Five friends go up to a cabin in the woods, where they find unspeakable evil lurking in the forest. They find a tome called the Necronomicon and the taped translation of the text. Once the tape is played, the evil is released. One by one, the teens are possessed. With only one remaining, it is up to him to survive the night and battle the evil dead.
Here we are, one of the most loved and quoted franchises in the Horror genre. The original cabin in the woods scenario film starring a very young Bruce Campbell, also one of the original ‘video nasties’.
The film maybe a cult classic today but when it was originally released there wasn’t too much interest from audiences, only for a short while anyway, once Stephen King was heard mentioning it in interviews crowds rushed for a viewing and very few left without either raving about the film or without feeling nauseous. Ever since then the film has been cemented in Horror history.
Viewing the film today is an amazing experience, especially once you know the back-story of the film and the amount of work that went into it. This was truly a group effort and you can’t help but respect each and every person in-front and behind the camera.
One thing I love in this film is the make-up, the possessed friends are incredible for a low budget independent film. We also see the early work of Sam Raimi, a visionary who demanded perfection as much as he could, with his persistence perfectionism he gave us some amazing camera work that has been copied numerous times since.
The film maybe full of gore but it’s also suspenseful and tense, you can feel the isolation of the cabin as the possession takes a-hold of Ash’s friends, one scene that has always stuck in my head, and many others is the tree rape scene, the first time I saw it I was so shocked and it still gets to me to this day.
The film maybe cheesy, hell it’s pure cheese! But it’s a classic case of hard work and graft to make something special, plus it gave us Bruce Campbell and the infamous Ash, so you can’t complain ;)
Miscellaneous facts about the film:
After completing principal photography in the winter of 1979-1980, most of the actors left the production. However, there was still much of the film to be completed. Most of the second half of the film features Bruce Campbell and various stand-ins (or “Fake Shemps”) to replace the actors who left.
Filmed in a real-life abandoned cabin.
Creamed corn dyed green was used as guts.
Director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell were friends from high school, where they made many super-8 films together. They would often collaborate with Sam’s brother Ted Raimi. Campbell became the “actor” of the group, as “he was the one that girls wanted to look at.”
The voice of the professor on the tape recording is that of American Movie Classics host Bob Dorian.
Most of the demon POVs that glide across the ground were shot by mounting the camera to a 2X4 while Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell ran along holding either side
The pieces of wood that fall from the bridge at the beginning and the log used to fight off Ash’s possessed girlfriend in the woods are made from a foam substance and were recycled props from an early Sam Raimi movie titled It’s Murder!.
Bruce Campbell twisted his ankle on a root while running down a steep hill, and Sam Raimi and Robert G. Tapert decided to tease him by poking his injury with sticks, thus causing Campbell to have an obvious limp in some scenes.
Andy Grainger, a friend of Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi, gave them the advice: “Fellas, no matter what you do, keep the blood running down the screen.” They included the scene in the finished film where the blood runs down the projector screen as a tribute to him.
As the car is driving up to the cabin at the beginning of the movie, instead of Theresa Tilly it’s Sam Raimi you see from “Shelly’s” window.
The opening sequence of the evil moving over the pond, is actually Bruce Campbell pushing Sam Raimi in a dingy whilst he films the shot.
Ash’s last name is never mentioned throughout the entire Evil Dead trilogy, though Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell did toy around with calling him “Ashley J Williams” and “Ash Holt,” the latter revealing how Sam viewed the character…
Was one of the first films to be labelled as a “Video Nasty” in the UK.
One of the sketches in the Book of the Dead comes from William Blake’s painting “The Great Red Dragon And The Woman Clothed With The Sun”.
During the scene where the possessed Linda attempts to stab Ash with the dagger, Betsy Baker actually had no idea where he was. With her heavy, white contact lenses preventing her from seeing Bruce Campbell, he was literally battling a blind actress.
During the scene when Linda was possessed, the make-up artist actually first wanted to make her look like a snake-like creature, as can be seen when Ash is dragging her outside (filmed before the scene indoors with her singing the creepy song). Her make-up was dark and a little more greenish, but eventually they changed the make-up to an evil doll-face look.
Betsy Baker lost her eye lashes in the process of removing her facial mold.
The scene where Cheryl is brutally raped by the possessed weeds was banned in some countries.
The original script called for all the characters to be smoking marijuana when they are first listening to the tape. The actors decided to try this for real, and the entire scene had to be later re-shot due to their uncontrollable behavior.
In Germany the movie was released to the theaters and on video the same day to avoid problems with the censorship boards. It was banned shortly afterward but dominated the top ten in the few weeks of his release. The movie is still banned theatrically in Germany.
The blood is a combination of Karo syrup, non-dairy creamer, and red food coloring. At one point, Bruce Campbell’s shirt that he wears in the film was so saturated with the fake blood that after drying it by the fire, the shirt became solidified and broke when he tried to put it on.
