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Featured Scary Movies and Series

Jason Voorhees, Friday the 13th and the Worship of the Female Goddess Named Mom?

Soon we celebrate Friday the 13th … again, or specifically, Friday November 13th which is our second this year! For horror fans Friday the 13th dates on the calendar mark the greatest excuse to Netflix and chill, while rewinding some of the greatest slasher movies of all time. 

When you think of the evil villain serial killer who stalks morally bankrupt camp counselors, it’s hard to believe that Jason Voorhees kept us captivated for 12 movies.  We still think that there is one more epic 13th movie left in the franchise, because that number would make sense, right? 

If you are a fan of the Friday the 13th movie franchise, and you are planning on ordering some pizza and binge watching as many movies as possible this evening, we’ve got some fun facts and lore about the storyline that you may find pretty cool. 

The Reverence of Friday the 13th in Homage to the Female Goddess (And How That Got Changed)

Throughout ancient history, both the day ‘Friday’ and the number ‘13’ were held in sacred esteem and were strongly associated with the Great Goddesses, and with the power of the feminine energy.  There are roughly 13 menstrual cycles in a year for women, and it is the number of lunar potencies (told you about the moon tonight) blood and fertility.

The number 13 was always a lucky number.  Sanctified in Ancient Israel, and the number of spiritual strength and renewal for Pre-Columbian Mayans. In the Wiccan faith, a powerful gathering of a coven is 13 members and for the ancient Egyptians, the very last phase or cycle of life on this planet ended at 12, and the afterlife began on the 13th.  The number was also representative of the Goddess Shekinah, the yin to the yang of the duality of the supreme God.  In the Islamic faith, Friday is the Sabbath.

The attribution of both Friday and the 13th day were so tied to mystical strengths and powers, that when matriarchal societies were suppressed by patriarchal morals and laws, they flipped the switch.  The day became “evil” or a day of activity but unrest, and less spiritual significance.  And the number 13? It became a superstitious magnet for misfortune and bad luck.

Was the movie Friday the 13th written to acknowledge the power and significance of the feminine Goddess, rage, and retribution? More specifically, was it a nod to Jason’s mother (who dies at the end of the first film?)

When we consider the epic history and characterization of Jason Voorhees, he ends up being a rather complex villain (for a guy who never spoke a word). One thing is clear; that big guy loved his Mom, because witnessing her death spurred another 11 movies about vengeance to restore the only woman that actually meant anything to Jason at all.  Talk about a “Mommy Dearest” complex tantamount to Norman Bates. 

https://youtu.be/G4t4g8T422g

Was the first movie ever supposed to be about Jason?  Or was it ‘taking Friday the 13th back’ for the Goddess? It’s a head scratcher… you tell us what you think. Betsy Palmer was pretty darned terrifying with her mom hair helmet, fisherman’s sweater, and incredible machete skills.  You could definitely tell she worked in the camp kitchen.

13 Fun Facts About The Friday the 13th Original Film You May Not Know

For diehard Jason Voorhees fans, we’ve dug deep and hard for some interesting facts (that everyone else isn’t sharing a blog post to celebrate today).   If you have something to add to our list, don’t forget to leave us a comment below.

  1. Frank Mancuso Jr. was the producer of the original 1978 version of ‘Halloween’ and its success was the inspiration to write and produce Friday the 13th. Both franchises grossed over $529 million dollars in box-office receipts by 2018.
  2. The highest grossing single film in the Friday the 13th series had a co-star.  A five-razor fingered co-star and an epic duel to the death (again) for both Jason Voorhees and Freddy Kreuger. Released in 2003, Freddy vs. Jason grossed $114.9 million dollars. 
  3. The 2009 remake of the original Friday the 13th was the second highest grossing film in the series, with earnings of $92.67 million dollars.
  4.  The original mask for Jason was supposed to be an umpire’s mask.  Totally less scary than a white hockey mask.  We’re glad they made the switch.
  5. The famous “ki ki ki… ma ma ma” sound effect that accompanied Jason, was composed by Harry Manfredini, to imitate a young Jason encouraging his mother to “kill kill kill, ma ma ma”.
  6. Jason racked a body count of 167 victims over the course of 12 movies. Which didn’t include Freddy Kreuger because Freddy is no one’s victim.
  7. Its cheaper budget wise if the masked killer doesn’t return for the next movie.  It’s all about keeping production costs low, so Jason Voorhees has actually been played by 13 different actors.
  8. Camp Crystal Lake was actually New Jersey Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco.  It used to sell memorabilia from the original movie, but now the most exciting thing on the website are Boy Scout Badges.  They do sell special Halloween event tours for fans and camp fundraising.
  9. The ‘Goody Two Shoes’ guy next door character Bill? He was the real-life son of Hollywood legend Bing Cosby.
  10. Filming for the movie lasted only 28 days.  Victor Miller wrote the script in two weeks.
  11. Kevin Bacon agreed to shave his armpits for the bunk murder scene.
  12. The full body count in the original movie was 11.  Including the unlucky snake.
  13. Gene Siskel (yep, Siskel and Ebert) gave Friday the 13th zero stars. Not only that, but he was a Broadway fan of Betsy Palmer, and gave the audience her personal address, and told them to write her letters in protest for the exploitation of her theater talent in the movie.

