Before director Sam Raimi found big box office success with the original Spider-Man trilogy, he was best known as the cult filmmaker behind The Evil Dead series. With 1981’s The Evil Dead, Raimi and star Bruce Campbell offered their irreverent take on horror, with a hapless dope named Ash (Campbell) terrorized by ghouls in a wood-enshrouded cabin.
The success of that film led to 1987’s Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, a pseudo sequel-slash-remake (more on that in a bit) that married the first film’s grotesque aesthetic with a slapstick bent reminiscent of Raimi’s beloved Three Stooges.
While Ash would live on in 1993’s Army of Darkness and the Starz series Ash vs. Evil Dead (2015-2018) , it’s this first sequel that typically stands as Ash’s big moment. For more on the movie, including how Stephen King made it happen and why QVC is relevant, keep reading.
1. Stephen King made it possible for Evil Dead 2 to start filming.
Horror novelist Stephen King loved the first Evil Dead so much that he provided a blurb that was used in marketing: “The most ferociously original horror film of the year.” But that wasn’t King’s only contribution to the franchise. When Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, and producer Rob Tapert decided to pursue a sequel—which they viewed as a solid bet following a mixed reaction to their 1985 film Crimewave—it was King who went to bat on their behalf with producer Dino De Laurentiis, with whom he had a deal to make adaptations of his work.
“We had a woman who was kind of like doing scheduling stuff, and we had to let her go,” Campbell told Consequence.net. “So she was a crew member, and she took off down to North Carolina and started making all these movies. Dino De Laurentiis is making movies down there. Who does she run into? She gets on the crew of Maximum Overdrive, directed by Stephen King. Stephen was like, ‘What are you up to?’ And she was like, ‘I just came from working with these guys trying to get money for Evil Dead 2.’ He goes, ‘Evil Dead 2? They can’t get the money for that?’ She goes ‘No.’ He calls Dino De Laurentiis and goes, ‘You should make this movie.’ … We met with Dino and I think we had a deal in about half an hour, and a basic understanding.”
In an interesting footnote, De Laurentiis was originally soliciting Raimi to direct an adaptation of King’s 1984 novel Thinner, which he wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. That movie was eventually made in 1996, but not with Raimi on board.
2. Evil Dead 2 is a “requel.“
Coming to Evil Dead 2 for the first time can be a confusing experience. The film’s plot—Ash and his girlfriend encounter demonic forces in a secluded cabin—is largely the same as that of the first film. That could lead some viewers to infer it’s a remake, particularly since Ash would have to essentially have his memory wiped (or be colossally stupid) to go back to the same location and endure more trauma. So it a remake or a sequel?
According to Campbell, Evil Dead 2 is both. “There’s an odd thing about Evil Dead 2," he said in 2017. “People think the character Ash is stupid enough to go back to the cabin with a new group of friends … We didn’t own the rights to our [first] movie that was done by New Line Cinema. The second movie was done by Dino De Laurentiis ... so we just shot a recap with different actors, but people thought, ‘He’s coming back to this same cabin with these new people? What?’ So there’s a big debate—is Evil Dead 2 a remake or a sequel? It’s a requel. It’s whatever you want to call it. If you really wanna do it right, you take the first Evil Dead up to where the evil entity hits me, cut off all the recap, go right into Ash being thrown through the trees at the beginning, lands, [and it] would all make perfect sense.”
3. Holly Hunter inspired an Evil Dead 2 character.
In Evil Dead 2, Ash’s problems are compounded by the arrival of Bobby Joe (Kassie DePaiva) and Jake (Dan Hicks), locals escorting Annie Knowby (Sarah Berry) to the cabin where her father accidentally unleashed the Deadites. The character of Bobby Joe was inspired by actress Holly Hunter (Raising Arizona), who was rooming with Raimi and co-writer Scott Spiegel at the time they were working on the script for the movie. Hunter was even considered for the role, but that didn’t materialize. Bobby Joe, for the record, winds up being eaten by a possessed tree.
4. Bruce Campbell had to deal with a “blood flood.“
The onscreen abuse heaped upon Ash in the Evil Dead series is well documented, though the character probably suffers most in Evil Dead 2. For the scene in which Ash is tormented by his own severed hand and subsequently endures a tsunami of blood being sprayed directly in his face, Campbell described it something akin to waterboarding. While laying flat on his back, a 55-gallon drum of stage blood was positioned directly over his face.
“They’re gonna pull the plug and gravity is going to do the work,” Campbell told Entertainment Weekly in 2017. “You don’t need a pump. It’s all coming out. Sam [Raimi] says to me, ‘Bruce, if you’re drowning, wave your arms.’ I’m like, ‘That’s what I’m supposed to do anyway!’ He goes, ‘Shut up! Just do it! You’ll be fine!’ They tested one drop. It hit me right square in the forehead. They were like, ‘It’ll hit, it’ll get him.’ In the movie, you see it come rocketing out and just hit me square in the face. It was a bull’s-eye.” Campbell said he blew “red snot” out of his nose for a week.
