|Within the Woods is the pilot for the Evil Dead. The film was inspired
by a literature assignment Sam had to do at MSU. This project required
him to study the Book of the Dead. After doing some research, he decided
to write a script for a film centered on a fictional book of the dead.
Sam, with friends Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert, formed a motion picture
company entitled Renaissance Pictures to film this script. Unfortunately,
they didn't have enough cash, so Sam rewrote his script to about 10 pages
and raised somewhere around $1,600 and set out to shoot this shortened
version in hopes of snagging potential investors for the longer film.
Their plan was to create a thirty minute "senseless gore flick" with the
help of special effects artist, Tom Sullivan. The film was shot on Rob
Tapert's family farm during the cold winter of 1978. Bruce of course was
given the main role. Ellen Sandweiss, a college friend, played his girlfriend
of the same name, she would later star with Bruce in Evil Dead 1 as Cheryl,
his sister. Scott Spiegal was also in the film playing a self titled character
as well. Lastly, an unknown actress by the name of Mary Velenetti played
Shelly. Bruce spent exhausting days in latex and disgusting filth. After
a while the latex on Bruce got really irritating, so Bruce improvised by
gnawing the latex skin off. Bruce spent exhausting days in latex and disgusting
filth. After a while the latex on Bruce got really irritating, so Bruce
improvised by gnawing the latex skin off.
A funny anecdote, the hand cutting scene was not pre rehearsed. Ellen was supposed to cut off the entire appendage, but the knife wasn't sharp enough and didn't slice all the way through, but instead of ruining the take, Bruce improvised by gnawing the rest of it off. Sam liked it so much, that he decided to use in the first Evil Dead. A lot of other scenes in Within the Woods that would later appear throughout the Evil Dead trilogy. Within the Woods did the trick in gaining support for the first flick, originally titled Book of the Dead. They were able raise about $90,000, and then it was off to Tennessee where a cult classic trilogy was born. Please note this film was never released on video, but there are some bootleg copies of it floating around somewhere out there. Good news though, Anchor Bay Entertainment is working on a THX version of Evil Dead on DVD to be released in late 2001 in which they are trying to include Within the Woods. We'll keep you posted.
The basic story of the film is Bruce and Ellen go out for a picnic in the woods. Bruce tries to scare Ellen by telling her that the land where they were having their picnic was on an old Indian burial ground. Ellen does not really believe Bruce, but she soon will. Ellen goes gather wood for a fire while Bruce stays back to dig a pit for it. Bruce being the genius he is unknowingly unearths a grave where he finds an old sacrificial knife. Ellen comes back and Bruce shows her the knife, afterwards they fall asleep. When Ellen awakens Bruce is nowhere to be found. Ellen goes in search of Bruce only to find his dead and mutilated body.
Suddenly, the newly awakened Evil Force begins to chase her back to the house where Scotty and Shelly are having a rousing game of Monopoly (copyright infringement anyone?). There is a lot of suspense when Ellen tries to get in the house before the evil force gets her, but Scotty finally lets her in. Ellen tells Scotty and Shelly what happened to Bruce, but they don't believe her. Scotty goes in search of Bruce, but doesn't come back right away. Shelly decides to go out and look for the two although Ellen advises against it. As Shelly opens the front door, Bruce bursts in and brutally murders her in a very intense scene. The possessed Bruce then goes after Ellen, she quickly closes the door on him and goes to the kitchen to grab some knives. Scotty finally returns and is accidentally stabbed in the stomach by Ellen. He tells her to get the gun from the cellar, she goes, but when she returns she notices the open window and is suddenly confronted by her possessed-better-half. She takes the sacrificial knife and slices his hand off, but not quite, and Bruce is forced to chew is off. Ellen is frightened but not willing to give up her life, and she continues to fight Bruce until she has finally hacked him to pieces.