Happy Friday the 13th from all of us at Puzzle Box Horror.  If you have some fun fan facts to share, hit us up in the comment section or on social. We love it when you banter with us on horror and paranormal movie fandom.

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Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers

5 Reasons Why Horror Writers Should Guest Blog

As a horror writer, you have been self-publishing short fiction, or novels in an effort to get the attention of publishers.  Creative writers can dream of that moment when they are discovered. Much like a garage band that is signed up by a big agent for a record deal.  Then suddenly, you are catapulted into fame and insanely large residuals for your horror novels, or screenplays.

That does not even happen for garage bands anymore. Unless they appear on American Idol.  And even then, they are supported by a massive marketing machine to help the artist create a marketable brand.  In publishing, where there are no guarantees about the profitability of a horror novel, there is no golden ticket or free ride to overnight success.

Get Down With Your Marketing to Attract Paranormal and Horror Publishers

Today, publishers only sign writers who have created that marketable brand themselves.  You do not need a million-dollar budget to build a fan base, but it is a business investment and a time-consuming project.  In fact, many writers can build their base for 5-10 years, feeding their fans with self-published works before a publisher will even look at providing a contract for the writer.

Horror and paranormal novelists and screenplay writers have to build their fan base first.  They have to be their own high-powered marketing machine to demonstrate that their creative work is marketable. So basically, when you build that audience to the point where you are starting to make a little money on the side from sales of your books, or advertising on your blog or podcast, that’s when you’ll be ready to pitch publishers.

And start collecting those rejection letters.  Do not worry, Stephen King had more than thirty rejection letters for his novel “Carrie”.  He had a nail in his office that he kept adding his rejection letters to, skewering his failures, and trudging on.  When the nail could not support the letters anymore, he drove a spike into the wall, and continued collecting the rejection letters from publishers.   The point is, get ready for rejection, and remember that it is part of the process, as it has been for every famous horror writer you know.

Breaking into the business today takes organic crowdsourcing and a consistent effort to build your authorship.   So, what kind of digital marking DIY activities are actually worth spending your time and money on?

Start With Your Author Website

Believe it or not, people still read books. And when they have enjoyed an indie self-published horror novel, or collection of short horror fiction, they want to learn more about the author.  This is where a lot of writers do not take the time or effort to establish their brand persona and make it easier for readers to become fans.

Before you max out your credit card and build a complex website, understand that it is not about how ‘fancy’ your website is (or expensive).  What really matters is that the core fundamentals for branding are on your author website. 

That includes:

  • Previews or excerpts from your book(s)
  • Links to self published books or collections for sale.
  • An author bio page (bonus points for a video welcome message from you, talking about your books, character development techniques, and why you love being a horror writer.
  • A newsletter sign-up (and you actually have to send email updates to your fans monthly to keep them interested and subscribed).
  • Social media accounts, sharing your insights, your process for character and plot development.
  • A podcast (if you hate the idea of being on live videos and in front of the camera).  Some authors build a large following by reading excerpts from their books and/or providing low-cost audio downloads of their books.
  • Some Authors also do book reviews for other sites or podcasts to network.

We know what you are thinking; “wow, that’s a lot of work”.  The good news is that if you have never set up your own website or had some experience with digital marketing (blogging, social media management, etc.) there are low-cost courses you can take on Udemy.  They start at $12 per course in digital marketing, and you can learn how to create and promote your own author brand.

How Often Should I Blog?

