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 

4 Horror Movies Where Turning The Light Off Was a Bad Idea

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Horror movies in the dark cover image puzzle box horror article

Here is the question we all ask ourselves.  Whether we are watching a scary movie, or heading downstairs to the basement.   We think “Do I really want to turn on the light?” followed by “What if I see a monster?”

The truth about adulthood is that we’re really just kids that got older, and wiser.  Most of us. But some things will always fundamental scare us because they are innate psychological terror triggers!  Remember when you cried in the crib after your Mom left the room? Of course you don’t!  But from our infant days we sense a fear and peril in the dark.  

Is there really something malicious or life-threatening waiting for us in the dark?  Is it just our imagination?  And if there is something lurking in the darkest corners of our reality, do we really want confirmation that it exists? Or do we want to pull the cover over our eyes, and pretend we don’t see those shadows, or hear those sounds.

Horror Movies Know Our Childhood Trauma Triggers

Ask any horror fan and they’ll tell you that the mark of a really great horror movie is the psychological trauma it leaves behind.  For a few days.  Maybe longer.  In fact, we bet you remember the first scary movie that you watched as a kid.

Did you sleep with the light on afterward?  Bring a flashlight to bed?  Take that flying impossible leap from the floor to your pillows (and avoid the dreaded shadow under the bed?)  Yep, we all did that, because we all have a little fear of the dark. 

If you want to get fancy, there’s actually a diagnosis for that ‘fear of the dark’.  It’s called Nyctophobia, and it is that fear of the dark, multiplied by a thousand.  People with this debilitating condition often suffer from insomnia (go figure).  They also may sleep with a lot of light in their room.  It interferes with Circadian Rhythm, or the body’s natural clock.   It is categorized as a very extreme form of anxiety.

We all have a little bit of that.  And we imagine that people who actually have Nyctophobia do not go see horror movies about things that ‘go bump in the night’.  We can’t blame them.  But in the horror genre it is a theme that is used in almost every movie, to create suspense and (if we’re honest) popcorn spilling terrifying moments on the big screen.

1.  Lights Out (2016)

When Rebecca (played by actress Teresa Palmer) moved to the big city, she thought she had left her small town traumas behind her.  Like a childhood friend named Diana who died horrifically, and materialized as a dark entity that would follow her around. And play with her.

Now grown, she must return home to take care of her little brother Martin (played by Gabriel Bateman) who is experiencing night terrors.  Something he describes as a stain or shadow on the wall.   

The movie reminds us “You were right to be afraid of the dark” and after you sit through Lights Out, you can’t help but agree.  And find yourself one of those little nightlights that can maybe shine on your bed while you sleep.  What? Don’t tell us you never thought of that security measure as a kid (or a grown-up).

Directed And Written By: David F. Sandberg

Warner Bros. Pictures

2. Darkness Falls (2003)

Way to ruin the lore of “The Tooth Fairy” for all of us!  This dark story takes place in a small town in Maine, that has been ravaged by child attacks and deaths.   The one thing that the children have in common? They lost a tooth and put it under their pillow for The Tooth Fairy.

Except in Darkness Falls, The Tooth Fairy isn’t this stardust sprinkling happy little elf like creature.  It is the twisted malevolent spirt of a woman who was killed on suspicion of being a witch.  Now, if the entity had been a really bad person in life, instead of a kindly old woman who gave children shillings for their teeth? We’d have no story line.   And the legend of Matilda Dixon is born; a woman who was wrongfully (and savagely) killed by the town mob for a crime she never committed.

We always love Emma Caulfield (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel) as the Final Girl in a horror movie.  She is great under pressure, and equally terrified at the same time, making her the perfect protagonist in a dark horror film. 

Directed By: Jonathan Liebesman

Columbia Pictures

3. Pitch Black (2000)

As part of the Reddick series, the criminal and universe saving warrior and reluctant hero.  Vin Diesel delivers an outstanding performance of a big strong guy that is surprisingly agile, when being chased by flesh eating aliens.

When a ship crash lands on a remote desert planet, the team of travelers (including the incarcerated Reddick) explore the new territory.  Since the ship is unlikely to be repaired anytime soon (or ever) the characters are delighted to find an old farmstead.  Complete with solar energy for power, evaporation collection (water) and some good sized shelters.  Even a ship that could be repaired to get off the planet.

The ominous story shows a model of a solar system. After playing with it for a little while, the intrepid victims realize that the cycle of the planet provides sun almost all the time.  The land of no nighttime.  Except for one phase in the lunar cycle where the entire planet is thrust into complete darkness for a one-year period.

