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Behind The Scenes Of The ‘Evil Dead’ Trilogy

Updated March 9, 2021 39.8k views15 items

For many horror fans, the Evil Dead trilogy was their first foray into the grimy, blood-soaked world of B-movies. Each film in the trilogy follows Ash Williams as he fights off ancient Sumerian demons that want to swallow his soul. Made by lifelong friends Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, the first two films in the series are essentially different tellings of the same story - a group of people go to a cabin in the woods and things take a turn for the worse. The third film, Army of Darkness, however, thrusts Ash back in time and pits him against an army of zombies. 

Looking at Evil Dead behind the scenes, it's understandable why the same cast and crew would want to return to continue telling this story. Who doesn't want to work on a monster movie all day? As fun as these movies were to make, they weren’t without their challenges. People were physically hurt and had to act while blind, and there was always some sort of interference from a studio or a governing body that thought the Evil Dead films were just too weird. 

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  • Raimi Didn't Actually Break Campbell's Jaw With His Motorcycle

    Photo: The Evil Dead / New Line Cinema

    One story that’s persisted over the years is that Raimi broke Campbell’s jaw while riding a motorcycle through the cabin door for the final sequence. If this story came from any other movie, it wouldn’t have sounded real, but not only were people twisting their ankles and sweating off pounds of body weight, they were committed to making these films whatever the cost. Why wouldn’t Raimi drive a motorcycle through a door so he could make the scene look as real as possible? 

    The story goes that Raimi smashed through the door with a camera tethered to a motorcycle and walloped Campbell so hard that it broke his jaw. If he'd hit the actor anywhere else, it could have been a life-ending situation. Miraculously, they got the scene and Campbell’s jaw healed in time for the sequel. It’s a great tall tale, but it didn’t happen. Tom Sullivan, the makeup effects wizard behind the first Evil Dead, said that not only did Raimi make up that story, but he told the crew to go along with the lie. In 2014, he told Tested what really happened

    Raimi told us to lie about how the scene was [filmed]. He wanted us to tell a story that we created the Shaki-Cam footage with a motorcycle, Sam was on the handlebars, that we smashed through the doors, ran into Bruce and broke his arm, a leg, and one of his ribs! That was Sam. Even on the set he was trying to help build the myth of the making of the film.

    Ash Williams himself has gone on record to call the whole motorcycle thing a bunch of hooey, while during a Q&A at a convention, Campbell explained, "It’s a good lie but no broken jaw, but there were various reports that I was injured [by a] motorcycle... and I love that people still believe that."

  • Actors Suffered Through All Three Films

    There isn't a film in the series where someone wasn't being tormented by Raimi, the elements, or both on set. In the first film, Campbell sprained his ankle after tripping on a root while running through the woods, and he had to keep walking around on it through the rest of the production. That wasn't the worst pain an actor went through on the set of Raimi's trilogy, however. The director's brother, Ted Raimi, had to wear a full-body demon suit that weighed him down by an extra 20 pounds in order to play Henrietta. He told the Hollywood Reporter

    If I had an early call - early for that character would be like 9 am - the process would typically start at 3 am. They would begin gluing prosthetics on my face. That took about two hours. Then they would do the hands. Then the suit would go on, but the suit had giant bean bags to give it girth, which increased the weight by 20 pounds. [After] the suit went on, it had to be blended into the face.

    When it came to filming Army of Darkness, the cast had to deal with more of the same. Marcus Gilbert, who played Lord Arthur, said that he lost 11 pounds in one day just by sweating it all out under his body armor while filming in the California desert. Campbell, who cut his chin open on his chest plate, claimed in the making-of documentary about Army of Darkness that "it was probably the most physically hard film in the history of motion pictures."

  • 'Army of Darkness' Looks So Good Because Of 'Darkman'

    Photo: Army of Darkness / Universal Pictures

    Each film in the trilogy looks better and better because over the course of 11 years, the budget for each film increased exponentially. The Evil Dead was produced on a shoestring budget of $350,000, but it made $2.4 million at the domestic box office, which is almost seven times its budget. Because of the success of the original, the sequel had a budget of $3.6 million, and after its success, Raimi went off to make Darkman

    Darkman was a hit for Universal, and the studio gave Raimi his biggest budget yet for the third Evil Dead installment, Army of Darkness. By that time, he'd learned he could accomplish a lot with very little, and he made his $11 million budget look like $20 million. If it weren't for the success of Darkman, we wouldn't have such a cool-looking finale to the trilogy. 

  • 'Army of Darkness' Was Subjected To Multiple Cuts And A Studio-Mandated Ending

    Photo: Army of Darkness / Universal Pictures

    When it came time to edit Army of Darkness, the whole thing was a mess. According to the film's first co-editor, Bob Murawski, Raimi thought it would get a PG-13 rating, making it the most accessible film of the franchise, but that's not what happened. Army of Darkness was challenged by the MPAA, which said the "cumulative" gore earned it an R-rating. 

    After finding the film in a major struggle between producer Dino De Laurentiis and Universal over the rights to Hannibal Lecter, Universal took the film away from Raimi, reedited the whole thing, and insisted he film a more upbeat ending that didn't have Ash waking up after the world falls apart. A new finale was pieced together where Ash returned to his own time to save the day and win the girl. Over the years, there have been numerous edits that were officially released, each of them slightly different from one another.

    Raimi said of the whole scenario, "I kind of like the fact that there are two endings, that in one alternate universe Bruce is screwed, and in another universe he's some cheesy hero."