Many writers ironically struggle to publish blog content on their own author websites. That makes no sense to anyone else but a writer.  It is easy to create fiction, and not so easy to market yourself, or talk about your accomplishments and self-published works (let alone promote them).  But you really do need to be your own talent agent to grow that coveted audience that publishers insist on before they start writing checks for your work.

Search engine optimization or SEO is really important on your author website.  The more content you add to your website, the better.  But Google and other search engines prefer high-quality content, that is longer than 1,000 words and optimized with keywords that relate to your audience.

A great software tool to use for beginners, is Yoast Premium.  The plug-in is available for WordPress websites and will give you tips on choosing the right keywords and search terms, to help your blog articles attract readers (and website traffic). 

Aim to add at least (4) new articles per month, or about one article per week.  Yep, it is work, but hey, you are a writer! It should be a walk in the park for you to talk about the things you love writing about, ideas for new characters, and share with your readers.  

Writing Articles for Other Websites? How Does That Help My Audience Grow?

If you are already thinking that writing for your own blog may be a lot of work, this next proven suggestion is going to blow your mind.  Not only do you need to write for your own website regularly, but you should be seeking opportunities to publish work on other websites too.  For free.

Guest blogging is a strategy that actually helps the contributing author.  True, your amazing horror short-fiction piece or journalistic article about lore, horror movies or book reviews or other entertainment content is going to be published on another website.  That makes them look good, to have more content!   But did you know it is also a really valuable self-branding exercise?

Here are five reasons you should consider being a guest contributor on a horror or paranormal blog:

1. It does get your name out there.  When you are choosing which blogs to contribute to, make sure you are selecting high-traffic websites.  If the blog you are submitting to is a ghost town, it is not really going to benefit you that much.  The primary advantage for guest-blogging authors, is that you get exposure to a larger potential audience of fans. 

2. You get a backlink.  This may be something you have to ask for, as a new guest-blogger and horror/paranormal author, a backlink.  The more related websites you have linking into your own personal author website, the more traffic you can expect to receive.   Usually publishers will allow you to hyperlink one work or phrase within the guest article, that clicks back to your own website.  Backlink established, and a potential open door to anyone who wants to learn more about you, after they have read your guest blog post.

3. You get a valuable callout on social media. When you contribute to another blog as a guest author, ask if the collaboration will involve sharing your article on the media outlet’s social media channels.  When you are picking the best guest writer opportunities, also take a look at how many followers the publication has on popular channels like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.  If they have a huge fanbase on social, that is a big opportunity to expose your creative writing to an even larger audience of fans.

4. It works the writer muscle and discipline.  Hands up if you have 2-4 different novels saved and archived, at different stages of development.  It is not really procrastination.  Writing is a superpower and you have to be inspired and motivated to continue the story line.  It is really about how you feel as a creative.  Sometimes, you can write two chapters in a day, other times, you are staring at the page for three hours.  

Being a regular blog contributor is like working out your hands, your brain, and your creativity on a weekly basis.  And that can help you make progress on your own creative work, by fostering regular writing habits.

5. Guest blogging is a great way to network within the genre.  You want to make sure you are collaborating with websites that gather horror and paranormal fans, since that is the genre you want to break into as a novel, short fiction, or screenplay writer.  You never know who knows someone who is looking for new authors (including connections to publishers, and big horror content buyers like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime for original series storylines).  The more you guest blog, the more you network, and that can lead to big things for horror writers.

There are some courses and master classes out there that can teach you some of the advanced techniques of building an author brand.  For most writers, those courses (while valuable learning) are pretty expensive.  You can actively build your own audience with a great website, and by writing content that people love to read, to crowdsource the fan base you will need, to successfully pitch major publishers and horror content buyers.

To learn more about collaborating with Puzzle Box Horror, and how to pitch our editorial team about a lore, horror, or paranormal non-fiction article, send us an email.  Puzzle Box Horror is a rapidly growing online community of creative writers, indie horror filmmakers and artists, and we accept guest blog content to showcase the talent of our community.

Categories
Indie horror writers

4 Pro Tips for Writing Psychological Traumatic Horror

Bloody face of a Girl

There are horror movies that you can’t wait to see. Literally, you are counting down the months and days until you can get into one of those fat leather recliners in the theater, bury yourself with an insanely sized soft drink and a bucket o’ popcorn the side of your head.  Ahhh… finally, you’re going to watch something scary AF with an 8/10 probability of you sleeping with the closet light on, tonight right?

