This history covers the period from the completion of Crimewave, through Evil Dead II and up to Darkman. It draws from many sources, but mainly three books; The Evil Dead Companion by Bill Warren, If Chins Could Kill by Bruce Campbell, and The Unseen Force The Films Of Sam Raimi by John Kenneth Muir. All these books are a must for any Evil Dead fan, and I would highly recommend buying all three of them. The page is split up into three parts; Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production.
The idea of making sequel, had been seeded during production on The Evil Dead. Irvin Shapiro had suggested it to Sam, and after much thought, he settled on the idea of a large scale medieval epic set in the year 1300AD, with deadites, a castle & Ash travelling in time. Sam wrote a story, then worked with Sheldon Lettich to produce a screenplay. Irvin really liked the idea and took out ads in the trades announcing Evil Dead II: Evil Dead and the Army Of Darkness in May 1984. Both Universal and 20th Century Fox passed on the project, so with little interest, it was put to one side.
A few years later in 1985, following on from their bruising experience on Crimewave, Sam, Bruce & Rob needed to restore their confidence in the film industry, and repair their credit-worthy standing with the major studios. Evil Dead II was an easy 'fall-back' movie. For five months they they tried to get a deal worked out with Crimewave's distributors, 'Embassy Home Entertainment', but they felt they were just being stalled. With time dragging on, they decided to start interviews for potential cast & crew members. As a stroke of luck, a woman they interviewed happened to also be working on Stephen King’s directorial début; Maximum Overdrive shot at the De Laurentiis studios in Wilmington for the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG). They had dinner together and Evil Dead II's troubles came up in their discussion. Stephen had a several film deal with Dino, and talked to him about financing Evil Dead II. He was sceptical but agreed to meet the renaissance partners. Sam, Bruce & Rob knew that The Evil Dead had been a huge success in Italy, so they collected together all the Italian box office returns and took them along to the meeting in December 1985. Within twenty minutes, a deal was worked out for $3.6 million dollars. The partners really wanted around $4 million, but Dino felt that while The Evil Dead had indeed done well enough to warrant a sequel, he couldn't justify the financial risk, so lowering the budget became a way round this. Dino really wanted a movie similar to The Evil Dead rather than Sam's planned medieval epic and the contract was stipulated that the finished movie needed to pass the MPAA with an 'R' rating.
Sam began to work on a script with Scott Spiegel. Sam was always at the typewriter, which allowed Scott to throw ideas around. Initially they worked in Sam's house in Silver Lake, Los Angeles where he lived with Joel and Ethan Coen, Frances McDormand, Kathy Bates and Holly Hunter, but there proved to be too many distractions, so they finished the script elsewhere. The script took a little longer to write than planned as Sam was still finishing up Crimewave, and Scott was working on Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except.
The reduced budget meant that the film had to be scaled back, and the medieval setting was exchanged for the cabin. They decided upon a remake rather than a story which followed directly on from the first, with the timeline starting earlier, a brief recap though events in the first film, and some additional characters, but essentially it still had to have Ash battling the forces of darkness at it's heart. It was originally planned to include footage from the first film, along with Cheryl, Scott, Shelly & Linda in the recap, but because The Evil Dead was sold by Irvin Shapiro's company 'Films Around The World' to around fifty different distributors around across the globe, this would have meant obtaining clearances from each one for their territory. Some of those distributors had even gone out of business since buying The Evil Dead, so this was an unrealistic prospect. Sam decided to re-shoot the recap and keep it as short as possible by reducing the initial five characters down to just Ash and Linda, and distil the exposition revealed down to the most important information, even though this made the continuity between this film and The Evil Dead a little 'hazy'.
It was also decided to accentuate the comedy element to differentiate the sequel from its predecessor. In it's early drafts, the script was a mix of the comedic and the serious, with the horror elements played more to laughs than scares, although all the characters would essentially be straight roles. Scott tried to bring some logic to the script, and established some rules for demon possession and the deadites, setting out their premise; to test the mettle of man, to find out whether he is strong or weak, good or bad, so they will know if it is time to walk and rule the Earth. Rob & Bruce had to try to reign in some of Sam & Scott wackier ideas, and really pushed for the majority of the film to take place in the cabin, to keep the budget down. As Sam & Scott finished a draft, Bruce & Rob would read it through and make notes for the next draft.
