Robert G. Tapert
Special and Visual Effects by
Edna Ruth Paul
Spherical (mm/video inches)
Printed Film Format
1.85 : 1 (director specified)
1.37 : 1
1 hr 25 min (85 min)
1 hr 10 min (70 min) (FSK 16) (Germany)
1 hr 36 min (96 min) (Extended Version)
Marshall MI, Detroit, MI
Evil Dead took over three grueling months to shoot. Evil Dead is the goriest of the entire Evil Dead Trilogy (besides Within the Woods) with the many depictions of body dismemberment courtesy of special effects wizards Tom Sullivan and Bart Pierce. Evil Dead was highly successful both critically and financially and earned a total of $2,400,000 in the US and $27,000,000 internationally. Stephen King hailed Evil Dead as “The Ultimate Experience in Grueling Terror.” It introduced the world to up-and-coming director Sam Raimi and made Bruce Campbell into a cult hero.
Sam Raimi himself was never really into horror movies, the was actually terrified by them as he says. Fortunately his college buddy Scott Spiegal who loved horror films got Sam into them. After making the short film It’s Murder Sam and his friends Bruce Campbell, Scott Spiegal, and Robert thought to themselves they could make a full length movie. In the fall of 1978 they got the idea of making a horror film. They started researching and watching horror movies. They were encouraged by the biggest low-budget hits like Night of the Living Dead, Last House on the left and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Sam Raimi decided to base the film around the Necronomicon Ex Mortis a.k.a Book of the Dead. Sam was inspired by his college history class and reading H.P. Lovecraft. Thus originally calling the film Book of the Dead which later was changed to The Evil Dead.
In order to get funding for Evil Dead Sam Raimi and crew went around hustling family, friends, doctors, lawyers etc. for money. They shot the a short horror film Within the Woods to show potential investors. Their goal was to raise $90,000 to shoot the film. In the end after securing investors and figuring production costs, the film ended up costing between $350,000 and $400,000 to make.
Cast & Crew
Recruiting cast and crew was the next step. Sam was to direct while Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell were producers. Bruce also starred in the movie. They asked Ellen Sandweiss who had worked with them on various Super-8 films including Within the Woods to play Cheryl. They had an open casting call for the other characters. Teresa Seyferth (later changed to Tilly and Sarah York get around SAG) was cast as Shelly. Rich DeManincor (Hal Delrich), a prefessional diver and actor was cast as Scotty. Lastly Betsy Baker was cast as Linda. Tom Sullivan was asked to do special effects and makeup after working with them on It’s Murder. Other crew included Tim Philo who was a photographer and experienced with shooting 16mm film, helped them do scouting as well as lighting. Josh Becker came on as a production assistant as well as lighting. Check out IMDB for the complete list of cast and crew.
Sam Raimi and crew originally wanted to shoot in Michigan but winter was soon approaching. So they took a trip down south to scope out some locations. They ended up chosing Tennessee because they believed since it was further south it would be warmer as well as rolling wooded hills and isolated cabins they could shoot at. The crew arrived on November 11th, 1979. They were able to locate a cabin with the help of the Tennessee Film Commission, but later found out the cabin was no longer available. The owners apparently got cold feet and pulled out. The crew were lucky to find a local guy named Gary Holt who helped them locate living quarters and another cabin on November 13th for the shoot. Gary Holt was later credited as assistant producer on Evil Dead for his help finding them a location as well as getting them publicity for the film.
When the crew arrived at the location of the cabin they discovered the cabin was overgrown and had 4-inch layer of cow manure all over the floors. The cabin had low ceilings and virtually no doors, no electricity, or running water. The cabin didn’t even have a real cellar. They found out from the Tennesee Film Commisson that the cabin dated back to the Civil War era and the builder of the cabin was struck dead by lightning right before laying the last brick of the chimnney. Apparently the location of the cabin was in the center of a valley surrounded by iron ore thus drawling a lot of lightening to the area. So the first few days were spent digging out the cow manure, ripping out the ceiling, repainting walls, and running electricity throughout the cabin as well installed a telephone. They found a local man named Steve Frankel (nicknamed Dart) to help them. Dart could build anything. He helped them trim the front part of the cabin as well as build wood furniture for the set. He also helped them build a make-shift cellar. Dart dug a 6ft hole with a trapdoor and wooden stairs leading down. The rest of cellar scenes were shot at Tapert farmhouse back in Michigan.
The first day of actual filming began on Wednesday, November 14th, shooting the bridge scenes. They got permission from the Tennessee transportation department to use an unused bridge 15 miles away from the cabin. They used It’s Murder beams (light plastic beams originally used in It’s Murder) underneath the bridge rigged with some tripline allowing Delta 88 to drop the beams to cross the bridge. They also dismantled the bridge and curled up the beams in the shape of a giant hand used during the bridge hand scene. Shooting at the cabin soon began afterwards.
Production roles were shared by everyone. Everyone lent a hand with whatever needed to be done. Shooting was done mostly at night from 6:30 PM till dawn. Sam Raimi illustrated stick-figure storyboards everyday and posted them on the fridge at the production house. He rarely stuck completely to his storyboard while shooting scenes. Sam broke his shots down into a series of often long complicated lengthy shots, using only what he needed. While the crew was impressed everyone with his visual style, his methods often created a lot tension between the cast and crew. A lot of Raimi’s complicated shots normally would required special expensive equipment, equipment they did not have. So Sam and Tim Philo came up with the idea of the ‘Shakey Cam’ or ‘Sam-O-Cam’ in which they used a camera mounted on a 2×4 piece of would held by two people, one on each side to stabalize the camera. They used it shoot xover obstacles such as the pond in the beginning as well as the scenes zomming through the forest. They also came up with another rig called the ‘Vas-O-Cam’ which allowed them to shoot scenes without a dally. Special effects for Evil Dead were handled by Tom Sullivan and along with Bart Pierce.
Winter soon approached. The muddy road road to the cabin was frozen over making it impossible to reach by car. They had to carry all their equipment on foot a quarter of mile. That year ironically was the coldest Tenessee winter experienced in decades, and the warmest in Michigan. The cold weather was taking its toll on the filming as well as the cabin. The cabin was slowly falling apart. Tom Sullivan’s karo syrup blood concoction made the floor extremely sticky. They had to spread ash on the floor to make it not stick. The cast and crew originally agreed to stay six weeks for the shooting, but it quickly turned in eight weeks. Many had to leave and return to their lives in Michigan. Soon it was only Sam, Bruce, Rob, Josh, and a few others left behind. Some material and scenes from the script were dropped or re-written. Some of the remaining crew had to dress up as characters to replace actors who left to finish some scenes. From this the term fake shemps were born, coined by Sam Raimi who was a big fan of the Three Stooges. They were also evicted from their production house which was turned into a brothel. They had no choice but to move into the cabin. The remaining production began to blur with 18-20 hour days, until the shooting was completed. They left Tennessee on January 27th, 1980 with 90% of the film completed. They return to Michigan where they would finish shoot the rest of the film.