And then it happens.  Boring happens.  More often than not, contemporary horror movies fail to resonate with true terror for the most devoted horror movie fans.  Have we become desensitized over years of screaming “RUN!” and “NO NOT THAT WAY!” at the big screen or our televisions?  Or has there been a massive movement to ‘water down’ scary novels when they are converted to screenplays, to appeal to a boarder commercial audience?

We get it.  If a movie is ‘too scary’ (personally we don’t believe there is such a thing), then a portion of the population will never see the movie.  Will never buy the oversized soda’s and overpriced popcorn and cheesy pretzels the theater. And since the average movie can cost between $20 million to more than $100 million dollars to produce, you bet the studio shareholders want something marketable.

But where does that leave true horror fans? Waiting for the very rare (but jaw droppingly terrifying) psychological horror scripts.  These movies are up to the standard for horror fans, because they leave you feel frankly traumatized after you have watched them.  And there is not beating the adrenaline rush that psychological horror films deliver.

We pay to be scared. We want to be scared.  And if you are an aspiring horror screenplay, short story or novel writer, you want to make sure you hit those valuable psychological triggers, to make your story memorable (and affectionately traumatizing) for your fans.

Write your horror to horrify the audience, with these 7 essential themes, visual tricks and audience mind games to deliver a truly frightening piece of horror.

1. Create a Safe and Loving Environment for the Characters (Then Violate It)

Have you ever noticed how some of the most classic horror movies and screenplays, do a lot of work to develop a sense of love, safety and sentimental memories?  Whether it is a family cabin, with personal history and childhood pictures everywhere, with quaint homemade touches, or a contemporary smart home with virtually every security feature possible.   When you set the stage for safety and security, you are preparing to shatter that sense of safety, with terrifying effect.

To empathize with the characters, horror writers must help the audience relate.  From the smell of “mom food” cooking in the kitchen, to the friendly family dog (sigh… why does the dog always get it in a horror movie?), you are sharing that sense we all feel in our own home. It’s our territory.  We know every square inch of our homes, and there is something sacred about your house.   Which is violated the moment a really horrible monster, serial killer, alien, or scarier yet, a malicious human comes through the doors of your personal security, to do harm to family.

Oh look… they are riding in a family car and singing along like we do.  And then, bad things happen.

2. Leverage Fear of the Unknown

In a truly psychologically terrifying movie, everything should make sense along the plot line, until things start to happen that make no sense.  The more sophisticated kind of horror plots will take the audience along a predictable story path, where they THINK they can predict the ending, and then throw a monkey wrench into the story where literally, shit hits the fan and nothing is okay anymore.

Lulling your audience into a sense of comfort with a predictable introductory storyline, is one of the best ways to shock and horrify them. Some of the most effective horror films of our time, did not actually show us the villain.  Monsters or demonic forces moving around the characters, force the audience to imagine what is lurking beyond.  And when horror writers master the fear of the unknown in a novel or screenplay, the confirmation that the threat is worse than the audience imagined, makes for truly cinematic trauma.

Not actually knowing what is coming to get the characters is scarier than any special effect monster or visual.

3. Can You Make Your Audience Hold Their Breathe? Weaponizing Suspense in Horror

Nobody likes suspense.  It makes us squirm.  We want to know what is going to happen next, and when horror writers spin scene development to gradually increase the crescendo from audience concern, to perceived threat, to confirmation of the threat in a slow agonizing way? That’s how writers can create the adrenaline rush that horror fans love.

When the audience has affiliated or created a favorably impression about the protagonists, or lead characters in the movie, they feel some affection toward them.  That’s masterful character development in any paranormal or horror story.   The audience becomes invested in the character(s) and doesn’t want to see anything bad happen to them. Even though innately, they know some really bad shit is coming for the would-be heroes.

The longer you draw out the aura of suspense in a horror scene, the more time the audience has to worry about the safety of the character.  To imagine the terrible thing that might happen to them next, and to formulate a guess about the ‘last character standing’.  Will that character survive? Will there be any survivors?  Suspense draws out that anxiety, raises the pulse of the audience, and ends up confirming their worst fears for the character.   And the audience experiences the terror of the character in the first-person, imagining what they would do in a similar situation.

