Seminal Michigan horror movie ‘The Evil Dead’ was released 38 years ago today, October 15, 1981

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It was 38 years ago, that the Sam Raimi written/directed film “Evil Dead” was released.  Although a low-budget horror film,  “Evil Dead” attracted the interest of producer Irvin Shapiro, who helped screen the film at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival and horror author Stephen King gave it rave review which helped convince New Line Cinema to serve as its distributor.

Though a modest commercial success in the United States, grossing just $2.4 million, it was a bigger success internationally, grossing more than $27 million for a worldwide gross of $29.4 million.   Not a bad return for a budgeted estimate of only $350,000

The film’s protagonist Ash Williams (Campbell) is regarded as a cult icon.

The fourth film, serving as reboot, remake and sequel, was titled Evil Dead and was released in 2013. Raimi co-produced the film alongside Campbell and the franchise producer, Robert Tapert. As with the films, the follow-up television series Ash vs Evil Dead was created and produced by Sam and Ivan Raimi, with Campbell also executive producing.

The Evil Dead trivia

Over the thirty eight years “The Evil Dead” since its release, this film hasbecome a cult classic and has earned followers worldwide.  Some know the lines of the film word for word,  and others have memorized every esoteric detail regarding the filming of “The Evil Dead”  and can call these details up at will.

For those who may not be that familiar with this trivia,  here is information that we thought was interesting.

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.”

Although Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell had made several low-budget Super 8 mm film projects together, several being comedies, including Clockwork and It’s Murder!  “The Evil Dead” was the duo ‘s debut feature film together.

Shooting a suspense scene in It’s Murder! inspired Raimi to approach a career in the horror genre, and after researching horror cinema at drive-in theaters, Raimi was set on directing a horror film.

Raimi created a short film called “Within the Woods” first to attract the interest of financiers, and use the funds raised to shoot a full-length project. 

Sam Raimi originally wanted to title this film “Book of the Dead,” a name inspired by Raimi’s interest in the fiction of H. P. Lovecraft.  It was producer Irvin Shapiro who changed the title to “The Evil Dead. ” He feared that kids would be turned off seeing a movie with a literary reference.

The crew of “The Evil Dead” consisted almost entirely of Raimi and Campbell’s friends and family.  To acquire more actors for the project, Raimi put an ad in The Detroit News.

The crew initially attempted to shoot the film in Raimi’s hometown of Royal Oak, Michigan, but ultimately settled for filming at an abandoned cabin in Morristown, Tennessee. 

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 Rob Tapert’s family in Marshall, Michigan. The last room of the cellar was actually Sam Raimi’s garage.

Steve Frankel was the only carpenter on set, which made him the art direction’s sole contributor. For exterior shots, Frankel had to produce several elaborate props with a circular saw.

The special make-up effects artist for Within the Woods, Tom Sullivan, was brought on to compose the effects after expressing a positive reaction to working with Raimi. He helped create many of the film’s foam latex and fake blood effects, and added coffee as an extra ingredient to the traditional fake blood formula of corn syrup and food coloring.

An estimated 70,000 gallons of “blood”  was used in making this movie.

Raimi chose a Detroit editing association, where he met Edna Ruth Paul, to cut the film. Paul’s assistant was Joel Coen, (The Coen brothers) who helped with the film’s editing. Paul edited a majority of the film, although Coen notably edited the shed sequence.

The film premiered at the Redford Theatre in Detroit because Bruce Campbell watched films there as a child. The film was screened several times around middle to late 1981 to Michigan preview audiences who loved the film. 

Raimi was a true sadist on the set.  He enjoyed “torturing” his actors. Raimi believed that to capture pain and anger in his actors, he had to abuse them a little at times, saying, “if everyone was in extreme pain and misery, that would translate into a horror”

One of the most intricate moments during editing was the stop-motion animation sequence where the corpses “melted”, which took hours to cut properly.

The film had unique sounds that required extensive recording from the crew. Dead chickens were stabbed to replicate the sounds of mutilated flesh, and Campbell had to scream into a microphone for several hours.

Raimi opted to have the most theatrical premiere possible, using custom tickets and wind tracks set in the theater, and inspired by William Castle ordered ambulances outside the theater to build atmosphere.

The film was initially released in the United States by New Line Cinema with an X-rating and was later revised to NC-17 in 1994.

All home video copies produced by Anchor Bay Entertainment are uncut and classified “Not rated”, because the licensing studio (Renaissance Pictures) is not contractually obligated to provide an MPAA rating with their film, unlike a major studio such as New Line.

The Evil Dead was one of the first films to be labeled as a “Video Nasty” in the UK, and was banned because of this.

Although the movie was never released officially in Hungary, it was widely spread through the black market on video and was referred to as “Az erdö szelleme” (“The spirit of the woods”).

The 1973 Oldsmobile Delta ’88 that Ash and his friends drive to the cabin has made an appearance in every single Raimi project since, including the current TV series “Ash vs. The Evil Dead”

“The Evil Dead” legacy

Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s debut feature film, The Evil Dead has developed a reputation as one of the most significant cult films, cited among the greatest horror films of all time and one of the most successful independent films.

The Evil Dead has spawned a media empire. A video game adaptation of the same name was for the Commodore 64 in 1984, as was a trilogy of survival horror games in the 1990s and early 2000s: Evil Dead: Hail to the King, Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick and Evil Dead: Regeneration. Ted Raimi did voices for the trilogy, and Campbell returned as the voice of Ash.

The character Ash became the main character of a comic book franchise. Ash has fought both Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees in the Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash series, Herbert West in Army of Darkness vs. Re-Animator, zombie versions of the Marvel Comics superheroes in Marvel Zombies vs. The Army of Darkness, and has even saved the life of a fictional Barack Obama in Army of Darkness: Ash Saves Obama.  In January 2008, Dark Horse Comics began releasing a four-part monthly comic book mini-series, written by Mark Verheiden and drawn by John Bolton, based on The Evil Dead.

The film has also inspired a stage musical, Evil Dead: The Musical, which was produced with the permission of Raimi and Campbell. The musical has run on and off Broadway since its inception in 2003.

A remake of the film was released in 2013, directed by Fede Alvarez and produced by Raimi and Campbell. It features actress Jane Levy as the main character, with Ash not appearing. Campbell does make a brief, uncredited cameo appearance at the end of the film in a short post-credits scene.

In 2015, an ongoing television continuation of the films called Ash vs Evil Dead premiered on the Starz Network. Sam Raimi wrote and directed the pilot, and served as an executive producer; Campbell reprised his role as Ash during the series’ three-season run.





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