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

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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?

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 

Horror Comedy “The Central Authority” Gets Creative and Releases During Lockdown

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Indie Horror Creation Indie horror film makers Scary Movies and Series
Using groundbreaking techniques, the first socially distanced feature film was shot entirely during the pandemic
The Central Authority Horror Movie Poster
The Central Authority, the horror-comedy  brainchild of Kristin West and Dana Olita, has been a brave undertaking in these hazardous times. “We knew this was a huge endeavor going in,” said West, who co-directed with Armin Nasseri. “We were forced to use the technology  available, which meant doing some unusual things.” Those “unusual things” included dusting off some archaic film techniques and using brand new processes. “We gave ourselves permission to fail,” says West, “but things worked out fine in the end.”

Those processes including having actors from all over the world come together on the screen. Actress Anna Elena Pepe, who plays Dr Zhivaga, a quarantine sex therapist, says it was an experience for her like no other, “I was in London, and my scene partner (Lachelle Allen) was in Los Angeles. ‘It was fantastic.'”

“The actors were the key,” according to Olita, “We basically let them pick and choose characters and wrote around their choices.” West agrees, “We gave our actors a tremendous amount of freedom, there was a lot of improvisation. Everyone gave great performances and the chemistry the actors have with one and other is magical.”

The Central Authority, takes place in a dystopian future, where entertainment is king. There is no content, so the government (“The Central Authority”) creates a streaming channel where “performers” can submit their material, in order to obtain items in short supply.  The film takes place over one day of programming.

In addition to West, Olita and Nasseri, The Central Authority uses an ensemble cast of working actors, Tick Tock stars, comics and podcast hosts: Lachelle Allen, Brandy Bryant, April Monique Burrill,  Jimmyo Burrill, Lily Burrill, Candice Callins, Charles Chudabala, Rodney Damon Collins, Michael Coulombe, Lauren Deleon, Vanessa Esparanza, Jonathan Freeman-Anderson, Sara Gaston, Katie Gordon, Nate Gordon, Joe Grisaffi, Josh Hutchinson, Betsy Johnson, Allison Michelle, Rory Ogden, Marco Antonio Parra, Anna Elena Pepe, Jake Red, Genoveva Rossi, Nailya Sharakova, Narlyia Sterling, Todd Stroik, and Cristina Vargas. Nasseri said he was “proud to work with such a strong group of diverse actors.” Inclusion has been a recurring theme in Nasseri’s films, with award-winning shorts The Carting Call, and Seeking Valentina, already under his belt, Nasseri felt like this was the perfect vehicle for him as a director, editor and actor.

The Central Authority is written by Dana Olita and Kristin West, directed by Armin Nasseri and Kristin West, and produced by Matt Chassin, Armin Nasseri, Dana Olita, Narlyia Sterling, Kristin West and Quarantini Productions.

For more information go to https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12265464/

Visit us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TheCentralAuthority/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CentralAuth

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the_central_authority/

Horror News Net Film Festival offers a Distribution Deal

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Indie Horror Indie Horror Creation Indie horror film makers

Popular Horror News Site horrornews.net is Offering a Distribution Deal

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HNN Film Festival is accepting feature film submissions starting on June 8th, 2020 through Film Freeway.   HNN Film Festival is sponsored by Horrornews.net and in association with Bayview Entertainment, the FIRST PRIZE winner will get a distribution deal to get their feature film released on the “HNN presents” distribution label. 
HNN recognizes that the landscape of the entertainment business is changing as repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges we face social distancing in our theaters and festivals.   Therefore, the HNN Film Festival will completely be an “at home” experience.  

“HNN Film Festival seems like the natural progression of things. I’ve been involved in the business of horror for over a decade, specifically supporting the efforts of independent filmmakers. I think we all strive to watch the perfect film and while some say that’s an impossible task, what’s enjoyable is the journey. The endless search to find the holy grail of movies, or by horror standards, the unholy grail. You know it’s a good film when you are sitting on the edge of your seat and experiencing the story along with the characters. You know it’s a great film when that feeling of excitement stays with you long after you stopped watching the movie.” –  HNN Manager, Michael Joy

For more information:
https://filmfreeway.com/HNNFilmFestival

About HNN Presents:
We believe in horror. This is the genesis of a new era in how people consume entertainment and we are leading the charge to a revolution. As we stand at the forefront of the film industries’ rebirth, it’s our mission to establish the horror genre as the epicenter of the “at home” video experience.

About Bayview Entertainment:
BayView Entertainment, LLC, is a full-service media company committed to acquire, develop, produce, market and distribute audio-visual content. For over fifteen years, BayView made its name by being dedicated to releasing only the best programs in each category from some of the most trusted names in the field.

BayView’s disc programming can be found throughout the country at all online suppliers plus fine brick & mortar retailers, as well as streaming/video on demand at all major digital retailers and platforms.

Slasher App Supporting Horror Creators

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Featured Indie Horror Indie Horror Creation Indie horror film makers Indie horror writers
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If you haven’t heard of the horror app Slasher for horror fans what better way to be introduced to the community than their efforts to support indie horror makers in these hard times.

Damon Della Greca, creator of the mobile horror app, SLASHER, has been providing a sense of community for everyone who loves horror during these unprecedented times.  In an effort to further help, SLASHER will offer FREE advertising for struggling horror businesses.

As the pandemic continues to ravage the world, we’re all doing what we can to survive; not only physically, but also in the sense of maintaining how we manage day to day. Everyone has been impacted in one way or another. Many of us are out of work, our social lives have seen drastic downturns, and our ability to simply make human connections has become very difficult. As horror fans…as people…we’re all in this together.

