The Evil Dead (1983)

90 mins | Horror | 5 February 1983

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HISTORY

       According to the May 1983 issue of Fangoria, filmmakers Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert, as well as executive producer-actor Bruce Campbell, began making predominantly comedic, short motion pictures with Super 8mm cameras while attending college at Michigan State University (MSU). The men teamed with special effects makeup artist Tom Sullivan, who was married to a fellow MSU student; Sullivan learned through a campus newspaper about Raimi and Tapert’s MSU Society of Creative Filmmaking. At that time, Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell had formed Renaissance Productions and were developing their first feature film with the working title The Book of the Dead. The filmmakers produced a short, 8mm “pilot film” called Within the Woods to attract investors. The short starred Bruce Campbell and followed the same plot as The Book of the Dead, which was later retitled The Evil Dead.
       Financing was secured “many months” after the pilot’s completion and photographic special effects artist Bart Pierce joined the team based on a recommendation from Tim Philo, who was credited with photography and lighting of both Within the Woods and The Evil Dead. Pierce had five years’ experience working in a film laboratory, and he was initially hired as a consultant. He recommended best practices for shooting 16mm in order to guarantee optimal results when blowing up the film to 35mm for theatrical release. When filming began in TN, however, only one prop, the “sacrificial knife bedecked with miniature skulls,” was finished in time for the first day of principal photography. An early version of the Book ... More Less

       According to the May 1983 issue of Fangoria, filmmakers Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert, as well as executive producer-actor Bruce Campbell, began making predominantly comedic, short motion pictures with Super 8mm cameras while attending college at Michigan State University (MSU). The men teamed with special effects makeup artist Tom Sullivan, who was married to a fellow MSU student; Sullivan learned through a campus newspaper about Raimi and Tapert’s MSU Society of Creative Filmmaking. At that time, Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell had formed Renaissance Productions and were developing their first feature film with the working title The Book of the Dead. The filmmakers produced a short, 8mm “pilot film” called Within the Woods to attract investors. The short starred Bruce Campbell and followed the same plot as The Book of the Dead, which was later retitled The Evil Dead.
       Financing was secured “many months” after the pilot’s completion and photographic special effects artist Bart Pierce joined the team based on a recommendation from Tim Philo, who was credited with photography and lighting of both Within the Woods and The Evil Dead. Pierce had five years’ experience working in a film laboratory, and he was initially hired as a consultant. He recommended best practices for shooting 16mm in order to guarantee optimal results when blowing up the film to 35mm for theatrical release. When filming began in TN, however, only one prop, the “sacrificial knife bedecked with miniature skulls,” was finished in time for the first day of principal photography. An early version of the Book of the Dead was near completion, but it was deemed too large to use during the shoot. Pierce joined the crew for three days, then ended up assisting with special effects, including the scene in which “Scott” dismembers a possessed teen.
       Plans for the film’s climactic “meltdown scene” provoked conflict between Sullivan and Pierce, with Sullivan favoring stop motion animation and Pierce favoring “the mechanical and fluid effects”; they ultimately agreed to merge both techniques. However, Raimi requested an ending that depicted even greater violence than in the rest of the picture. Pierce told Fangoria that the “meltdown” effect was created by “using a 16mm Mitchell [camera] with a matte box using hand-cut mattes… using half-frame animation… matted with live action, [so] just about every shot there went through the camera anywhere from three to seven times.” Since the individual effects reportedly required two to five days each, Pierce and Sullivan spent over three months shooting in Pierce’s home studio basement.
       According to the Nov 1982 edition of Twilight Zone and production notes in AMPAS library files, the filmmakers cut production costs by creating their own version of a Steadicam, balancing the 16mm camera on a fifteen-foot, two-by-four wood plank and naming the device a “Shaky-cam.” Two crewmembers moved the camera holding the “Shaky-cam” at either end of the plank. Photographer Tim Philo and Sam Raimi also occasionally carried the ten-pound camera in one hand to capture the action.
       The Twilight Zone article, which was written by Stephen King, championed The Evil Dead after a screening at the May 1982 Cannes Film Festival. King noted that despite receiving a standing ovation in Cannes, The Evil Dead had been neglected by U.S. distributors including Paramount Pictures, which complained about the film’s excessive violence. However, the picture had already been picked up for distribution in Hong Kong, as well as in several other foreign markets. On 10 Jan 1983, DV announced that New Line Cinema acquired distribution rights for $300,000, with a New York City opening planned for 5 Feb 1983 at fifty theaters. New Line was certain that the picture’s gory sequences would generate an X-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), so the film was released unrated and was received with critical acclaim.

