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 and only the fireplace is still intact.
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.
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.
Bruce Campbell twisted his ankle on a root while running down a steep hill, and Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert decided to tease him by poking his injury with sticks, thus causing Campbell to have an obvious limp in some scenes.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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. Raimi was so grateful for his financial contribution, he credited him as Co-Producer.
In Germany, the film was released in 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 its release. Only in July 2016, the ban was lifted. To do this, law firm Baker & McKenzie, on behalf of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, had to get three courts to revise decisions on at least five different bans. While it is not the first that a movie banishment in Germany was revoked, it is the first time for Sony to show an interest in achieving this.
The cabin used as the film's set was also used as lodging for the thirteen crew members, with several people sleeping in the same room. Living conditions were terrible, and the crew frequently argued. The actors went days without showering or bathing (the cabin did not have plumbing), and fell ill frequently in the freezing weather. Things got so bad that, by the end of production, they were burning furniture to stay warm.
When Cheryl returns to the cabin, (right after the scene with the vines where she complains about wanting to go home) 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 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.
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. This version was seized by German authorities less than a year later, though. It was not until July 2016 that the uncut version of the movie was finally redeemed and made legally available in Germany again.
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 Rob Tapert who play the fishermen that wave to the car as it passes them near the start of the film.
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.
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.
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, Rob 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.
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.
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!"
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. 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's first cut ran at around 117 minutes, which Bruce Campbell called an impressive achievement in light of the 65-minute length of the screenplay. It was then edited down to a more marketable 85 minutes. The original version would focus on the terror that is present, but also the tragedy of Ash slowly losing his friends, and his guilt for not being able to save them.
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' to blood donors. Robert Tapert joked in an interview that is was 'their way of giving blood back to the community' after so much (fake) blood was used when filming.
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.
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.
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 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).
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.
Sam Raimi chose a Detroit editing association, where he met Edna Ruth Paul, to cut the film. Paul's assistant was Joel Coen, who helped with the film's editing. Paul edited a majority of the film, although Coen notably edited the shed sequence. Coen had been inspired by Raimi's Within the Woods (1978) and liked the idea of producing a prototype film to help build the interest of investors. Joel used the concept to help make Blood Simple (1984) with his brother Ethan Coen, and he and Raimi became friends following the editing process.
Sam Raimi showed the film to anyone willing to watch it, booking meetings with distribution agents and anyone with experience in the film industry. Eventually Raimi came across Irvin Shapiro, the man who was responsible for the distribution of Night of the Living Dead (1968) and other famous horror films. Upon first viewing the film, he joked that while it "wasn't Gone with the Wind (1939)", it had commercial potential, and he expressed an interest in distributing it. It was his idea not to use the then-title Book of the Dead, because it made the film sound boring. Raimi brainstormed several ideas, eventually going with The Evil Dead, deemed the "least worst" title. Shapiro also advised distributing the film worldwide to garner a larger income, though it required a further financial investment by Raimi, who managed to scrape together what little money he had.
"The Evil Dead" 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", making it the most expensive motion picture produced at that time.
Because of the low budget, contact lenses as thick as glass had to be applied to the actors to achieve the "demonic eyes" effect. The lenses took ten minutes to apply, and could only be left on for about fifteen minutes because eyes could not "breathe" with them applied. Bruce Campbell later commented that to get the effect of wearing these lenses, they had to put "Tupperware" over their eyes.
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.
On January 23, 1980, filming was finished and almost every crew member left the set to return home, with Bruce Campbell staying with Sam Raimi. While looking over the footage that had been shot, Raimi discovered that a few pick-ups were required to fill in missing shots. Four days of re-shoots were then done to complete the film. The final moment involved Campbell having "monster-guts" splattered on him in the basement.
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.
Irvin Shapiro, the film's producer, was the one who helped sell the film and its 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 have been sold was through brochures (in multiple languages), press kits, etc. Once this was done, the film eventually found a distributor.
Sam Raimi developed a sense of mise en scène, coming up with ideas for scenes at a fast rate. He had drawn several crude illustrations to help him break down the flow of scenes. The crew was surprised when Raimi began using dutch angles during shots to build atmosphere during scenes.
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.
