Cited for being one of the best horror films of all time as well as being one of the most successful independent films ever, here’s 25 of the most spine-chilling facts out there about Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead.
In 2021, Sam Rami’s cult classic The Evil Dead celebrated its 40th anniversary. This bloody horror flick started Raimi’s career and also made its leading actor, Bruce Campbell, into a cult figure. A bona fide cult classic nowadays, The Evil Dead has remained popular with horror lovers since its release. We may all think that we know the behind-the -scenes story regarding the film’s production, but here’s 25 interesting facts that you might not be aware of!
1. The Evil Dead was inspired by a short film directed by Sam Raimi
In order to get potential investors for his feature length film, Rami created horror short Within the Woods (1978), what he called a ‘prototype’ film in order to demonstrate his skills as a director. The young director cast his friends Bruce Campbell and Ellen Sandweiss as the two protagonists and produced the film for the incredibly small sum of just $1,600.
Within The Woods, Sam Raimi’s horror short from 1978
2. Raimi managed to get his short screened at a local theater
Somehow, Raimi managed to convince a local theater manager to screen the film alongside The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which caught the attention of cinema goers along with potential investors. However, the film was never commercially released.
3. Raimi and Campbell asked everyone they could think of to invest in their film
After seeking legal advice from Phil Gillis (who disliked Within the Woods), Raimi decided to ask everyone he knew for donations to get enough money to produce The Evil Dead. Campbell has even stated in his autobiography that he had to beg some of his family members for the money, and he was given the title of executive producer because he used some of his family’s property as collateral to finish making the film.
4. The actual cabin they filmed in had its own troubling past
Originally the shooting of the film was going to take place in Raimi’s hometown of Royal Oak, Michigan, but eventually they ended up filming in Morristown, Tennessee, as it was the only state that expressed enthusiasm for the project. The crew quickly found a remote cabin located several miles away from any other buildings. The cabin had a very creepy past, as the man who built the cabin died a week after completing it. Perhaps more concerning is the fact that the entire crew, consisting of 13 people, had to sleep in the cabin during the production which drove everyone a little mad.
The cabin used in the movie
5. There were a ton of injuries during filming
The inexperienced crew faced a lot of issues during the production. On their first day, they got hopelessly lost in the woods. Several crew members got injured during filming and because of the remoteness of the shoot, there were issues obtaining medical assistance. The crew weren’t the only ones to suffer, actress Betsy Baker had her eyelashes ripped off when her facemask was removed.
6. The crew burned furniture to stay warm on set
Things didn’t get any better as the production came to a wrap. During the last few days on set, the conditions had become so extreme the crew began burning furniture to stay warm. Since at that point only exterior shots needed to be filmed, they burned nearly every piece of furniture left. Many of them went without showering for days and because it was so cold, and many of them developed a cold.
7. Raimi and the crew had to get really inventive with the special effects
Special effects artist Tom Sullivan was brought on to help Raimi and the crew create many of the film’s foam latex and fake blood effects. Sullivan’s tricks included adding coffee as an extra ingredient to the traditional fake blood formula of corn syrup and food coloring to make it look more impactful on the big screen.
Tom Sullivan talking about his work on The Evil Dead
8. Raimi apparently enjoyed ‘torturing’ his cast and crew
Raimi really wanted authenticity from his actors and believed that in order 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”. Producer Robert Tapert agreed with Raimi, commenting that he “enjoyed when an actor bleeds.” Seems like Raimi and Tapert took things a little too far.
L-R: Robert Tapert, Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi
9. The actors got high for real
In the original version of the script there was a scene where the characters smoked marijuana when they first listen to the tape. Being the method actors they were, the cast decided to smoke marijuana for real, and the entire scene had to be later re-shot due to their uncontrollable laughter and behavior.
Bruce Campbell talking about “getting high” on The Evil Dead
10. Raimi had fun with different colors for the blood in order to get past the censors
Raimi decided to go with various different colors of liquids (including white, black, and even bright blue) for the mouths of the possessed as he thought the censor boards would be more lenient on him if it wasn’t bright red blood. However, the color of the liquid didn’t matter to them as much as all the bodily fluids spraying out of orifices.
11. Raimi also got creative when it came to making the actors cry
Rather than using actual eye drops, the decision was made to use onions in order to get actress Betsy Baker to cry. Tapert claimed onions were simply cheaper than Visine as there were such tight budget constraints.
Betsy Baker in The Evil Dead
12. Raimi created his own camera technique
Being on such a tight budget meant that Raimi couldn’t afford Steadicam. So, he had to get creative once again. The director opted to use the “shaky cam” technique, which gave The Evil Dead its unique look. A couple of different rigs were built to produce creative movements including the shaky cam, the ram-o-cam, and the vas-o-cam.
