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Ted Raimi Discusses His First Foray Into Motion Capture With The Quarry Video Game And More - Exclusive Interview

While Ted Raimi has been saluted by horror fans as one of the venerable members of the classic "Evil Dead" film trilogy and the "Ash vs Evil Dead" TV series, the beloved actor has also impressively amassed more than 100 other roles on the big and small screens over the past four decades.

Raimi has appeared in many of his director brother Sam Raimi's films, including "Darkman," the "Spider-Man" trilogy, and "Drag Me to Hell." The actor also has branched off on his own with dozens of other roles in TV, including a starring role in "SeaQuest 2032" and guest turns in "Twin Peaks," "Alf," "CSI: NY," "Supernatural," and more recently, an episode of Shudder's horror anthology series "Creepshow." All the while, Raimi has remained close to his "Evil Dead" family, with roles in producer Rob Tapert's "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and "Xena: Warrior Princess," and he also starred with longtime friend and colleague Bruce Campbell in the meta horror-comedy "My Name Is Bruce."

While Raimi voiced a role for "Evil Dead: Regeneration" in 2005, he hasn't physically played a role in a video game until now with "The Quarry," the hotly anticipated horror video game follow-up to "Until Dawn." Developed by Supermassive Games and published by 2K Games, "The Quarry" is a multi-player interactive video game that stars Raimi, David Arquette, Lin Shaye, Ariel Winter, Ethan Suplee, and Lance Henriksen.

In the game, Raimi plays Travis, the menacing sheriff in the small town of North Kill — one of the terrifying people a group of camp counselors encounter as they desperately try find a way to survive a horrifying night in the remote woods of upstate New York. In an exclusive interview with Looper, Raimi discussed the elaborate production of "The Quarry," his creepy character, the unique experience of playing a role via motion capture for the first time, and more.

Getting into the skin of a terrifying character

When I think of you in a horror project, there's the cursed Henrietta in the "Evil Dead" saga, but in human form, you've played some pretty good guys. You're Chet Kaminski in "Ash vs Evil Dead," you're Ash's buddy at S-Mart in "Army of Darkness" ... but now, as I've seen you referred to, you're "the creepy cop, Travis."

That's appropriate.

You're not such a good guy in "The Quarry." That must be a welcome change for you to take on that menacing sort of character.

I know you're a big horror guy and you follow horror. If you do follow horror, you'd see me play all these wacky characters, and then [I'm] doing this. But in [the] more dramatic stuff I've done in the last few years, I have played primarily these sorts of demented people — deviants and creeps. It happens that way to character actors when they get to be a certain age — my face starts to crag out. When it does, they're like, "Right. You're not cute and cuddly anymore. You look weird, so we're going to put you in weird stuff," and that's absolutely great and fine by me.

This is the first major horror thing I've done where I'm again playing these rather maniacal and frightening characters. It's a lot of fun and I love it. I wouldn't have it any other way, because growing up as a little 10-year-old kid — the stars when I was 10 to 13 or whatever — the stars of my day were Christopher Reeve and Bill Bixby and guys like that. They were very straight, handsome guys, and I knew I wasn't that person.

I always gravitated toward the character actors. I was the fan, in those days, of guys like Bill McKinney and Strother Martin. I was like, "I want to be like that guy. I don't want to be like Christopher Reeve, I want to be like Strother Martin." Be careful what you wish for as a child because it will come to fruition if you're not too careful as an adult — but it's exactly what I wanted, so I'm very grateful.

The Quarry isn't exactly a Friday the 13th-type of horror tale

I've always told people, if you want a definitive "cabin in the woods" tale, see the first and second "Evil Dead" and then "Ash vs Evil Dead." But with "The Quarry," in a way it's off to summer camp. It's different than "Friday the 13th," though. It's another quintessential horror setting surrounded by woods, but again, that must be part of the appeal for a project like "The Quarry."