Some of the movies that are premiering in Fall 2020 hold a lot of promise to return to the kind of psychological horror that fans love.  Like “Halloween Kills” which is rumored to be the last in the Michael Myers and Laurie Strode saga.  Or the much anticipated “Antlers” lore about the Wendigo.  

Do you feel like horror movies today are less scary than they used to be? We love hearing from our members. Leave us a comment and tell us which horror movie or novel remains the most psychologically traumatizing fiction you’ve ever experienced.

Categories
Featured Lifestyle Scary Movies and Series

5 Dangerous Things You Should Never Do With a Ouija Board

Ouija image

Head to any major retail store and you’ll probably find a Ouija board in the kids game section.  Next to Monopoly and Cards Against Humanity? Seriously?   Unless you are an occult practitioner or someone who has studied the paranormal, a Ouija board probably looks harmless, like any other board game.  

But talk to people who have had a creepy or downright terrifying experience misusing a Ouija board, and they’ll tell you that it is anything but. And there are a lot of stories out there that inspire some of the most bone-chilling paranormal books and horror movies.  We know many people who had the kind of experience with a Ouija board that was so bad, they will not even sit in the same room with one.  Even if it is in the box. 

The Origin of the Name and the Ouija Board Game

In the United States, spirit boards were used starting as early as the 1880’s.  There were spiritualist camps popping up all over America, but the boards were particularly popular in Ohio.  Four years later, a local businessman named Elijah Bond patented the ‘game’ and started selling it in stores.  An employee (William Fuld) named it “Ouija”.

There is a popular misconception that the word “Ouija” comes from the French and German words for ‘yes’ (Oui) and (Ja).  The origin of the name is a little more mysterious than that, but hotly disputed.  First, William Fuld indicated that the term ‘Ouija’ was derived from an Egyptian word, meaning ‘good luck’.   But this was more of a marketing thing; it helped him dispel concerns that people had about contacting the other side. 

Historians claim that Elijah Bond had a sister-in-law named Helen Peters who was a strong and renowned medium and spiritualist.  The story goes that they were using a spirit board together and they asked the spirits what they should call the board; it spelled out ‘Ouija’.  However, Helen Peters was also wearing a locket with a picture of a women’s rights activist and novelist named Ouida.  

The consensus is that the spirit saw the locket and had really bad spelling. 

After the game was patented by Elijah Bond, the sales of the classic Ouija board skyrocketed between 1920 – 1960 worldwide.  For the first twenty years, the board retailed at $150 which for the time was insanely expensive.  In 2020, that would convert to about $1,900.00 per board.   Only the rich and the elite could afford to talk to the dead.  Now you can find them for under $20.00, or at thrift shops (although we definitely do not recommend buying one used). 

There are actually over 20 different rules that occult experts identify as essential for safely using a Ouija board.  We are going to focus on the top 5 ‘what not to do’ with a spirit board.  And talk about some examples of what could happen if you do not follow the rules.   

1. Never Use a Ouija Board In Your Home 

Okay, so we know this sounds counterintuitive.  You bought the thing, and now you want to use it.  It make sense to retreat to your bedroom or maybe your kitchen table, light a candle and start using your Ouija board.  But this is actually one of the worst things you can do. 

Spiritualists and mediums, white witches and other paranormal practitioners and specialists are comfortable using a spirit board because they know how to block out spiritual influences, and malevolent beings.  You however, don’t have the experience to deal with an entity that comes through your Ouija board to make themselves comfortable in your home. 

The more personal your space is (i.e., your bedroom or your car) the easier it is for a spirit or demon to attach its energy to you.  We are pretty sure you know how that story ends, because just about every Ouija horror story and movie is based on that outcome.  So, don’t do that. 

2. Keep Talking to a Countdown Spirit 

You cannot contain the excitement when the planchette moves for the first time.  We all go through the same “Dude, you moved it” and “No man, I swear I didn’t” motions until we understand that we have actually connected with a spirit. 

But if your planchette seems to be counting down numbers, what do you do?  Say GOODBYE immediately.  Much like a nuclear bomb, the countdown on a Ouija board is a spirit who is attempting to come through the board.  And the ones that are strong enough to do that, are not always nice. In fact, they are dangerous.  Don’t keep talking through a countdown, or you may be heading to the paranormal danger zone. 