Sam Raimi originally wanted to title this film “Book of the Dead,” but producer Irvin Shapiro changed the title to “The Evil Dead” for fear that kids would be turned off seeing a movie with a literary reference.
There’s a ripped poster of The Hills Have Eyes visible. Ostensibly, this was in reference to a ripped poster for Jaws that appeared in that film; Sam Raimi and the others interpreted that as Wes Craven suggesting that “Hills” was much more frightening than “Jaws”, thus they showed a ripped “Hills” poster because their film was to be even scarier yet.
A closet is opened and a T-shirt with the word “Tamakwa” is visible. Director Sam Raimi went to Camp Tamakwa as a child.
The cabin was located in Morristown, Tennessee. In Bruce Campbell’s biography he says that it was later burned down. No one knows for sure what happened (Sam Raimi says that he burnt it down himself after filming). Also, no one will give out complete directions because the only remaining part of the cabin is the brick chimney and everyone was stealing a piece of it.
The cabin did not actually have a cellar. Most of the cellar scenes were filmed in the stone cellar of a farmhouse owned by producer Robert G. Tapert’s family in Marshall, Michigan. The last room of the cellar was actually Sam Raimi’s garage. The hanging gourds and bones are a tribute to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. For the scene where the students descend into the cellar, a hole was cut into the floor, a shallow pit was dug and a ladder was placed into the pit.
On the tape, in which the demon resurrection passages are read aloud, some of the words spoken (which sound like genuine Latin) and that sound like “Sam and Rob, Das ist Hikers Dan dee Roadsa” actually mean “Sam and Rob are the Hikers on the road”, as it was actually Sam Raimi and Robert G. Tapert who play the fishermen that wave to the car as it passes them near the start of the film.
When Ash and Cheryl return to the cabin (after the failed attempt to drive into town due to the destroyed bridge), Scott goes to say something and then suddenly stops, throws his head back and steps out of the shot. This was due to the actor (Richard DeManincor) blowing his line.
After Scott says, “They know, they’re not gonna let us go”, he screams higher than his voice, this was actually Sam Raimi’s voice meshed in with Scott’s scream.
The white liquid that often emits from the possessed after they’re injured or maimed is 2% milk that Sam Raimi chose to use, not just to show how these aren’t normal beings but also to mix it up so the MPAA wouldn’t give it an X rating. Ultimately the film was released unrated.
The German translation of the movie’s title is “Dance of the Devils”.
In a scene where Ash drives away from the cabin, he gets out of the car and seems to walk at an angle, creating an eerie and otherworldly effect. This was accomplished by parking the car on a slight incline and tilting the camera at the same angle (so that the car appeared straight). When Bruce Campbell gets out of the car, he is walking on the flat ground, which looks crooked because the car and camera are both tilted sideways.
During the scene where Ash had the chainsaw in the shed, about to cut up his girlfriend, he actually had to use a real chainsaw, holding it up to the actress’ chest. You can see on the close-up of Linda’s neck (looking at the necklace) that her pulse is racing.
In Germany, the movie’s release was hindered by public authorities for almost 10 years. Original 1982 cinema and video releases of the movie had been seized, making the movie a hit on the black market video circuit, with pirated copies abound. A heavily edited version was first made available in 1992. Several high-profile horror enthusiasts, among them even author Stephen King, publicly criticized the German ban on the movie. In other German language markets, the movie was never restricted from distribution. The first legal uncut version of the movie entered the German market in 2001, on DVD.
The character of Scotty is named after Raimi’s long-time friend Scott Spiegel and the character of Cheryl is named after Cheryl Guttridge, the star of Raimi’s short film Clockwork.
In 2006, The Evil Dead was turned into a Broadway musical.
The Evil Dead was release in Finland 1984 by Magnum video and was heavily (11 min 50 sec) cut. According to persistent legend it was Renny Harlin who did the cutting.
The film Mary Whitehouse showed in court to support the idea of the ‘video nasty’, although the pre-VRA video was the version the BBFC had cut and passed ‘X’. It was removed and re-added to the ‘video nasty’ list several times but was never successfully prosecuted
According to cast and crew members, this was one of the worst experiences they’d ever been involved in due to freezing temperatures, the locale and Sam Raimi’s filming which took endless hours.
Joel Coen was an assistant editor on the film. This was one his earliest profession jobs. He and his brother Ethan Coen, would produce and make the film Blood Simple. three years after the release of this film. In preparing to get funding for that film, the Coens enlisted the help of friends Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi to help out and they happily did so. Campbell and Raimi also starred in a short film based on scenes of Blood Simple for the Coens to show to potential investors and it worked.
The film ran out of money and only half of it was completed in the Winter of 1980. In order to complete it, Sam Raimi, Robert G. Tapert and Bruce Campbell did everything they could to complete the film. From taking out high interest bank loans, borrowing money from friends and family and even making cold calls to businesses around their hometown state of Michigan. The cold calls worked in that they actually got catering, gasoline and other necessities that the cast and crew needed.
