Welcome to day 22 of 31 in 31, in today’s menu we have “The Evil Dead“. Sit back, relax and i promise this will not hurt one bit…. well, perhaps a little! I feel foolish for even having to synopsize this movie, because if you haven’t seen Sam Raimi’s 1981 masterpiece by now-really, what the effe do you do with your time?
Fine, here it is…although it’s been released, re-released, re-packaged then re-released many times, The Evil Dead is the quintessential balls-to-the-walls horror movie that EVERYONE should have a copy of on their shelf (even my mom has a copy). In case you didn’t know, here’s the deal…
The film is a story of five college students vacationing in an isolated cabin in a wooded area. Their vacation becomes gruesome when they find an audiotape that releases evil spirits.
Done! No, seriously, that’s it. Really, that’s it in a nutshell! Of course there is more to the film but we will deal with that as we go along.
It is important to understand that before there was The Evil Dead, there was a need to fund The Evil Dead. And before we talk about The Evil Dead we need to talk about Within The Woods. We do honestly.
Within The Woods is known as the prequel to The Evil Dead, but that’s not really true. It’s more like a rough draft. Almost nobody has seen it, but nobody was really supposed to see it anyway. With $1600 and a Super 8 camera, a group of college students led by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell filmed a 32 minute synopsis of what would later become one of the classic horror films of all time. Sam Raimi isn’t such an inspiration to young filmmakers because he’s put out a few good flicks – I think it has more to do with the grassroots “anyone can do this if they really try” methods he used to make it to the big time. Within The Woods was a perfect example of that.
The film was shot on Super 8 video as a promotional video to try to get some financial backers to give them the money needed for writer-director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell to make their feature film The Book of the Dead (obviously later renamed). The film has Bruce and his girlfriend Ellen, along with another couple, decide to stay at a cabin in the woods. Bruce and Ellen decide to go out on a picnic, Bruce casually mentions that the cabin was built on an old Indian burial ground, and soon he’s been possessed by the Indians and tries to kill everyone.
The low quality of the footage turns into both a major flaw and a hidden blessing. It makes a good chunk of the film pretty much impossible to see, but the darkness of it does manage to make the no-doubt amateurish gore effects a lot more realistic. The various stabbings and mutilations that frequent the last third of this film carry a bit of the feel of the music videos for NIN’s Closer – dark, grainy, and nasty. It’s not enough to make this a truly great film, but it does make it fairly enjoyable once it gets moving along. If you’re a fan of The Evil Dead films, then you’d be well-advised to hunt down a copy.
The Evil Dead
Ok, where to begin… The film has about 20 minutes of setup to show us the cabin and to (very) briefly sketch the five characters. After that the remaining hour of running time is a series of ever escalating set pieces of over-the-top violence that slowly whittles the cast down to one battered survivor (with bad taste in shoes). A completely fun and truly demented rollercoaster ride through a dark spook house, The Evil Dead delivers that important feel of being made by people who want nothing more than to scare the hell out of you.
Much like its most obvious progenitor, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, The Evil Dead uses its shoestring budget in such creative ways that the lack of money actually enhances its nerve-rattling aspects. Forced to be scary rather than slick, the filmmakers give more jolts per minute of running time than any five movies released that same year. The Evil Dead is a true classic of the horror genre that, while having lost a little of its power over the past 20 years, still holds up very, very well. At least in my house!
The Evil Dead created a movement not unlike Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th, in that the character of Ash spawned not only two sequels, but also a musical, action figures, lunch boxes, video games, the launching of Bruce Campbell to become one of the most loved horror icons and even comic books! Ash is one of the most used characters in comics today with many team ups including the likes of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Marvel Zombies, Re-Animator, Xena, etc.
Sam Raimi went on to make a couple of films that you may have heard of (Spider-man 1, 2, 3 anybody?) as well as the previously mentioned Evil Dead sequels, and a few overlooked gems like Darkman and The Gift. And lastly, the women of The Evil Dead have turned their careers into becoming some of the most sought after celebrities ever to attend the horror convention circuit touring as The Ladies of The Evil Dead.
