“Evil Dead” is one of the most recognizable and straightforward titles in horror, conjuring up images of the sort of demonic reanimated corpses that do, indeed, fit the descriptor. There’s nothing that quite blatantly advertises itself as a horror movie like smashing these two words together. However, director Sam Raimi wasn’t initially fond of the title, and the only reason he relented and accepted the name was, like almost everything else in that original film, due to budgetary restraints.
There are few films that capture the same raw, DIY ethos of “The Evil Dead” (the title of the first film has a “The” included, whereas the “Evil Dead” franchise and 2013 remake remove the definite article). Raimi filmed a short film called “Within the Woods” in 1978 with the hopes of raising money to turn his project into a feature-length film. With the help of producers and friends Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell, the latter of who also starred in “The Evil Dead,” Raimi scraped up enough cash to make a movie. The sheer lack of funds meant that the middle-of-the-woods shoot was brutal and bare-bones. Those who were on the set have told stories about having no running water to wash fake blood off their hands and having to throw furniture in the fireplace just to keep warm. The torture paid off, though, as the film grossed enough money to pay back investors and launch a franchise that continues to this day with the release of “Evil Dead Rise” next month.
For a production with such a skimpy budget, every penny counts. That’s why Raimi had to change the name from its original title of “The Book of the Dead” to the more concise and to-the-point “The Evil Dead” in order to save money on newspaper advertising space. In an interview with Empire, Raimi told about the meeting with film sales agent Irvin Shapiro, who warned the boys producing the movie that every word would cost them. Shapiro apparently said:
“We’re changing the title, boys. Advertising space in the newspaper is paid for by the inch, kid. We’re not going to have a five-word title. ‘Dead’ can stay. You can have one other word. You can call it ‘101% Dead’, or ‘Evil Dead’.'”
Raimi thought that both options were asinine. “But those were the two worst titles I’ve ever heard in my life!” he lamented. “How can something be evil and dead?” Still, it was a better option than “101% Dead,” which we can all agree would have been a nightmare when naming sequels (“101% Dead 2” sounds like a math equation, not a horror movie). Raimi “chose the lesser of the horrible titles” and a horror classic that perfectly fits its name was born.
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/Film – Sam Raimi Thought ‘Evil Dead’ Was A Stupid, Terrible Title
Author: Andrew Housman
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March 17, 2023