On 15th October 2020, horror fans celebrated the 39th anniversary of the release of Sam Raimi’s cult hit movie The Evil Dead. The spine-chilling film introduced the world to the horrors of the Book of the Dead, its army of Deadites, and a certain dashing rogue who is humanity’s last hope against them: Ash Williams played with iconic flair by Bruce Campbell. In response to a Tweet celebrating The Evil Dead’s release anniversary, Campbell had the perfect response:
“Evil Dead wasn’t released, it escaped!”
Despite being one of the biggest cases of typecasting in cinema, the likes of which can have an actor chafing under the yoke and desperate to try something new, Campbell has wholeheartedly embraced his role as the hero/lucky mascot of the Evil Dead series. Even as the modern reboot of the original Sam Raimi film with a new cast did not do very well, Bruce Campbell returned to the world of the Deadites with the show Ash Vs. Evil Dead in 2015, and once again managed to put the series on the horror map.
The original The Evil Dead was Raimi’s first attempt at making a full-length horror movie. In order to raise money for the project, the filmmaker initially made a short, proof-of-concept movie titled Within the Woods, featuring Campbell and Ellen Sandweiss, on a budget of $1600. Raimi screened the film at a local theater, where it sparked interest among test audiences.
Getting funding for the movie was still proving difficult, but with great difficulty, Raimi managed to amass $90,000 of the $150,000 he needed to make a full-length film. Undeterred, the filmmaker teamed up once again with his childhood friend Campbell. Together the two set out to make the film that would redefine the horror genre, and launch both their careers in Hollywood.
The Evil Dead told the story of a group of college friends who go out to a cabin in the woods in rural Tennesse for a vacation. Things quickly went sideways when the group discovered the fabled Necronomicon, the Book of the Dead that contains spells to unleash monsters on our world. Ash, who was one of the people who was stuck in the cabin, found himself facing demons from another world, as well as his own friends after they were corrupted by the power of the Book.
The surprise success of The Evil Dead soon prompted Raimi to continue with the storyline of the Deadites. Two sequels saw Ash return to the cabin in the woods, and travel to other worlds to take on the menace of the Necronomicon. A 2013 soft-reboot and the tv show continued to keep the franchise alive.
Most recently, Raimi announced that filmmaker Lee Cronin will be making the next installment in the franchise, titled Evil Dead Rise. Although Campbell will not be returning in the role of Ash, he is attached to the project in the capacity of a producer alongside Raimi.