It is. There's a trick to making it — which Supermassive, and the director Will Byles, and the writer Graham Reznick did beautifully — which is this: You hinted the joke of, "Okay, we've done this a thousand times," right? This is a summer camp and a bunch of kids. We've seen it since 1981 [about] 50,000 times. So you get that, but at the same time, once you're past that, you are now into a true sense of dread. You're into a true sense of horror, and it's an incredible trick. To do that, you can't be a beginner. You have to be quite experienced and know the genre intimately before you can comment on it from a third perspective.

It's very much the same idea as when an actor plays a bad actor in a movie. You can't get a bad actor to do that. You have to have an expert to pretend that they're bad. In this sense, it's much the same way, so this is loaded with some insanely talented people to pull that particular trick off — not the least of which, the other actors, who I was frigging thrilled that I got a chance to work with: some again, [and] some for the first time. For the first time [was] Ms. Siobhan Williams [and] Skylar Gisondo, and old friends I hadn't seen in a while were Lin Shaye and Lance Henriksen. Those guys play my parents in the game, and it was great getting to work with them again. It was like coming home.

The Quarry's influences go beyond Evil Dead

There are certainly homages in "The Quarry." You get the zoom through the woods, and you think, "Well, I've seen that before, but I love it," because it goes to show you how influential "Evil Dead" has been on so many filmmakers and game makers.

It really was, and [it goes] back beyond before "Evil Dead," where you see those by [director] Robert Wise. That's where it all began with "The Haunting." If you go back to "The Haunting," you'll find those same point-of-view shots. Honestly, as amazing as "Evil Dead" is, it owes those particular iconic shots to Robert Wise.

How familiar were you with "The Quarry's" predecessor, "Until Dawn"? Was it the sort of thing where you didn't know the game and you went in to familiarize yourself with it to get the sense of the tone? Obviously, "The Quarry" and "Until Dawn" are two different projects, but it still is a predecessor that's much loved. Or did you take on "The Quarry" as an entirely new thing?

It's an excellent question. "The Quarry" is an entirely new thing. If you did play "Until Dawn," which I have — I do love horror games — you'll find a similar style, but the story is very different, and the style will come from primarily the same director, which is Will Byles. Will gets a lot of credit and is notable, for the most part, in the press because of his frenetic directing style and his beautiful lighting and his interesting camera angles.

What they don't talk about — the reason that game works so well, and the reason "The Quarry" is going to work so well — is because Will is equally adept at working with actors. It's a very unusual skill. Typically, especially video game directors, they're good with actors or they're technically proficient, but Will is both. He puts them together in this to create a truly frightening experience. This is going to blow people away once they start playing it.

Raimi says doing motion capture was like entering The Matrix

The likeness of everybody in the cast in "The Quarry" is remarkable, and that attests to how far performance capture or motion capture has come. Is this your first big motion capture project?

This is the very first time. I had never done it before. This was the first time I'd had my body scanned, my face scanned, my voice scanned. I'm in "The Matrix" in a real way — they've got me now! The time it takes to do that is insanely long. What Supermassive has done — the months and months it takes to do this — is mind-blowing. [This project is] a very vital one [for mo-cap]. Without that, the actors would not be able to interact at the same time in the same space.

That's important because it creates a very interpersonal feeling between the actors during the dialogue sequences, which is not typically present in most video games. Most video games are done — not that they're bad, necessarily — but they're done in this way where the animators will, with a picture or a video they've seen, create the character in their body. Then the actor comes in later, and very much like a cartoon, adds the voice. But in this case, I was there with Siobhan [Williams] and Skylar [Gisondo], and Lance [Henriksen] and Lin [Shaye], and we were all in the same room, all interacting. All of that adds 10 layers of intense horror onto the situation because we're there.

In addition, with mo-cap, what's beautiful about it is a guy like Will Byles can focus on the acting only, which he does beautifully. Afterward, Will can pick all of his shots, his lighting, the lenses he wants, the rigs and gear — which are all virtual, of course — but dollies, Louma cranes ... All that stuff comes into play to create a seamless and terrifying experience with the game. It was really unprecedented.

