The Evil Dead is a horror classic that I’ve come to appreciate on several different levels. I have a personal connection to The Evil Dead; it was filmed about 45 minutes from my hometown. The infamous cabin that served as both shelter for the crew and filming location is no longer standing. The site is private property, but according to this article on Roadtrippers.com, you might be able to visit with the owner’s permission. If you want to get a feel for how the site looks today, Atlas Obscura provides some shots of the site as it is now.
The first time I saw the film, I had a strange sense of Deja Vu–“Hey, I recognize those mountains. Gosh, those roads look familiar…” I had been told of the film’s shooting location when my best friend introduced me to Evil Dead 2 when we were in college (yes, I saw 2 first), but had totally forgotten that information until the visual cues reminded me. That personal connection makes The Evil Dead much more interesting to me to watch and one of the reasons I picked it for this week’s #WayBackWednesday. Check out the trailer and we’ll get started.
If you’ve not seen it, The Evil Dead tells the story of a group of friends who want to have a nice weekend away in a rustic mountain cabin. While exploring the cabin, they stumble across a reel-to-reel recording and a mysterious looking book. The recording reveals a dark secret and the history of the book, which unleashes a horrific evil on the group.
While I’m not the biggest fan of splatter movies, The Evil Dead series is an exception for me. While Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness lean hard into the horror-comedy genre, The Evil Dead is a straight-up horror film. While by today’s standards, the gore and zombie effects are cheesy and even comical, The Evil Dead actually struggled to find an audience in its original release because of the violence. Several international markets refused to carry it without heavy edits and others refused to show the film at all. Despite this, the film grossed $2.7 million in the US and $29.4 million worldwide. That’s not bad for a film with a $350,000 budget.
While The Evil Dead gets its cult status for its gore, I think its camera work is actually more interesting and impressive. I especially love the shots of the evil moving towards our unsuspecting heroes. They achieved those shots by mounting the camera on a 2×4 and having a person on either side of the camera (usually director Sam Raimi and lead Bruce Campbell), running towards the subject.
The Evil Dead is written and directed by Sam Raimi. Raimi is probably best known to modern audiences for directing the Tobey Maguire Spider-man films, but it was The Evil Dead that really put him on the map. The Evil Dead stars horror icon Bruce Campbell as Ashley “Ash” J. Williams. This is the film that gave him his horror icon status. The film also features Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManicor, Betsy Baker, and Theresa Tilly.
One thing that I find fascinating about The Evil Dead is how it became a touchstone for the horror genre. Not only did The Evil Dead successfully form its own franchise, but you can easily see its influence in visual cues in other films. While there are many films I could enumerate here as examples, I think the most notable for readers of Fangirlish would be Stranger Things. The Byers’ house is quite similar in aesthetic to the cabin in The Evil Dead films. If that wasn’t clear enough, Jonathan Byers even has an Evil Dead poster in his room, which would have made him quite avant-garde for his time. These details are a simple, yet effective homage to The Evil Dead.
Is your life lacking in Karo syrup, non-dairy creamer, and red food coloring? Need some more zombies this Halloween? Want to cross another cult classic off your list? Check out The Evil Dead.
The Evil Dead is streaming now on Netflix.