When there wasn’t any filming, Bruce Campbell would actually help out with the crew in prepping shots and props around the set.
The film was intended to be filmed in Michigan in a cabin, however Sam Raimi and Co. could not find one. They tried the Michigan Tourism guide which was no help, so they came up with the idea of going to Tennessee to shoot. While there they could not find a cabin and the closest they had come was one filled with squatters. At the very last minute, Raimi and crew found the cabin they used in the film which was not far from the house the cast and crew had moved into for the arduous shoot. The cabin had to be renovated from top to bottom as it was in deplorable condition. Rooms were filled with four inches of horse manure and electricity had to be put in along with a working telephone to make it hospitable.
Irvin Shapiro the film’s producer was the one who helped sell the film and it’s eventual success. He mentored Sam Raimi on how to sell the film properly as he was inexperienced as a filmmaker at the time as the only way the film could’ve be sold was through brochures (in multiple languages), press kits, etc. Once this was done, the film eventually found a distributor.
Bruce Campbell put up his family’s property in Northern Michigan as collateral so that Sam Raimi not only could finish the film, but also blow it up to 35 mm film which was required for theatrical release.
The film was shown to Stephen King and it was his glowing endorsement (which was later used on the film’s ad’s and posters) of the film which really sold the film to the public and was bought by New Line Cinema soon after.
The film was screened several times around middle to late 1981 to Michigan preview audiences who loved the film. According to Bruce Campbell, “one patron was happy she saw the film because she was having a bad day!”
Bruce Campbell actually twisted his ankle on a root of a tree and was really in pain when Sam Raimi and Robert G. Tapert thought Campbell was fooling around and started to poke at the ankle to the point that it made him laugh despite the pain. Raimi told him “Stop fooling around and get ready for the next shot.” Campbell painfully obliged.
The temperatures were so cold at time during shooting that the camera and other wiring froze. They had to be thawed by the fireplace inside the cabin.
The first of many collaborations between composer Joseph LoDuca, director Sam Raimi, producer Robert G. Tapert and actor Bruce Campbell.
At the end of principal shooting in Tennessee, the crew put together a little time capsule package together and buried it inside the fire place of the cabin as a memento of the production to whoever found it. The cabin has since been destroyed, but the time capsule was found by a couple of ardent Evil Dead fans who discovered that the fireplace of the cabin was still intact.
The remainder of the film, was shot all around Michigan utilizing Robert G. Tapert’s family farm, Sam Raimi’s garage and other various indoor and outdoor locations.
The scene with Cheryl in the woods was not originally scripted as a rape scene. According to Ellen Sandweiss, the original script simply read “Cheryl is attacked by the woods” and that the scene kept being added to while they were filming it as well as in post production.
Richard DeManincor reportedly had no idea the movie had such a cult following until he started appearing at conventions and was surprised by the amount of fans who attended.
Betsy Baker (Linda) revealed in an interview that she was told that the producers were interested in her to star in a horror movie and she agreed to meet them in a public restaurant because she was genuinely suspicious about the filmmakers.
The Evil Dead was made on a $350,000 budget. When Sam Raimi later made Spider-Man 3, it was filmed on a $350,000,000 budget, 1000 times the cost of The Evil Dead, making it the most expensive motion picture produced at that time.
Richard DeManincor and Theresa Tilly went under different stage names during the shoot, since they were members of the Screen Actors Guild and wanted to avoid being penalized for participating in a non-union production. DeManincor credits himself as Hal Delrich, and Tilly as Sarah York. DeManincor acquired his stage name by combining his short name with his roommates’ names, Hal and Del.
Filming began in 1979 with a cast and crew of 37 people. Initial shooting finished in six weeks, but it took 1.5 years to edit the picture.
At the end of a ‘normal’ day of shooting, Bruce Campbell would return home in the back of a pickup truck because he was covered in fake blood from head to toe.
Some critics have called the “tree raping” scene misogynistic, and even Sam Raimi regrets putting it in the film.
The themes of the movie have become an iconic favourite among tattoo clientèle.
One of the highest rated video rentals of its year.
During the car scene, Scotty has a glass of moonshine in his hand and Ash makes a funny face. Originally, they were all supposed to be drinking moonshine – and Ash’s expression was a reaction to the drink, but the scene was cut.
The tape recorder found in the cabin belonged to Bruce Campbell’s father.
The eerie wind noise in the movie was recorded by Sam Raimi. He first heard it through his bedroom window while he was trying to sleep and thought it would be perfect for the movie.
The white contact lenses were very painful to wear. They covered half the eye and had to be taken out every 15 minutes to allow the eyes to breathe.
The magnifying glass necklace was originally intended to be a plot point by focusing the sunlight to burn the Book of the Dead, but it was decided after shooting began that this wasn’t going to work, so its actual use in the film was a desperate attempt to keep it relevant since so much film time had been spent on it already.