie of 1982."
With each subsequent release in the series, the movies leaned more into that darkly comic element. They became as funny as they were scary — and fans loved it.
Skip forward several decades, and what began as a cult classic horror film has become a full-blown universe with multiple sequels, a musical, and a well-received television series.
Now, a new video game aptly called Evil Dead: The Game is entering that canon. It's not the first Evil Dead video game, but it just might be the first one to really nail the singular magic of the series.
Reviving that special atmosphere was an explicit focus of the audio team at Saber Interactive. Recreating — and in some instances updating — the world of the original series meant bringing back lots of Evil Dead stalwarts. That included its original composer, Joe LoDuca, who said his role had always been countering the levity of the jokes with some pretty serious and scary music.
"The music plays it straight," he said. "And I think that's what helps the humor and helps the absurdity of what gets introduced."
LoDuca composed the music for the original Evil Dead trilogy.
"I was still in school at the time. And so what I had at my disposal for the budget that we had, was to record in a little attic studio," he said. "I had four string players, and anything else that I could grab and bang on ... it was spit and glue."
LoDuca is back writing the main theme for Evil Dead: The Game, and maintaining that balance between spooky and comic is one way this game feels like what's come before it.
Also important was to maintain the actual voice of the series itself. A slew of cast members are back to reclaim their roles, including Bruce Campbell, who played the protagonist Ash in the original film trilogy.
"Working with Bruce was a huge step forward for me at least," said Craig Sherman, the game's head writer.
"When his voice got in the game, it really started to feel like an Evil Dead game. He did change some of the dialogue, because he knows the character — 'I feel like Ash should say it this way' — and of course we're not going to tell Bruce Campbell what to say. He's Ash."
The famed "cabin in the woods" setting is back in the game too — but designing sound and music for a 3D space is a little different than a movie on a screen.
That means fine-tuning the creaking sounds of the floorboards in the cabin, the running water of the swamp, or the wind blowing through the forest's trees.
"Once you play around with panning so it surrounds the player - that's when the magic happens," said Steve Molitz, who worked on the game's music.
These sounds, and the game's new music tracks, shift and change based on what the player is experiencing.
"If you're exploring, the music is gonna be more of an ambient drone," Molitz said. "As you start to encounter enemies — maybe some deadites spawn on a hillside as you're walking through the forest — the music swells and ramps up."
For Molitz and the team, the whole project is an exercise in staying true to what came before it.
"I think players will hear all the love and passion that went into this," Molitz said. "It really is a love letter to Evil Dead and to the fans."
Even Joe LoDuca said it was unbelievable to think the first thing he worked on is still alive to this day.
Or, as LoDuca himself appropriately suggests: "You can't kill it."
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