Mo-cap vs. practical effects

Let's look at a different scenario regarding mo-cap. What would work better now if you could go back and do the possessed Henrietta from "Evil Dead II" and "Ash vs Evil Dead"? Would you take the CGI mo-cap route, or can nothing replace that big sweaty makeup suit where it's so hot the sweat pours out of the ears? I've seen footage of that when you were filming "Evil Dead II."

It's a good question. It depends on what the nature of the rest of the actors and the vibe of the movie or project is. In other words, with "The Quarry," everything is mo-cap, so that becomes the reality. The moment you see those faces, they're lifelike, they're incredible, and yet we know that they're not actual faces. That's the reality of it.

With something like "Evil Dead" with Henrietta, that's a different story because if you had real actors but a digital Henrietta, the audience would not find it as interesting or as scary. It completely depends on the project itself, so it's hard to answer that.

A return to the Evil Dead universe?

I recently talked with Dana DeLorenzo and Bruce Campbell about "Evil Dead: The Game." At some point, will you become involved, because there are expansions on the way? Bruce alluded to your Chet Kaminsky from "Ash vs Evil Dead" and how important it would be to have you as part of it.

Well, never say never. The game is quite successful — the "Evil Dead" game, it's quite popular. It's entirely possible I could come back as Chet — that is a thing that could happen. I don't know. 

All I do know is that — going back to the technical aspects of it, briefly — that game is traditional. It's first-person, it follows the character, you move the character and kill as many Deadites as you can ... "The Quarry" is a story. This one is an immersive tale. It's a teen thriller that happens to take place at the summer camp. It's not a slasher, so it's very different from "Evil Dead." It's not just monsters getting slashed up by Bruce — and Bruce is awesome at doing that — this is a more immersive story experience.

I also talked with your brother, Sam [Raimi], for "Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," and Bruce has a couple wonderful scenes. Since you usually pop up into Sam's films, I was looking for you but didn't see you. Was there a conflict in schedules? I would've loved to have seen you in there — or are you in there as a fake Shemp [a "Three Stooges"-influenced term for extras in Sam's movies]?

No, I'm not in the movie at all. I was busy doing "The Quarry," frankly. I was busy doing this game, so there's really no time to do it. I'm not in that picture at all.

Raimi is still fascinated by the allure of Until Dawn

You mentioned previously how you've played horror video games. Is there one in particular that stands out to you throughout your video game life that is your all-time favorite?

I play a million of them, but sometimes, when I play the games, I get bored rather quickly. I'll play it for a couple hours, and I'm like, "Okay, it's just a bunch of scares," and then I get bored. Honestly, part of the reason I'm so excited to do "The Quarry" is because I have played "Until Dawn" extensively. That has got a great combo of jump scares. [It] goes to, "Bah!" you know? That stuff. But also, you really have to think and get yourself out of those situations. Those tend to interest me more. When I was younger, I liked more of the jump-scare stuff, but now it's getting older, I like the stuff that's a little more dread-oriented as opposed to just jump-scare-oriented.

It's the atmosphere, and you've come from a place with the "Evil Dead" films and series that all have that. The first thing I notice about a great film, a great TV show, a great video game, is the atmosphere that looms over the piece.

It's unbelievable. What's going to stick with the audience ... I say audience, not necessarily gamers, and that's because this is so much like a horror movie that it's almost 50-50. I've never been in anything like this in my life. I've voiced games before. I've voiced cartoons before, but I've never been in anything that is capable of being a good movie as it is a good video game.

That is due to the script from Graham Reznik, the direction from Will Byles, and all of the other actors I was with. This is going to stick around with the fans long after they're done playing it, and that's what I wanted. It was my wish, and it came true. That's due to those wizards, [those] crazy maniacs in London, England  from Supermassive  who created something so mind-blowing. I'm so darn proud of this one!

"The Quarry" is available in stores and online from Supermassive Games and 2K Games.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.