“While watching the docu-series, A Toy Store Near You (Amazon Prime), the 1313 Mockingbird Lane episode resonated with me.  Frontline healthcare workers & horror toy store owners, Terry & Liz Taylor, are the same passionate members of the horror community you might run into at a convention and they are struggling to keep their store open.  They made a difference by providing perspective, now I want to make a difference by providing what I can. Support indie horror.” – Damon Della Greca

Fortunately, SLASHER has gotten to a point where they can do something to help those who own horror-oriented businesses that are at risk of closing, or have suffered critical financial loss, due to the continuing pandemic. It’s not only retail shops, but the lack of conventions in 2020 that hurt the vendors who rely on them – many of whom count on that income to get by. In order to help people keep their businesses alive, SLASHER is offering FREE advertising to those businesses who could use the help. This offer will last until at least the end of April, but may be extended. Please send an email to [email protected] with your store/business name, website address, and your name.

SLASHER – The Social Network for Horror
https://slasher.tv/

The Indie Horror Creation Process: Scare Me (2020) & Make Cool Sh!t

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Featured Indie Horror Indie Horror Creation Indie horror film makers

While some of us were wondering when we’d be able to get our next haircut, Josh Ruben (indie horror creator/director/actor of Scare Me) and Aaron Kheifets (host of Make Cool Sh!t) were immersed in getting new eyes on indie horror-comedy Scare Me (2020). When considering the classic horror comedies, such as The Evil Dead (1981), Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Gremlins (1984), or even newer films like Jennifer’s Body (2009), Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010), and The Babysitter (2017) we see that there are consistent themes present—demons, aliens, or in the case of Tucker and Dale, stupid teenagers. These movies tend to take serious horror topics and spoof them, but in a legitimate way that eases us into scary themes through a variety of comedy tropes.

Scare Me (2020), a movie that defies the genre in every other way fits into this trend as well. Josh Ruben took a simple concept and created a film that is not only hilarious and over-the-top (in the best way possible), but is also chilling in its commentary on an issue that remains a hot-button issue in our culture.

This movie is a perfect mix of comedy actors who just so happen to capture horror with ease; Josh Ruben (of CollegeHumor), Aya Cash (of You’re the Worst), Chris Redd (of SNL), and Rebecca Drysdale (of Becks) are all the movie needs. The small cast created a somewhat claustrophobic atmosphere that allowed us to suspend judgment as we waited to see what happened next. What we got, was a literary adventure with a dark realistic twist.

The Horror of the #MeToo Movement

As a woman in an industry that portrays women as victims or sexual objects, this movie was refreshing. The lead female character is not only intelligent and hilarious but also successful without needing to be hypersexualized. Josh wrote this movie at the height of the #MeToo movement; he pulled his inspiration from women in his life who had experienced trauma at the hands of men.

What emerged from that trauma and feminine nightmare was a horror-comedy that (perhaps) unwittingly showcases what it’s like to be made into a victim, where a woman might otherwise have been an independent and strong character. The movie cut my safety net and plopped me into a dark alley with a creepy guy with bad intentions.

While some men might not be able to appreciate this movie for the horrific scenario that it is, it’s likely that any woman who watches this will be able to relate in some way. I can honestly say that this movie hit all of its promised marks—it made me laugh (hard), but it also terrified and left me with anxiety that lingered far longer than anything else I’ve seen recently. If you’re still wondering whether or not you should watch this movie (you can find it on Shudder or YouTube), just watch it. It’s a perfect representative of horror-comedy.

Make Cool Sh!t – A Journey Through Indie Horror Creation

While Josh Ruben was busy at work directing and acting in his first feature film, the producers of Make Cool Sh!t were busy bursting in on actors at comically inopportune moments to try to capture the grit of creating an indie horror film. If you’re an indie creator thinking of making a movie, I highly recommend this podcast—you’ll find it to be an invaluable resource of information on what to do next.

Aaron Kheifets wasn’t on the set during filming, but he became the voice of the process; his insights on it are invaluable even if he balks at the idea. After all, he earned a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology then broke the news to his mother that he was going to be a comedian. I would say he has more insight into human psychology than he gives himself credit for.

Using Kheifets, a longtime associate of Ruben, as the voice of the podcast was an excellent choice. He brought personal touches and academic cognizance of issues that an audience might not otherwise understand. For those of us who foresee our futures in the horror industry, we look at an undertaking like Scare Me and hope that one day it will be within our grasp as well. Josh Ruben showed us that hoping for our big break is unproductive and counterintuitive. You might as well be sitting in the dark and trying to read Homer’s Odyssey.

If you want to be successful, you have to put in the work; being discovered happens so rarely and as we see in Scare Me, entitlement doesn’t pay off. Ruben showed us that it’s difficult but unavoidable (and worth it!) if we truly want to make it happen.

Behind the Minds of Indie Horror – Let’s Talk Indie Horror

I interviewed both Josh Ruben and Aaron Kheifets in regards to their work on Scare Me and Make Cool Sh!t. It was an eye-opening experience where I was given an opportunity to pick the brains of some really talented individuals. They gave me some really honest answers to some really difficult questions. It showed me that they were more than just actors, or characters. They were human.

So, if you have a chance to watch the interview I conducted with them, check it out! It’s some pretty insightful stuff and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed talking to them. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

If you’ve already seen Scare Me, then let me know what you thought of it in the comments below!

Also, check out this article on How to Write and Promote Your Indie Horror!