One of the famous scenes in the film that utilises the shaky cam technique
13. Raimi sought help from one of the Coen brothers when it came to editing
After the extensive filming process, Raimi had a “mountain of footage” to work with. He decided to use a Detroit editing association, which is where he met Edna Paul who helped him with editing. Paul’s assistant was Joel Coen of the Coen brothers, who helped out too. Paul edited the majority of the film, although Coen edited the shed sequence.
14. Dead chickens were used to create the unique sounds of flesh
As several sounds were unfortunately not recorded properly during shooting, the effects had to be redone in the editing rooms. Dead chickens were stabbed to replicate the sounds of mutilated flesh, and Campbell had to scream into a microphone for several hours.
15. Raimi hired ambulances to be outside the cinema on the night of the film’s premier
Raimi opted to have the most outlandish theatrical premiere possible. Tricks and stunts were used, such as custom tickets and wind tracks set in the theater, and ordering ambulances outside the cinema in order to build atmosphere. The premiere setup was inspired by horror director William Castle, who would often attempt to scare his audiences by using similar gimmicks.
16. People could get free tickets to watch the film if they gave blood.
At the premiere screenings of the Evil Dead, blood donor stations were giving free tickets to the movie along with pin badges stating, ‘I bled for the Evil Dead’ for those who donated blood. Robert Tapert joked in an interview that it was, “their way of giving blood back to the community” after so much (fake) blood was used when filming.
17. Raimi changed the title of the film based on the advice of legendary producer Irvin Shapiro
Upon first viewing the film, Irvin Shaprio joked that while the film, “wasn’t Gone with the Wind”, it had commercial potential, and he expressed an interest in distributing it. It was his idea not to use the title Book of the Dead, because he thought it made the film sound boring and that teenagers wouldn’t go see a film with the word ‘book’ in the title. Raimi eventually went with The Evil Dead, deeming it the, “least worst” title.
18. The film was screened at Cannes Film Festival
Shapiro was a founder of the Cannes Film Festival, and allowed Raimi to screen the film at the 1982 festival, out of competition, which is how the film caught the attention of a certain horror novelist.
19. Stephen King became an advocate for the film
Stephen King was present at that screening during the Cannes Film Festival and gave the film a rave review. USA Today released an article about King’s favorite horror films; the author cited The Evil Dead as his fifth favorite film of the genre. He became one of the film’s largest supporters during the early efforts to find a distributor, eventually describing it as, “the most ferociously original film of the year”. His quote ended up being used in the film’s promotional pieces.
Stephen King’s review of The Evil Dead
20. It took a long time for the film’s ‘ban’ to be released in Germany
In Germany, the film was released in theaters and on video the same day in an attempt to get around the German censorship boards. However, despite dominating the top ten in the few weeks of its release, it still got banned due to its graphic content. Eventually the ban was lifted in July 2016, after Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s lawyers convinced three German courts to revise decisions on at least five different movie bans.
21. The film was labeled a ‘Video Nasty’ in the U.K.
The Evil Dead was the film that 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.
22. Raimi’s infamous Oldsmobile Delta 88 made an appearance in the film as well
Over his years as a director, Raimi’s 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 (originally bought by Raimi’s father for the family when Sam was 14) has been Ash’s car in the Evil Dead movies. The vehicle has also been used as Uncle Ben and Aunt May’s car in the Spider-Man movies, as well as Annie’s car in The Gift (2000), and Mrs. Ganoush’s car in Drag Me to Hell (2009), and has made cameos in nearly all of his other movies.
Compilation of Sam Raimi’s Oldsmobile in several of his movies
23. Raimi made a special homage to legendary horror film director Wes Craven
The Hills Have Eyes (1977) poster which can be seen in The Evil Dead was the director’s tribute to the ripped Jaws (1975) poster which can be seen in Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes. Craven was so honored that he made sure to repay the homage by having the character Nancy watch The Evil Dead in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Touched by this, Raimi responded by hanging a Freddy glove about the tool shed door in Evil Dead II (1987).
24. Marshmallows were used to create the infamous melting corpse.
Makeup/effects supervisor Tom Sullivan got really creative once again, and tried using marshmallows to oatmeal to actual, mashed-up cockroaches to achieve the desired effect.
25. What ever happened to that cabin?
For years after filming had wrapped there was a rumour that went around that the cabin was struck by lightning and destroyed. However, it has been revealed that Raimi had the cabin burned following the wrap of principal photography. All that remains in the spot today, is the crumbling fireplace and part of the chimney.
So, there you have it – the making of The Evil Dead, by way of 25 spine-tingling facts. For more great content, visit our features page, or check out our podcast.