The first time I heard of "Evil Dead" was when a guy named Bruce Campbell walked into a newspaper office, insisting he was an actor who'd just made a movie. The latest time I heard of it was now -- 35 years later -- with a cable series opening. By now, of course, Campbell and "Evil Dead" have become key parts of the pop-culture landscape. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By Mike Hughes
just don't go according to plan.
Dead,” a ragged little movie from some college students.
“We were simply
trying to make a film ... that would be good enough to play in the
American drive-ins,” Sam Raimi recalled. “We were only hoping it
would play two weeks.”
Instead, it's been
part of the horror landscape for 30-plus years. It's had three
movies, plus posters, costumes, action figures, video games, a stage
musical ... and now a TV series.
That's “Ash vs.
Evil Dead,” which debuts on Halloween on cable's Starz. It will
have “the same gruesome horror, exhilerating thrills and outrageous
humor,” said Carmi Zlotnik, the Starz programmer.
It will also have
the original people. All had gone on to bigger things:
-- Raimi directed a
“Spider-Man” trilogy, plus “Darkman” and “Oz the Great and
-- Rob Tapert
produced many of Raimi's films and three global TV hits, “Hercules,”
“Xena” and “Spartacus.” He also married “Xena” star Lucy
Lawless, who now plays an “Ash” villain.
-- Bruce Campbell
became an all-media figure -- writing books, making movies, acting in
series, from “The X-Files” to the current “Fargo” (playing
Ronald Reagan). “He is one of the funniest and most talented guys
on the planet,” said Jeffrey Donovan, his colleague for seven “Burn
Now all have
re-convened with “Evil Dead,” which is roughly where they
started as teens in Birmingham, Mich. “We met in 8th
grade,” Campbell said. “Sam was dressed like Sherlock Holmes and
was sitting in the middle of the hallway, playing with dolls.”
It turned out that
Raimi had a good movie camera, an active imagination and an ability
to make him laugh. They kept making movies together, even after Raimi
went to Michigan State University and Campbell went (briefly) to
Western Michigan University.
They planned a
low-budget horror film, to be shot in six weeks in Tennessee. The six
weeks became 12; obstacles grew. “Sam and I were stymied,”
Campbell said. “Rob was the one who got us through.”
Tapert – who had
met them as an MSU friend of Raimi's older brother Ivan – handled
the roadblocks. “Evil Dead” was finally finished and
test-screened. Eventually, old-time agent Irvin Shapiro took an
interest, Campbell said, and “treated it like a big Hollywood
It was shown at the
Cannes Film Market, where Stephen King proclaimed it “the most
ferociously original horror film of the year.”
Ash (Campbell) was
killed in “Evil Dead,” but such things aren't permanent barriers.
“He became alive after the movie we made after that ('Crimewave')
didn't make any money,” Raimi said.
So there was “Evil
Dead II” and “Army of Darkness” and then no more ... for a
“I got some great
jobs, like 'Spider-Man' ... and I'd go to these conventions,” Raimi
said. “And all people would say to me was, 'Yeah, but when are you
going to make another “Evil Dead” film?'”
Now he's made a
whole series – as messy and zesty and gory as ever.
-- The movies: “Evil
Dead” (1981), “Evil Dead II” (1987) and “Army of Darkness”
(1992). The Starz cable channel shows them at 8, 9:30 and 10:50 p.m.
Friday (Oct. 30).
-- The series: “Ash
vs. Evil Dead,” 9 p.m. Saturdays on Starz, starting on Halloween.
The opener reruns at 9:45 and 11:30 p.m. and 12:12 a.m.; then at
1:10, 2:25, 7:30 and 11:30 p.m. Sunday.