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.
At the end of principal shooting in Tennessee, the crew put together a little time capsule package 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.
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.
During the scene where Ash is about to cut up his girlfriend with a chainsaw, Bruce Campbell actually had to use a real chainsaw and hold it up to the actress's chest. You can see on the close-up of Linda's neck (looking at the necklace) that her pulse is racing.
On the tape in which the demon resurrection passages are read aloud, some of the words spoken (which appear to be Latin) sound like, "Sam and Rob, Das ist Hikers Dan dee Roadsa," which means, "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.
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."
Joel Coen was an assistant editor on the film. This was one his earliest professional jobs. He and his brother Ethan Coen would produce and make the film Blood Simple. (1984) 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, which proved successful.
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 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 (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.
The film was shown to Stephen King, and it was his glowing endorsement (which was later used on the film's ads and posters) of the film which really sold it to the public. The film was bought by New Line Cinema soon after.
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.
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 this 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.
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.
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). Additionally, no one will give out complete directions to the cabin because the only remaining part of the structure is the brick chimney, and too many people have already vandalized the property.
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.
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 the possessed aren't normal beings but also to mix it up so the MPAA wouldn't give the film an X rating. Ultimately the film was released unrated.
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.
During the scene where Linda is possessed, the make-up artist originally 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.
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 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.
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!"
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bruce Campbell actually twisted his ankle on a root of a tree and was in pain when Sam Raimi and Robert G. Tapert thought Campbell was fooling around. They started to poke at the ankle to the point that it made Campbell laugh, despite the pain. Raimi told him to "stop fooling around and get ready for the next shot." Campbell painfully obliged.
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, as well as in post production.
Betsy Baker (Linda) revealed in an interview that she was told the producers were interested in her to star in a horror movie. She only agreed to meet them in a public restaurant, however, because she was genuinely suspicious about the filmmakers.
Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell are drawing up plans for a remake of The Evil Dead (1981). They released a statement saying: "We are committed to making this movie and inspired by the enduring popularity and enthusiasm for the "Evil Dead" series. We can't wait to scare a new generation of moviegoers using filmmaking techniques that weren't available to us 30 years ago, as well as bring a fresh eye to the film's original elements."
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 Evil Dead (1981) was made on an estimated $350,000 budget. When Sam Raimi later made Spider-Man 3 (2007), it was filmed on a $350,000,000 budget, 1000 times the cost of The Evil Dead (1981), making it the most expensive motion picture produced at that time.
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! (1977).
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 and 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.
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.
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.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
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 Scott's jeans and blood begins to flow. Many have believed that Ash was yanking out a "reproductive organ" based on its shape and position. However, what Ash pulled out was a small branch gouged into Scott's leg after he was beaten savagely by the trees.