Sam Raimi Shot An Entirely Separate Film To Find Funding For The Evil Dead

The making of "The Evil Dead" and its subsequent release is considered one of the best Cinderella stories in filmmaking history. After all, how does an entirely DIY project made entirely by friends end up becoming a multimedia franchise, launching the careers of several people involved? It just doesn't happen all that often, and it's a miracle that Sam Raimi and his band of misfits managed to create something so revolutionary in the horror genre with as little money as they had.

But what's a bit lesser known is how they ended up getting that money in the first place. In an interview from 1990, Raimi said that he had shot the movie for just $375,000, the equivalent of around $1.2 million today. While a lot of money in its own right, it is a drop in the bucket in the filmmaking world, and even then, Raimi had to find a way to scrap together that much from potential investors and producers.

When talking to IGN while promoting "Ash vs. Evil Dead" in 2015, he discussed the origins of the now infamous film. The idea was first introduced in a 1979 short film called "Within the Woods," which Raimi described as an example of what the final product could be.

"It was made to be a tool to help us raise money from potential investors," he said, so it wasn't really a prototype, like a 'pilot' or anything like that, for 'Evil Dead.'"

One compelling pitch

By this logic, "Within the Woods" is less of a shorter version of "The Evil Dead" and more of a demonstration of its general idea. While speaking to IGN, the director broke down what these ideas in "Within the Woods" were like:

"It was really just something that we could show investors. 'See, we're going to make a horror movie, and it's going to be like this. We'll have monsters, monster makeup. Bruce Campbell will be in it as one of the actors. Ellen Sandweiss will be in it as another.' So they could see them acting, even though it wasn't exactly the same story. 'We'll have suspense sequences and scares, and the monster will be something like this" — you know, the point of view of the camera. 'We'll never show it.'"

Pitching the movie in this way to investors is a very smart idea from a business perspective – if you are an indie filmmaker, you do not want to make any specific promises on a story that, due to your budget, you might not be able to keep. By promising potential investors more general ideas for the story rather than gnarly hopes, Raimi likely changed the course of horror history forever. It seems crazy to think about what would've happened if "Within the Woods" was made differently or if it was never made at all. Thankfully, though, we live in the better timeline.