      End credits conclude “with special thanks to: Simon Nuchtern, Sheila Roberts, Carol Valenti, and our loyal backers.” The following location information is also stated: "The Evil Dead, the ultimate experience in grueling horror, was filmed in Morristown, Tennessee, and in Detroit, U.S.A.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
10 Jan 1983.
---
Fangoria
May 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 1983
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
26 May 1983
p. 4.
Twilight Zone
Nov 1982
pp. 20-22.
Variety
9 Feb 1983
p. 19, 23.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
Dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Asst prod
WRITER
Wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog and lighting
2d unit lighting
Still photog
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
Negative matching
SET DECORATOR
Const supv
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus eng at
Mus eng by, Audiographics
SOUND
Supv sd ed
2d unit sd
Asst sd ed
Loc sd rec
Dial re-rec
Sd mixer
Dial ed
Post prod sd
VISUAL EFFECTS
Photographic spec eff
Opt negative
Title des
MAKEUP
Spec make up eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Transportation capt
Prod asst
DETAILS
Release Date:
5 February 1983
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 5 February 1983
Los Angeles opening: 27 May 1983
Production Date:
Filmed in Morristown, Tennessee and in Detroit, U.S.A.
Copyright Claimant:
Renaissance Pictures, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
25 January 1983
Copyright Number:
PA166069
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
90
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

A college student named Scotty drives his friends Ash, Cheryl, Shelly, and Linda to a rented cabin in the Tennessee mountains. On their way, Scotty nearly collides with an oncoming truck. Later, the group crosses a dilapidated bridge, marked “dangerous.” At the ramshackle cabin, Cheryl sketches a drawing of the living room clock, but it suddenly stops, and she is possessed to draw a strange figure. At dinner, the friends are startled when a trap door to the cellar opens on its own. Scotty volunteers to investigate and frightens his friends by not responding to their call. When Ash creeps downstairs and reunites with Scotty, the boys discover a shotgun, ammunition, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, an ancient book, and a dagger with a skull-encrusted handle. Back upstairs, the friends play the recording and hear the dictation of an archeologist; the man excavated ruins in Kandar before moving with his wife to the Tennessee woods for seclusion. At the cabin, the archeologist studied one of his Kandar discoveries, the Book of the Dead, which is made of human flesh and written in human blood. The book details the burial practices of ancient Sumerians and lists funeral incantations, which give demons permission to possess the living. Although Cheryl turns off the recording, Scotty insists on resuming the tape, which transmits deadly verses as steam rises from the ground outside. Cheryl screams, again shuts off the tape, and a tree branch smashes through the window. Ash scolds Scotty for causing trouble. Later that evening, Ash presents his girl friend, Linda, with an antique ... +