3. Dare the Entity to Show Proof (In a Rude Way)

In the movies, you know how the people using the Ouija board ask for some kind of proof that they are talking to a spirit? Something innocuous, like move the table, or make the lights flicker, or force the temperature of the room to become noticeably colder. We get it. You are excited that you finally have proof of intelligent paranormal life, and a chatty ghost.  

Asking for a few harmless signs is okay but understand that you are taking a big risk.  First of all, your average safe spirit (think Casper) does not have as much strength as a malevolent demon does.  And when you ask for a demonstration of power, you may bet more than you asked for.   And mocking a spirit is a definite no-no; it can flex and show you just how much power it has, and harm you, other occupants of the room, or start applying unwelcome influence that puts you at risk. 

4. Communicate with a Spirit Who Demonstrates the Figure 8

This is another thing that some horror movies get really wrong. The characters are sitting at a table, and the Ouija board seems to warm up, by making a figure 8 with the planchette.  Cool!  You connected right? Yeah, you did, but the figure 8 is a demonic sign that implies eternity, and more specifically, eternal torment.  So, if your planchette starts moving in a figure 8, immediately say GOODBYE.  You are talking to the ‘Dark Side of the Force”. 

5. Make Friends With a Spirit Named ‘ZoZo’

In 2009, an average joe kind of guy named Darren Evans posted a very public warning about using Ouija boards; in particular, he warned about a charming demon named ‘ZoZo’. After that announcement went viral, so did appearances of ZoZo on Ouija boards around the world.  

According to lore and testimonials from victims of ZoZo, he  begins with a figure-8 formation, and then rapidly pushes the planchette to spell “Z” “O” “Z” “O”.  The origins of the demon are thought to be Sumerian, or African, and he was referenced in the 1818 publication Le Dictionnaire Infernal (demon encyclopedia written by Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy). 

This celebrity entity likes to stay on top of the news feed, and is historically known for stalking individuals through spirit boards.  And because demons are clever, he also goes by the name ZaZa, Oz, Zo, Za and sometimes Abacus or Mama. 

He doesn’t play nice.  The internet is full of stories of possessions and terrified individuals who connected with him on Ouija boards and were not able to say “GOODBYE” no matter how hard they tried.  

One of the mysterious complications about using a Ouija board is getting rid of the thing.  You bought it (or received it as a gag gift) and used it.  You scared the crap out of yourself and now you want to get rid of it, so you can just throw it away right?  Not so easy.  The internet is also full of stories about Ouija boards sent to the trash, and mysteriously returning, with the planchette on top of the board. Even after it has been burned to ashes. 

Ponder that one, and maybe think twice before attempting to talk to the ‘other side’ unless you are one of those rare people that will actually follow every one of the safety rules.   You may not get a ‘do over’ if you mess it up. 

Categories
Featured Indie Horror Creation Indie horror film makers Scary Movies and Series

4 Cool Things You Never Knew About Sam Raimi’s Movie “The Evil Dead”

The Evil Dead Poster

The original movie “The Evil Dead” was praised as one of the best horror films by the great Stephen King.  Like many filmmakers in the early days of horror cinema, bringing “The Evil Dead” to the big screen was a bootstrap effort by a group of creative friends with big dreams (and non-existent production budget).

If you have watched “The Evil Dead” a hundred times (and still love it like we do) you will love some of the behind the scenes little known facts about how the film was created.  While today, large production companies at Netflix  and Hulu are buying up quality horror screenplays for original series or content, horror filmmakers had a tough grind in the 1970’s and early 1980’s to break into mainstream.

Here are four really cool things that horror movie fans may not know about “The Evil Dead” and how Sam Raimi made the film his launching pad to fame and fortune (with his high school buddies).

1.  The Film Was Based on a Short Film Called “Within the Woods”

In 1978, Sam Raimi released a short film that was based on an earlier piece he had written called “Clockwork”.   That piece was his original indie horror film and was only 7-minutes long, and the plot featured a violent home invasion. 

During the 1970’s, horror movies were an obscure niche that most movie production companies would not touch.  There was no real fanbase for horror or proof that a movie with a gory script would fill theater seats and be profitable.

Sam Raimi wanted to write and produce horror. But he had to show movie executives that it was a viable art form. When he produced “Within the Woods” he called on two of his friends, Bruce Campbell and Ellen Sandweiss, and the 7-minute movie was shot on a budget of $1,600 (U.S.).  Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell were best friends, attending high-school together in Michigan.