In January 2008, Dark Horse Comics began releasing a four-part monthly comic book mini-series based on The Evil Dead, written by Mark Verheiden, with art by John Bolton, who provided art for the Dark Horse Army of Darkness comic. The comic miniseries has several noticeable differences from the film, such as Cheryl being only a friend of Linda, and not Ash’s sister. Dynamite Entertainment has an ongoing “Army of Darkness” series and several mini-series and cross-over mini-series, featuring horror characters such as Darkman, the Marvel Zombies and Herbert West.
As a starting point for The Evil Dead comic books (and because i love it and read it again and again. I would recommend “Army Of Darkness Xena TPB Vol. 01 Why Not?” by John Layman, Brandon Jerwa, Miguel Montenegro, Fabiano Neves. It was released back in 2009 but you can still find it HERE.
The cross-over no one expected is here! Too big for the movie or television screen, Dynamite presents the ultimate ‘Why Not?’ tale as Ash and his Army of Darkness meets Xena, the Warrior Princess in the this 4-issue mini series event! Written by John Layman and illustrated by Miguel Montenegro, our series finds Ashley J. Williams transported to the world of Xena and Gabrielle — and most importantly Autolycus, who of course, bears more than a passing resemblance to our main man Ash. Throw in the Necronomicon and an evil little ash taking charge of a group of fairies (the winged kind) and you’ve got yourselves one rollicking adventure! This collection also includes a complete cover gallery, featuring the art of Fabiano Neves and UDON Studios!
The Evil Dead is on the chopping block to be re-made but, and bare with me here, let’s keep our fingers crossed that it doesn’t. Why do I say that? You have to watch the film to fully understand…the cheaper than cheap effects, the Campbell/Raimi combo, the camerawork, the sound design…all these made The Evil Dead what it is, and why people love this movie. This is magic put on film, and no modern combination of CGI and/or Michael Bay producing could ever recreate what they did back in 1981. Again, let’s keep those fingers crossed.
What version of The Evil Dead should you pick up? That’s up to you, I have the version that comes in a rubber Necronomicon replica and I have seen that one still available from time to time. Here is mine so you can judge for yourself:
Bruce Campbell’s first book:
“If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor”.
You can buy the paperback version for a discounted price HERE!
# After completing principal photography on the The Evil Dead 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 Evil Dead features Bruce Campbell and various stand-ins (or “shemps”) to replace the actors who left.
# The Evil Dead was filmed in a real-life abandoned cabin.
# Creamed corn dyed green was used as demon 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.
# Director Trademark: [3-stooges]
# Director Trademark: [chainsaw] Ash contemplates using a chainsaw to dismember his girlfriend after she is killed.
# 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 of The Evil Dead 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 entitled IT’S MURDER! (1977)
# 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 Evil Dead 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…
# The Evil Dead was one of the first films to be labeled 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.
# Director Trademark: [Sam Raimi] [Oldsmobile Delta 88]
# 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 of The Evil Dead 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 Evil Dead 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.
# 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.
# During Ash’s fighting scene with the possessed Scott, after gouging out Scotts eyeballs, Ash yanks something out of the jeans and blood flows out. Many have believed that Ash was yanking out a “reproductive organ” based on it’s shape and position. However, what Ash pulled out was a small branch gouged into Scott’s leg after the fact that Scott was beaten savagely by the trees.
# When Ash and Linda are admiring the necklace you can see flecks of paint brush off onto Linda’s hand this is because the original necklace was gold but spray painted silver.
# 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 (1977) visible. Ostensibly, this was in reference to a ripped poster for JAWS (1975) 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. See also: THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART II (1985), A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984).
# A closet is opened and a T-shirt with the word “Tamakwa” is visible. Director Sam Raimi went to Camp Tamakwa as a child (see trivia for INDIAN SUMMER (1993)).
# 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 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 (1974). 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 The Evil Dead 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” (1978).
# In 2006, The Evil Dead (1981) was turned into a Broadway musical.
# The Evil Dead (1981) was released 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
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