Considering the planet is desert and hot AF, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.  Except that all the equipment relies on solar power (bummer).  And there is a little cause for concern, as millions of flesh eating birds of prey and other dog like creatures (bio raptors) are waiting for dinner.  When the sun goes down.

There’s always that one guy that doesn’t follow instructions and wrecks it for everyone.   Stay in the light!

Directed By: David Twohy

Universal Pictures

4. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

Imagine you are a kid and you feel like you have monsters in the dark, waiting to eat you or whisk you away to the closet.  Which we all know is a portal to a dark dimension from which we may never return.  Can you sleep with the closet door open? Neither can we. The movie is actually a remake of a 1973 television film, by the same name, and both were based on the book  “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” by Nigel McKeand.

In the movie, Sally (played by Bailee Madison) sees and hears tiny goblin or golem like creatures, that travel in the air ducts of the old home she lives in. Conveniently complete with those old decorative iron vent plates, which make for a great door for the goblins.  Although her father and his girlfriend (played by Katie Holmes) are reluctant to believe the stories. 

Aside to parents.  If your child is convinced there are monsters in their bedroom trying to eat them, maybe call an exterminator to double check.  All monsters leave some kind of trace, from footprints to feces we imagine.  And if your child asks if they can sleep in your bed because they are scared?  It’s probably a good idea.  

Directed And Written By: Guillermo del Toro

Miramax Films

4 Sinister Moments of ALTER Short Horror Films

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Featured Indie Horror Scary Movies and Series

What makes a horror story so scary? We believe it really depends upon the person and what they may have experienced in their lifetime. Some people are easier to frighten than others, but we believe everyone is afraid of something. Hopefully we found something here in Alter’s short horror films that will frighten you!

3:36 (2020)

Do we know when we’ve passed on? Or, if it’s a violent, painful, or emotionally traumatizing death, do we relive the moments that surround it? We’ve talked a lot about ghosts here at Puzzle Box Horror, we’ve tried to figure out what they are, why they come back, if they’re really ghosts or if they’re demons in disguise. We’ve also discussed their roles in ancient societies, how ghost stories still thrive in a world of skepticism, and whether or not mirrors can be portals to ghostly realms. We haven’t discussed too much about how or why ghosts are really scary, or why–maybe it’s because they show us a point in time where we may no longer be able to follow our dreams, or tell our loved ones how we feel before it’s too late. We think ghosts are fascinating regardless–we love a good haunted tale that makes our blood pump, or our breath catch in our throat.

Check out this ALTER horror short film that shows how pain, grief, and death all play into the horror that we feel in our own mortality. Let us know what you think about it below!

Now that you’ve seen this original horror short film about ghosts, take a look at some of our own original short stories where we tackle haunted locations!

Still (2020)

This next horror short film also deals with a certain level of grief, but that’s not where the horror lies–instead this story deals with monsters in the night, what we might think are just night time terrors, but are really true nightmares. Sleep paralysis is a real phenomenon in our world and has been studied throughout the ages, so we can perhaps have a medical understanding of what we go through at night. Are the monsters real, or is it just our minds trying to cope with the disturbing images that we absorb throughout the day?

Check out this ALTER horror short film about the monsters that prey on us in our sleep, then let us know what you think about it below!

Here There Be Monsters (2020)

We love paranormal and supernatural horror here at Puzzle Box Horror, perhaps because reality can be scary enough without the creatures in our collective imagination running wild. The real monsters in our world are bullies, the people that take advantage of the weak, pick on the underdog, or kick an injured person while they’re down. It’s always interesting to see how the victims to life’s real monsters end up being the ones who stand up the strongest against the most nightmarish creatures of horror.

Check out this ALTER horror short film about the monsters we face not only in the shadows, but the ones we face on a daily basis, and tell us what you think about it below!

We’ve taken a look at other ALTER shorts before, one in particular which was about nighttime phobias and the monsters that we face as children (and sometimes well into adulthood, to our own dismay). In Here There Be Monsters (2020) the bullies are external tormentors, but in La Noria (2018) the bullies are our own fears and the deception of the shadows at night. If you haven’t seen this horror short, it’s a great time to check it out now!

The Armoire (2019)

When you’re looking curiously at that eBay listing for a haunted doll, or a sealed dybbuk box, just remember the victims of haunted objects in horror cinema. These objects are no joke, folks! What happens though, if you stumble upon a haunted or possessed object unwittingly? What do you do then? Well, hopefully, you figure out that it’s haunted before it’s too late–otherwise you may end up like the woman in The Armoire (2019).

Check out this ALTER horror short film that has to do with haunted objects that we might unintentionally bring into our lives and let us know what you think about it below!