Hollywood director Sam Raimi is going back to where it all began with Ash vs. Evil Dead, the Starz series that unfolds 30-plus years after audiences first encountered Ash Williams and his college buddies being tortured by an ancient curse in a frisky forest in The Evil Dead. We sat down with the sports coat-wearing, infallibly polite Raimi on the Auckland, New Zealand, set, where he was reunited with fellow Michigan natives Bruce Campbell (Ash) and longtime producing partner, Rob Tapert. Raimi’s oldest child, Lorne, was directing a splinter unit for Dad, who co-wrote and directed the series premiere.
Lori Rackl for Rotten Tomatoes: What made you want to resurrect the Evil Dead franchise?
Sam Raimi: There’s a small but very dedicated fan base for the Evil Dead films. At every other film promotion we’d do throughout the years, we kept hearing, “When’s the next Evil Dead film?” We tried to satisfy them by doing a  remake with a really good filmmaker, Fede Alvarez. I really liked his movie. I think the audience really liked it, too. We thought that would end it. It didn’t. We heard, “That’s good, but we really want to see Bruce Campbell playing that role again.” That’s why we’re making this. We’ve never done this before, where we’re answering the fans.
Rotten Tomatoes: Why do it on the small screen?
Raimi: The Evil Dead movies have been mildly successful, but there’s never been an Evil Dead movie that’s a hit. Through time they’ve developed a following. What’s great is we don’t have to make a movie that’s going to be a hit — a movie that’ll be taken off the screens if it isn’t — and Evil Dead movies never are. With this scenario, we’ll be on TV for 10 episodes. It’s going to have a chance to develop an audience, which is a good thing for Evil Dead.
Rotten Tomatoes: Evil Dead has spawned sequels, comic book series, video games — even a musical. Why does it resonate?
Raimi: I don’t know exactly, but I’d guess that it’s Ash. He’s a monster-fighting hero, something that shouldn’t be so rare. A lot of horror movies have really good characters like Jason or Freddy. They’re the villains of the piece. This is more of an old-fashioned guy who fights monsters. People like a horror movie with a hero. I think they also really like Bruce Campbell. He’s funny, charismatic. They like that he’s an idiot and selfish and a blowhard. He’s the one they’re stuck with, the one who has to rise up and do battle with these monsters. He’s an unusual choice for a hero.
Rotten Tomatoes: Your beloved 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 is back for another cameo…
Raimi: That was my mother’s car. When it came time to make Evil Dead, we needed a car we could endanger and possibly hurt. It was the old family car so we used it. When it came time to make the sequel, that car had to be in it. Whenever we needed a car for a movie, we’d borrow it. It’s run over a lot of dummies. It’s had love scenes played in it. It’s had chase scenes. It’s traveled through time. It’s been turned into a death-coaster in Army of Darkness. And now, it’s traveled to New Zealand to make an appearance.
Rotten Tomatoes: You went to high school with Bruce. When did Rob enter the picture?
Raimi: He was a friend of my brother Ivan. Rob saw that I was a moviemaker and I think that titillated him. We made a film with Ivan my freshman year at Michigan State University. We charged admission and made a tremendous amount of money, even though that wasn’t our goal. We thought we’d make enough to pay back the cost of the room and the advertisements. All of a sudden, instead of making $4.50 an hour being a projectionist for the school, we’d split a pot of $300 just for showing our movie. We started to learn there’s a public out there and they buy tickets. Sitting in those shows at Michigan State was a great learning experience. People would tell you, “This sucks,” and you’d think, ‘I better cut that scene down.’ Or, if they really laughed at a scene, we’d go out that weekend and shoot more of those jokes and cut them in for the next week’s show. We really learned what a paying audience liked and didn’t like.
Rotten Tomatoes: You’ve been involved with so many movies over the years. Where do you rank the Evil Dead franchise in your career?
Raimi: It’s probably the closest to my heart. It’s something we conceived ourselves. It’s where I got my start. As much as I loved working with the great cast of Spider-Man or great [actors] like Cate Blanchett and Russell Crowe, I really like the down-home quality of the Evil Dead films and their pure desire for rock ‘n’ roll entertainment for the audience.
Ash vs. Evil Dead premieres this Saturday, Oct. 31, on Starz at 9 p.m. Read season one reviews here.