The Evil Dead is widely known around the world, but not everyone knows about what it took to create this beloved franchise and who the people behind the movies are.
Who are Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell?
Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell met at Wylie E. Groves High School in Michigan. They quickly became close friends and collaborators. Bruce Campbell is known for his iconic role as the Boomstick Butcher With The Chainsaw Hand, Ash Williams. Sam Raimi is most known for creating the three Spider-Man films starring Tobey Maguire as the web-slinger. But before they found success, they stuck to making skits for fun and as a passion to show off their love for movies.
How did The Evil Dead come to be?
Before The Evil Dead was made, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, along with other friends of theirs, made a short film called Within The Woods. This 32 minute film was made in order to get funding for The Evil Dead. The short film was shown in drive-in theaters. Other sources of money came from family members, doctors, and friends and the budget ended up being $375k- which is very low for a film production.
Before filming began, Sam and company wanted to name the film, The Book Of The Dead, but Irvin Shapiro said the name was too boring and that people wouldn’t be interested in watching the film based on the name alone, so he changed it to the now iconic The Evil Dead. With everything being set in motion and the cast and crew ready to go, filming for The Evil Dead began and they had no idea what they were in for.
The Painful Production
The movie began filming in 1979 and was released in 1981. When production began, the cast and crew had nowhere to sleep, except for the cabin the movie was being filmed in. Cast and crew reported that they got so cold at night that they burned the furniture in the cabin after finishing a scene.
Cast members such as Ellen Sandweiss, the actress who plays Cheryl Williams, reported that when she finished her scenes in the trees, she sustained many cuts and bruises from the branches. Another story comes from Bruce Campbell himself, he said that he sustained a bruise on his leg after recording a scene in the woods and Sam Raimi kept poking it aggressively with a stick so he can pour his pain into his performance.
Sticking to the budget was another major issue Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Rob Tapert (who was another producer on board) had to contend with. Actors would only make $100 a week and production assistants made $50 a week. The actors who played Deadites in the film (humans who have been possessed by a Kandarian Demon) said the contacts used for the film were super uncomfortable to wear and they were very hard to see out of, and they could only stay in for 15 minutes to avoid any possible damage to the eyes. The makeup was also not properly tested before so it was unsure if it would be safe and an actress lost an eyelash as a result of that. Safety was the very last thing in mind for Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell. The karo corn syrup that was used for blood invited mosquitos, and when December rolled around, equipment would actually freeze. One time Bruce’s shirt was covered in karo corn syrup and a sleeve broke off like a piece of candy.
After a painfully long and miserable production, it all seemed worth it when the movie was released and instantly became a hit. The movie terrified audiences and even got praise from the famous horror author Stephen King himself! The movie also made the list for Video Nasties in the U.K., resulting in the movie’s ban there because of how gruesome it was. It also ended up making a whopping $29.4 million in the box office. The success of this film jump-started the careers of Campbell and Raimi and it began an entire franchise that is still alive to this day. In an interview, it was said by Campbell that he would return to his role as Ash Williams if Sam Raimi were to direct another Evil Dead film.
As of now Evil Dead Rise has grossed over $100 million- safe to say this franchise is going absolutely nowhere but a theater near you.
What have Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell done since with the Evil Dead franchise?
Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s career had officially started with this film and they went on to make two more films starring Bruce Campbell in the Evil Dead franchise: Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn and Army Of Darkness, along with a STARZ Original television show titled, Ash Vs Evil Dead, which aired for three seasons. The show was unfortunately canceled due to low viewership and it being the most illegally watched show of all time. Bruce also voiced Ash Williams in a number of games including Evil Dead: The Game (2022), Evil Dead: A Fistful Of Boomstick (2003), and Evil Dead: Regeneration (2005). Both Sam and Bruce were producers and overviewed the production and creation of Evil Dead Rise in order to make sure the movie felt like an Evil Dead film and that it wouldn’t stray off too much from the source material.
What have they done outside the Evil Dead franchise?
Bruce went on to have roles in movies such as Xena: Warrior Princess, Maniac Cop, Sky High, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, and he also appeared as a cameo in all tree of Raimi’s Spider-Man films.
Sam went on to direct and create films such as: Darkman, Drag Me To Hell, Oz The Great And Powerful, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, and of course, the Spider Man films with Tobey Maguire.
These two have created a legacy in the film industry and cemented themselves as some of the greats, sharing a message stating that anything is possible.