To get his proof of concept in front of moviegoers, Sam Raimi begged a local friend (who owned a movie theater) to show “Within the Woods” as a double feature with “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”.  It screened well with audiences and drew the attention of investors. This allowed Raimi to fund his first full-length horror feature, “The Evil Dead”.  The movie “Within the Woods” was bait for seed money; and it worked.  Michigan doctors and dentists were some of their biggest investors.

Fans of “The Evil Dead” series will notice the original homage to the haunted woods in this early movie.  Something Sam Raimi drew inspiration from when he wrote: “The Evil Dead” and the demonic influence inside the dark Tennessee forest surrounding the infamous isolated cabin.  Hardcore fans will also recognize many of Raimi’s signature film editing tricks shown for the first time in “Within the Woods” and his soundtrack techniques to build suspense and terror.

2.  The Cabin in Tennessee Was Actually Cursed?

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The first full-feature movie “The Evil Dead” was filmed at an abandoned cabin in Tennessee, which actually did not have a dark history until Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell did some storytelling, to support the promotion of the original movie.

Recognizing that horror fans liked a scary story based in real lore, Raimi and Campbell created a ghost story about a man named Emmett Talbot and his family.  And a haunted and traumatized sole survivor of a massacre in the cabin named ‘Clara’ Talbot, who would return on stormy nights, wandering in a senile state.  Raimi and Campbell also wrote that they could feel eyes on them the whole time they were filming on location.  The things you will say to sell tickets; Campbell confirmed decades later that the story was promotional lore.

Today, the only parts that remain of the cabin where the original movie was filmed, is the stone fireplace and some of the chimney.  After filming was done, Sam Raimi is said to have burned the cabin down, claiming that it was actually haunted.  Perhaps the incantations used during the movie were legit (Raimi is a production purist) and he was afraid of what might actually have been released into the cabin, and the surrounding areas.  The official ‘story’ is that the cabin was accidentally burned down by trespassers who were having a party at the location.  We will never know.

The cast and crew of “The Evil Dead” have stated that they buried a time capsule in or near the fireplace of the old cabin, high in the Appalachian mountains.  It is now private property, but thousands of horror fans apparently flock to the site in Morristown Tennessee annually.  

Photo: Jess Bradshaw (Atlas Obscura)

3. The Film Ran Out of Funds and Bruce Campbell Saved the Day

In spite of every attempt to keep special effects organic (or homemade) in the movie, (oatmeal, guts made from marshmallow strings, and real Madagascar cockroaches from Michigan State University), funds ran out during production.

Bruce Campbell earned himself an Executive Producer title on the film, after he placed a large parcel of his family’s private land as collateral to borrow money to finish the project.  The high school friends dreamed for years of making the film and becoming pioneers in a new emerging genre.

https://youtu.be/lI4O-hELwIM

Sam Raimi reflected decades later that the hardest part of filming “The Evil Dead” was not set design, props, the fake-blood covered sticky floor (and equipment)  or managing the actors and script.  It was having to pause production and raise money several times to be able to finish the movie.  

The stop-and-go flow of production created another problem.  The movie originally began with a cast and crew of twenty (20) people, but the working conditions at the cabin and the authentic  stunts actually got a few people injured.  The original actors started leaving the movie and refused to show up on the set. 

Thankfully, the heavily caked movie makeup required for the Deadites (possessed character) at the end helped complete the production. Both Campbell and Raimi asked friends to stand in for actors for the final scenes to wrap the movie.  These stand-in friends and family are credited on the film as ‘Fake Shemps’ (a Three Stooges reference).

4. There Was Almost a Crossover With “Friday the 13th” and Jason Voorhees  

Fans of the “Friday the 13th” movies may remember that at the end of ‘Jason Goes to Hell’ there is a scene where the Necronomicon is prominently featured. Did the book look familiar? The prop was developed to be an exact replica of the infamous book in “The Evil Dead”.

Personally, we think that crossover would have been cool.  It would have opened the idea that all instances of demonic influence and supernatural emanated from the legendary ‘Book of the Dead’.  Unfortunately, when the two creative teams came together there was a dispute, where they could not decide if Jason Voorhees would kill Ash at the end of the movie. 

Since they could not reconcile the dispute, the partnership dissolved, and we’ll never be able to see Ash take a bite out of Jason with a chainsaw.  Was Jason really a Deadite?  We will never know.

Photo: Renaissance Pictures