A college student named Scotty drives his friends Ash, Cheryl, Shelly, and Linda to a rented cabin in the Tennessee mountains. On their way, Scotty nearly collides with an oncoming truck. Later, the group crosses a dilapidated bridge, marked “dangerous.” At the ramshackle cabin, Cheryl sketches a drawing of the living room clock, but it suddenly stops, and she is possessed to draw a strange figure. At dinner, the friends are startled when a trap door to the cellar opens on its own. Scotty volunteers to investigate and frightens his friends by not responding to their call. When Ash creeps downstairs and reunites with Scotty, the boys discover a shotgun, ammunition, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, an ancient book, and a dagger with a skull-encrusted handle. Back upstairs, the friends play the recording and hear the dictation of an archeologist; the man excavated ruins in Kandar before moving with his wife to the Tennessee woods for seclusion. At the cabin, the archeologist studied one of his Kandar discoveries, the Book of the Dead, which is made of human flesh and written in human blood. The book details the burial practices of ancient Sumerians and lists funeral incantations, which give demons permission to possess the living. Although Cheryl turns off the recording, Scotty insists on resuming the tape, which transmits deadly verses as steam rises from the ground outside. Cheryl screams, again shuts off the tape, and a tree branch smashes through the window. Ash scolds Scotty for causing trouble. Later that evening, Ash presents his girl friend, Linda, with an antique necklace adorned with a small magnifying glass. Meanwhile, Cheryl hears a strange sound beckoning her outside and leaves the cabin to search for its origin. Trees spontaneously fall as vine-like branches wrap themselves around the girl, pinning her to the ground and raping her. She breaks free and runs through the woods, chased by an invisible demon. Escaping into the cabin, Cheryl tells her disbelieving friends that the trees are possessed and demands that her brother, Ash, drive her back to town. On the way, Ash and Cheryl discover the “dangerous” bridge has been destroyed, and they return to the cabin. There, Ash listens to the archeologist’s recording on his own, through an earpiece. The man’s voice reports that his wife has become a “host” to a Kandar demon, but the only way to destroy the possessed is to dismember their bodies. As Shelly and Linda play a card guessing game, Cheryl astonishes them by naming each card correctly, then turns toward her friends to reveal her demonic face. Suspended in mid-air, Cheryl speaks with an angry male voice, demanding to know why the youths have awakened the undead. The demon vows to possess the new inhabitants as Cheryl falls to the ground, lifeless. However, she suddenly comes to and stabs Linda’s ankle with a pencil. Cheryl then goes after her brother, Ash, but Scotty uses an ax to force her into the cellar and locks the trap door with a chain. There, Cheryl growls and Scotty promises his friends they can leave in the morning. When Shelly reluctantly goes to her bedroom, a force from outside breaks the window and she disappears. Scotty searches for her, only to discover she has also been possessed. Shelly cuts through his face with her long fingernails and falls into the fireplace, but Scotty drags her to safety. In turn, Shelly strangles Scotty, wielding the skull dagger in her other hand, but Scotty pulls a knife and cuts through her wrist. She eats her own flesh to sever the hand from her arm. Scotty stabs her in the back and she collapses, spitting white fluid. When the demon revives, Scotty hacks her to pieces with his ax, and her body parts wriggle on the ground. Scotty insists on burying Shelly, so he and Ash drag her remains into the woods. Although Scotty wants to leave the cabin immediately, Ash declares they must wait because his girl friend, Linda, is unable to walk with her ankle wound. When Ash goes to Linda’s bedside, the lesion suddenly increases in size, and she sits upright, possessed. Ash escapes her room to discover Scotty wounded and muttering a warning that they are all going to die. Ash demands to know an alternative route to town, bypassing the bridge, but Scotty says the trail is the only other way, and it is thick with possessed trees. As Linda cackles, Ash smacks her; however, when he holds the shotgun to her head, he is unable to pull the trigger. Linda’s face transforms back to normal and she begs for help. The couple then hears Cheryl’s regular voice, asking to be let out of the cellar. As Ash peers under the trap door to check on his sister, the demon grabs his neck, but he breaks free. Just then, Linda becomes repossessed and Ash drags her into the woods. He returns to the cabin for Scotty, vowing they will return to civilization when the sun rises. However, Linda slices through Ash’s arm with the demon dagger, and licks his blood from the blade. The couple fights for the weapon and Ash throws his girl friend to the ground, impaling her on the knife. To ensure that Linda is truly dead, Ash drags her to a shed and attempts to dismember her with a chainsaw, but he sees the looking glass necklace he gave her and stops. He buries her, but she exhumes herself, using her fingernails to slice through his ankles. Ash defends himself with a wood beam and decapitates her. Back in the cabin, Cheryl breaks out of the cellar. Ash returns and searches the house with a shotgun, then fires at his sister’s possessed body. In need of more ammunition, he creeps into the cellar, now flooding with blood. A gramophone and film projector spontaneously start operating then explode as Ash remembers the archeologist’s finding: the possessed can only be killed through dismemberment. Upstairs, he moves his hand toward his reflection in a mirror, only to discover a liquid surface. Screaming and terrified, he fires the shotgun through a window and retrieves Linda’s looking glass necklace from his pocket. Just then, Cheryl’s hands break through the door, and Scotty awakens, possessed. As he raises Ash into the air by his throat, Ash pokes Scotty’s eyes out. With Cheryl beating him on the back with a fire poker and Scotty eating his flesh, Ash uses Linda’s necklace to drag the Book of the Dead toward him, then throws it into the fire. The book transforms into a ghoulish face as the flesh of Cheryl and Scotty melts away. Demon hands thrust out of their stomachs, covered in blood and bile. As the sun rises, the living room clock resumes ticking. Ash leaves the cabin, clutching Linda’s necklace, but an invisible, evil force rushes through the woods and overpowers him. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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