In 1979, a group of childhood friends set out to make a horror movie, with little to no experience besides a few homemade short films. A 22 year old Sam Raimi along with his leading man Bruce Campbell and other various cast and crew members, put themselves in the middle of the woods to shoot a movie simply titled, The Evil Dead.
The plot is simple enough. A group of college kids drive out to a remote cabin in the woods to party for the weekend, only to stumble across an old book which summons an ancient evil that begins to possess them one by one. This ultimately leaves Ash (Bruce Campbell), the hero of the story being the last man standing to fight off what used to be his friends turned demons of the night.
Raimi clearly had a vision of how he wanted the movie to look. From building his own Steadicam from scratch (also at one point using a wheelbarrow for a dolly), to spewing as much fake blood at his cast as possible, it’s quite clear Raimi was experimenting to see what he could achieve as a director, whilst having a lot of fun doing it.
You could say that it was mostly style over substance, with the acting clearly amateur at best, but it’s also the reason why it works so well. Once the first act of possession starts, it becomes so over-the-top that the nonsensical acting somehow fits in with all the craziness that Raimi has come up with.
Raimi stuck to his guns and got the film finished despite many of the crew not sharing his enthusiasm, abandoning the set throughout the shoot due to freezing conditions and little to no pay. For a 22 year old to stick out shooting a feature length film with everything riding against him, shows that he had the determination and guts to see his vision through until the end.
After production finished, Raimi had a tough time selling his ultra-low-budget horror film to distributors for release. Bruce Campbell, producer Robert Tapert and Raimi even went as far as dressing up in suits to look like professional business men to sell the movie to executives, but it was to no avail.
It wasn’t until 1981 when Stephen King himself saw the film at a late night screening and praised it for being one of the most terrifying movies he had seen. Thus his word of mouth caught wind and the rest is history. Raimi went on to make the even more popular sequel Evil Dead 2 (1987) and is now a major Hollywood player.