A brief history of ‘Evil Dead’

Evil Dead
via New Line Cinema

Originally a proof of concept known as Within the Woods, Sam Raimi secured funding for his film The Evil Dead from family, friends, and anyone who could pitch in. The production cost for The Evil Dead was $375,000 according to Raimi years later. 

Raimi’s debut feature film was heavily boosted by this aura of anticipation and discussion. Famed horror writer Stephen King gave the flick a glowing review, calling it the “most ferociously original horror film of 1982.”

After the success and critical acclaim The Evil Dead received, Raimi began work on a sequel. The sequel had a marked change in tone and leaned more into comedy and humorous levels of blood and gore. Evil Dead II is weirdly a remake of sorts to the original film. This can be chalked up to a series of decisions around the making of the sequel. 

Sam Raimi originally pictured the sequel being about time travel and set in the Middle Ages, but executive producers were not keen on the idea. They preferred staying closer to the roots of the original, with the classic cabin-in-the-woods style story.

evil dead 2

Understanding how Evil Dead II works in the trilogy’s timeline is confusing. It’s meant to follow up on the original film but it either retcons the amount of people originally at the cabin or this is a completely separate film that has nothing to do with that one. 

In the original script, the movie would open up with footage from the last film with all five characters from The Evil Dead, but to save time and money, this was scrapped. Instead, it just opens with Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) on a romantic trip away to a dilapidated cabin in the middle of the woods. Ash plays an audiotape of a narration of the Necronomicon and the chaos unfolds as the deadites come to kill him and possess his girlfriend. 

If The Evil Dead was a darkly comedic-at-times horror movie, Evil Dead II is just straight-up horror comedy. Gags aplenty around blood and gore, witty one-liners, and a knowing wink-and-nod to the audience. 

Ash loses his hand in this movie and adorns himself with a chainsaw for a hand and a sawed-off shotgun on his back. Ash becomes the classic action hero in Evil Dead II, and it’s a role perfect for Bruce Campbell who has starred in over 100 roles across television, film, and video games. 

The film ends with Ash transported back to medieval times with his car, shotgun, and chainsaw hand. 

Released in 1992, Army of Darkness is an insane movie to read about and not watch. It’s very comedic and nearly completely ditches horror to go for action. Originally titled Medieval Dead before producer Irvin Shapiro suggested Army of Darkness, which was a name that flew about as a potential subtitle to Evil Dead II.

Army of Darkness has enjoyed a cult following since and has contributed to pop culture in ways you probably didn’t realize. Ever seen that GIF of the skeleton playing a bone flute? That’s from Army of Darkness. If you see any GIF of a skeleton playing an instrument, it’s most likely from here.

“Angry dooting” as known by the internet

20 years after Army of Darkness, a TV series was in development at Starz. In 2015, Bruce Campbell returned to the role that made him famous in Ash vs. Evil Dead. The series is a direct continuation of the Evil Dead trilogy. 

The series received critical acclaim, with praise for Bruce Campbell’s performance, unsurprisingly. After three seasons, Ash vs Evil Dead was cancelled by Starz in 2018. 

There’s been an attempt at a modern remake of The Evil Dead, with a 2013 released movie called Evil Dead directed by Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breathe). The remake received middling reviews, with the tone headed more towards gorey, straight horror than for comedy.

A sequel to the 2013 remake, Evil Dead Rise, is in post-production. The follow-up features Alvarez as director again, with Campbell and Raimi serving as executive producers. Evil Dead Rise is scheduled for a 2022 release and will star Alyssa Sutherland and Lilly Sullivan.

Which Evil Dead film is your favorite? Sound off below!