Q&A: Fede Alvarez on “FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES” and “DANTE’S INFERNO”
One of the defining aspects of the original FROM DUSK TILL DAWN was how each half of the film being the polar opposite from the other. While the first section is a talky and intense fugitive film, the second becomes a brutal battle between men and vampire. And while FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES made sure the vampire elements were present from its premiere forward, the real bloody action once again went down in The Titty Twister.
As the series has jumped into bloodier, claustrophobic territory, who better to helm one of the defining episodes of this arc than EVIL DEAD (2013) director Fede Alvarez? Having put together one of the most violent and shocking mainstream films of all time, Alvarez is a natural fit for FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES, and the results show in this latest episode, “La Conquista.” Alvarez spoke to FANGORIA about what brought him to The Titty Twister and what Hell his talents are headed to next…
FANGORIA: So what attracted you to FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES as your follow-up to EVIL DEAD (2013)?
FEDE ALVAREZ: Mainly, it was because I was a huge fan of the original film. It’s one of my favorites, honestly. When EVIL DEAD opened at South by Southwest, I saw Robert there and approached him. I said, “Hey Robert, how are you? I’m a big fan,” as I stumbled around and embarrassed myself. He found out I directed EVIL DEAD and he had the time to watch the film. Thank God he liked it and ever since, we’ve gotten together for screenings, talked about film and he told me about his whole “El Rey Network” idea.
Eventually, he told me about his plans for FROM DUSK TILL DAWN and I went, “Oh shit! Could I do an episode?” He said, “Absolutely,” and before we knew it, I was there doing the episode. That’s how I joined the series. The other reason, though, is I liked the idea of going to The Titty Twister with a camera and shooting the hell out of it. It was a lot of fun.
FANG: Considering FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES is Robert’s brainchild, what did you specifically aim to bring from your own vision to this episode?
ALVAREZ: Oh yeah. The first six episodes of the series follows the kidnapping story until they walk into the temple filled with vampires, and that story is pretty hardcore. For me, everything I love about that universe and FROM DUSK TILL DAWN was there to play with. So yeah, it’s pretty visceral and pretty bloody, but what makes the show special is that Robert didn’t ask me to stick to any tone or the style of the show.
Robert was just like, “I want you to come in, have fun and go crazy.” Back then, the previous episodes weren’t finished so I didn’t know exactly what I would do. I knew the story and where it was going, but they gave me a lot of freedom over at El Rey. I remembered in the original film, there was that shot that revealed The Titty Twister was the tip of the iceberg for the temple, and I had to go down into the temple to show what was down there.
That was the focus of the episode but I had the freedom to work with the writers and crew to really just explore what lay down there inside the rabbit hole. If you’re a fan of my work or of EVIL DEAD (2013), you’re going to like this episode because there’s a lot of my style on it.
FANG: When coming aboard this episode, did working with El Rey change any preconceptions you had about working on television?
ALVAREZ: Well, when it comes to working in anything you haven’t done before, there are preconceptions. With television, it’s always the concern that you won’t have the time to do the things you want; especially on this show where there’s action and FX, which all take a lot of time to shoot. For me, that was a part of the challenge of going there and getting to create as much as I could. At the end of the day, I was excited to see how much I could do in that time frame.
Robert’s style has always been down-and-dirty shooting, which is wild. That’s what I like to see and that’s something I’d like to do. Storywise, how that effects what gets onscreen is that you don’t have the time to second-guess ideas. On a film, coming up with an idea to the day you shoot it could be a year or longer, so you’ll start to second-guess wilder and crazier ideas.
So plenty of ideas die in that time before you shoot, but in TV, there’s no time since, if you’ve got until Tuesday to shoot something, then you only have so much time. So unless you can come up with something on the spot, that idea is going from your brain to the camera to the screen. So you won’t have the filters of things like producers or anybody, and hopefully that translates onto the episode.
FANG: Did you learn anything specifically while doing a remake like EVIL DEAD (2013) that prepared you to take on the series of FROM DUSK TILL DAWN?
ALVAREZ: Doing the EVIL DEAD remake wasn’t directly why I wanted to do this iteration of the show, but I did learn a lot of good lessons during the process of making that film. It was rewarding to make a well-received entry of a classic franchise that has such an aura around it. Some people hated it, but some people like it and some people loved it, and that told me it’s okay for a new filmmaker to put their sweat and blood into an established story, instead of ripping off the previous material.
For this, I had the same approach. FROM DUSK TILL DAWN is iconic, and my friends were worried, like, “Oh, you’re going to The Titty Twister, man? That’s sacred ground!” But they were cool and it’s honestly not something to really care about. I was really excited about this project and I respected the original material, so I think that gave me the chance to do something great.
Troublemaker Studios is a great place to work, though. I got to come up with weapons and props and two seconds later, there they were in my hand. Without spoiling too much, there was one iconic weapon from the original film that I wanted to create a new version of, so I got to see a guy put the idea on paper, send it to the prop department and come back with it on the table. That’s how they work and it was super cool.
FANG: In EVIL DEAD (2013), you worked with a lot of up-and-coming actors while here you got to work with an eclectic mix of performers, including genre veteran Robert Patrick. What was it like to work with this cast?
ALVAREZ: Oh my God! Robert Patrick was so cool! Everybody was amazing, especially under the pressure to live up to the roles played by George Clooney, Harvey Keitel and Salma Hayek. They all really deliver and brought down the heat, which was understandable, since these characters are based on those characters. Fans could recognize the way they moved and talked, but they really made these characters different by striking a good balance between the original performances and the new version.
It was wonderful to work with all of them, and the younger guys really have a great career ahead of them. But for me, as a kid from the ’80s, working with Robert Patrick on set was just such a great experience.
FANG: Do you have anything planned for your theatrical follow-up to EVIL DEAD (2013)?
ALVAREZ: Well, I’m about to start casting an epic adventure based on the poem of DANTE’S INFERNO from THE DIVINE COMEDY. It’s something that I’m a really big fan of and we’ve got such an amazing script.
It’s going to have a Hell that you’ve never seen before. I’ve always wanted to do a movie about Heaven and Hell, and in my Hell, you won’t see lava or caverns or anything like that. It’s a completely different rendering of the concept of Hell. Every time they do Hell on film, you always see the same thing, so there’s a great space to improve there and to do something completely different. It’s a new take on what Hell is, and that’s where this adventure is going to take place.
It’s gonna be really cool, and I think horror fans are going to dig it. There’s a really cool reason why I went from EVIL DEAD (2013) to DANTE’S INFERNO. It’s bigger and crazy and epic, but at the same time, because it’s in Hell, it’s fucked up.
Fede Alvarez’s episode of FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES, “La Conquista,” premieres tonight at 9 p.m. EST on The El Rey Network.