5. Evil Dead 2 almost featured an Ash voiceover.
While writing the script, Raimi and Spiegel toyed with the idea of using Ash as a narrator for his increasingly bloody encounters. “’I tried with each passing moment to keep my sanity while this unstoppable evil ...’,” Spiegel told author Bill Warren. “You know. But that would have been corny, too. By not doing the voiceover it’s probably less annoying, and you have more of a suspicion that Ash might not survive the night.”
6. Evil Dead 2 was partially shot inside an abandoned junior high school.
Raimi and company were petitioned by De Laurentiis to shoot Evil Dead 2 on his soundstage in Wilmington, North Carolina. Raimi declined, fearing that being so close to the producer (who was said to be domineering) could mean trouble. Instead, the production set up in nearby Wadesboro, which had hosted Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple (1986). The interiors of the cabin were constructed and shot in the gym of J.R. Faison Junior High School, an abandoned school property in town. The owners charged the production just $500 a month.
7. The Henrietta costume was torture for Ted Raimi.
Campbell was far from the only actor to have his welfare ignored on the film. Ted Raimi, Sam’s brother, was cast as the cackling Henrietta, who torments Ash and company. The latex costume was so bulky and confining that Raimi needed a respirator between takes. In one shot, Henrietta appears to be leaking some kind of fluid. That’s actually Raimi’s sweat, which would build up in the suit.
8. One cast member went on to QVC fame.
Actor Richard Domeier portrays Professor Ed Getley, who accompanies Annie Knowby to the cabin and is possessed in rather short order. Aside from Campbell, Domeier is arguably the most famous face in the cast. He has spent over two decades as an onscreen personality for home shopping network QVC and can still be found touting jewelry and other goods on the channel.
9. You can spot Freddy Krueger’s razor glove in Evil Dead 2.
When Ash storms the nearby workshed to arm himself for a showdown with the Deadites, keen horror fans can spot an Easter egg hanging on the wall. It’s the razor glove belonging to Freddy Krueger, the 1980s horror movie icon of A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. The glove was part of a longstanding tradition between Raimi and Nightmare director Wes Craven, with the two referencing the other’s work in shots. Raimi included a poster for 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes in the original Evil Dead; when heroine Nancy stays up to watch a movie on television in 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, she tunes into The Evil Dead. Raimi then added Freddy’s glove, which can be seen in the workshed, the cabin’s fruit cellar, and even in an episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead decades later.
While this was all intended as an in-joke between the two directors, there was some informal discussion of Ash meeting Freddy and Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th fame in a crossover film that would have acted as a follow-up to 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason. That never materialized, mostly due to complicated rights and profit-sharing obstacles between the property holders.
10. Evil Dead 2 was nearly rated X.
The geysers of blood and gore that permeate almost every frame of Evil Dead 2 are so exaggerated that many viewers find it absurdist and amusing—but not the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Producers were dreading that the ratings board would slap the movie with an X, a scarlet letter usually reserved for pornographic material that would all but kill its chances of success.
To avoid that fate, the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group had to get creative. They “sold” the rights to a DEG employee, who was the de facto chair of Rosebud Releasing Corporation. Rosebud was able to release the film without a rating, which DEG—as an MPAA signatory member—would not have been allowed to do. The workaround spared the movie from being blacklisted from theaters.
Why not cut some of the gore to get an R? “We could have forced [Raimi] to edit it,” DEG executive Lawrence Gleason told The Los Angeles Times. “But with an R rating, it would have been about 62 minutes long.”
11. One Evil Dead 2 superfan has what’s left of the cabin.
Evil Dead 2 was shot in Wadesboro, North Carolina. But fans making the trek to the filming location will be disappointed. Over time, the cabin, work shed, and related structures were largely neglected and left to deteriorate. In 2014, the property’s owners allowed a fan named Mike to retrieve whatever was left of the buildings. He managed to salvage parts of the cabin and much of the exterior of the work shed, which he’s since displayed at horror conventions. You can follow the shed’s touring schedule on EvilDeadWorkshed.com.
12. There are a lot of unofficial Evil Dead 2 sequels.
While Ash’s story continued on in Army of Darkness, filmmakers in Italy decided to commandeer the Evil Dead franchise name for their own benefit and with no real regard for copyright law. In 1988, director Umberto Lenzi released Ghosthouse under the title Evil Dead 3. The film, which centers on a group of friends terrorized in an abandoned house, has no connection with Raimi’s movie. Nor does 1988’s Witchery, which was released in some territories as Evil Dead 4 and features David Hasselhoff going up against a witch. The 1990 movie Beyond Darkness was also known as Evil Dead 5 and again centers on a spooky residence tormenting its occupants. Lifting Raimi’s intellectual property? Not very groovy.
Additional Sources: The Evil Dead Companion