The "Necronomicon ex Mortis" is a reference to the "Necronomicon," a fictitious grimoire (textbook of magic) found in H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, first mentioned by name in his 1924 short story "The Hound," though its "author," the "Mad Arab" Abdul Alhazred, had been quoted in 1921's "The Nameless City."
To accommodate Sam Raimi's style of direction, several elaborate, low-budget rigs had to be built, since the crew could not afford a camera dolly. One involved the "vas-o-cam", which relied on a mounted camera that was slid down long wood platforms to create a more fluid sense of motion.
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.
During scenes involving the unseen force in the woods watching the characters, Sam Raimi had to run through the woods with the makeshift rig, jumping over logs and stones. This often proved difficult due to mist in the swamp.
Shots of the moon had to be "matted" into the night scenes. You can see an outline of a square around the moon matte in the footage. In his glowing review of The Evil Dead, Stephen King specifically cited the matted moon footage as being part of the film's low-budget "charm."
Despite its controversy and many technical goofs, this is considered to be one of the greatest horror films of all time. Many fans claim it is due to its amount of gore and execution of terror, while critics claim it is due to it's constant reliance on visual storytelling and gripping performances.
Bruce Campbell received numerous injuries during the making on the film. A noticeable one caught on film is in the scene where a possessed Cheryl's hand bursts through the cabin floor to seize Ash by the face. A trickle of Campbell's actual blood runs down his head as the actor was gashed in the head by the puppeteer in the floor who blindly grabbed for Campbell.
This was an early breakthrough for UK producer and distributor Stephen Woolley and his company, Palace Pictures. Previously his company was synonymous with making foreign language films like Fitzcarraldo (1982) more widely available in the UK. "The Evil Dead" signified a more commercial direction for the company, compounded by the fact that it was simultaneously released in cinemas and on VHS - a major first in film distribution in the United Kingdom.
The eerie howling wind audio heard in the background of much of the film wasn't stock sound effects. Raimi recorded this audio himself while staying in a hotel during filming. One evening Raimi awoke to hear the wind blowing through the mountains creating a haunting sound. Raimi quickly got his sound equipment and recorded several minutes of it. Sam Raimi said that the audio was so effectively creepy that he'd recognized it used in several other films since The Evil Dead's release.
For years after the completion of the film it was rumored that the cabin was struck by lightning and burned. However, in recent years it has been revealed that Sam Raimi had the cabin burned following the wrap of principle photography on Evil Dead. The crumbling fireplace and part of the chimney are all that remains of the cabin today.
While scouting on location, Bruce Campbell's brother Don Campbell took a nasty fall off of a cliff. He was treated for injuries at the hospital in Morristown, Tennessee and released the same day. The bill was 15 dollars.
The crew initially attempted to shoot the film in Sam Raimi's hometown of Royal Oak, Michigan, but instead chose Morristown, Tennessee, as Tennessee was the only state that expressed enthusiasm for the project. T
Some footage had to be shot or reshot after the initial location shooting in Tennessee. Because of this actor Richard DeManincor has a noticeably shorter hair style and a slightly different plaid shirt at times. This is most noticeable in the brief scene where Scotty tell Ash he's fleeing the cabin without Linda.
In the actual cabin they were shooting in there was no basement so when ash is going down a basement he's going down a different basement. During the scene where you can see him walk upstairs through the holes in the stairs, you can see walls next to him.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
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.
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. They then added a scene where a decapitated Linda tries to rape Ash near the end of the film to even the potential controversy.
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 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.
Ash was intended to die at the end when the surviving demon attacks him. This was later changed when Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell returned to make Evil Dead II (1987). They both stated they made this film to be recognized by studios, and to help them get a career in film. They sold the distribution rights of the film to New Line Cinema for an incredibly low price, because they felt there was no need for a sequel. However, they were able to do so, because they claim to have neglected to sell the rights to the storyline and characters.
During the premiere of Ash vs Evil Dead (2015), Bruce Campbell claimed that the final shot in this film where Ash is attacked by a surviving demon was achieved by mounting a camera on a tripod, then mounting that tripod on a motorcycle and driving it through the forest, through the cabin, and deliberately into Campbell. He also claimed to have broken some ribs because of this.
Some critics have called the "tree raping" scene where Cheryl is raped by possessed weeds to be misogynistic, and even Sam Raimi regrets putting it in the film. Bruce Campbell admitted to regretting the scene where he repeatedly and violently slaps Linda.
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.