Betsy Baker was contacted about reprising her role as Linda, but she had to decline as by this point she was married and expecting her first child, so the part was given to Denise Bixler. The character of Bobbie Jo was originally written with Sam's housemate Holly Hunter in mind, but in the end, the role was played by Kassie Wesley DePaiva. The remaining title roles went to Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks & Richard Domeier. Tom Sullivan was offered a four month contract for the special effects work, which covered all the make-up effects and stop-motion animation. Tom felt this huge task was beyond his abilities, so took a scaled down role just producing the stop-motion animation, and some of the props. Mark Shostrom & crew were brought on board to produce the make-up effects, assisted by various sculptors, model makers & animators, and Vern Hyde supervised the physical effects.
Dino had suggested they use the De Laurentiis owned Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina next to his offices. The studios was well equipped with eleven sound stages, and facilitates such as editing & screening rooms and prop shops. Following their experiences on Crimewave, the partners agreed that the further they could get from any studio interference, the better. Dino also wanted to charge to production full price for studio rental and equipment, something the partners knew they could get cheaper elsewhere. They went location scouting some distance away settling on the town of Wadesboro, North Carolina. Their decision not to use his studio upset Dino somewhat, as his executives would either have to drive three hours from Wilmington, or fly to Charlotte and drive another hour and a half. A week before the shoot Dino called Rob to a meeting in his offices in Wilmington. Rob drove the three hour journey from the location, and had to wait another half an hour to be seen. Rob quickly realised that the long drive was simply Dino's way of showing him really how far away they were. Dino gave him a hard time about their choice but Rob managed to persuade him of the merits of the location they had selected, and he relented.
Production started on the May 10 1986 and was scheduled to finish in August 1986. Shooting was an all round more professional experience than the first film and went mostly to plan, with all the exterior night footage shot first, then the daylight footage, both shot over the first three weeks, and the rest of the time was spent on the sets, where the film was shot predominately in sequence.
A local farmhouse served as their production base, and it's owner Harry Huntley became the local 'fixer' providing any services needed. Incidentally this farmhouse was also the same location used by Steven Spielberg for his 1985 film The Color Purple. The production wanted to use the crumbling local high school as a makeshift sound stage, so Bruce met with the school board. As it turned out, a number of people on the board ran companies perfectly suited to contract work for the production, so the deal was made and they got the J.R. Faison junior High School for only $500 a month. The gymnasium housed the film's few sets; The interior of the cabin, and the cellar, with dailies screened in the auditorium, the library doubling as a production office, the cafeteria for meals, and various classrooms for the special effects workshops. The interior of the cabin was constructed as a two level set with the cabin on top and the fruit cellar at ground level. This was done to allow tracking shots from one set to the other, but this was never filmed, although the orientation did make much of the special effects work easier.
The exterior of the cabin was built on the Huntley property, just a short drive from the farmouse. In constructing the fascia, they took a little licence from the original cabin, such as giving a tilt to the windows & door frames, and interior set was made somewhat bigger than the exterior fascia would have accommodated in reality. The production's budget couldn't afford hotels for the cast & crew, so they rented local bank-foreclosed homes for the duration of the shoot.
The crew became like a family unit and everyone pulled together, although there were a few problems. One of the biggest challenges over the shoot was the hot weather. Outside it was over 100 degrees, which mean inside the gym with poor ventilation and Tungsten lights the temperature hovered around 110 degrees. This made it uncomfortable for everyone on the set, but especially so for anyone in makeup. Knowing that the actress playing normal Henrietta, Lou Hancock, would be unlikely to be able to take the heat & abuse needed for the role of possessed Henrietta, Sam had cast his younger brother Ted. This part was far from an easy task, but it did get him into the Screen Actors Guild.
Sam really put the cast & crew through its paces, not least with his camera work. Evil Dead II not only employed slow-motion and stop-motion, there was even reverse-motion. Upon watching the dailies for the omitted sequence where Ash gets attacked by Linda's tongue Sam pointed at the screen and shouted, "That’s the worst reverse-motion acting I’ve ever seen!".
Tim Philo was contacted about the role of cinematographer, but as Tim had never shot a 35mm picture, and felt the task was beyond his abilities, his appointment to the position would be unlikely to pass Dino. Finally Eugene Schlugleit was hired as the cinematographer, someone Sam had worked with on the Crimewave re-shoots, and he and came with his own crew & equipment. As the shoot progressed Eugene's crew were unhappy with the number & frequency of set-ups they were being asked to make, and became uncooperative. by the end of the second week, things came to a head and Eugene & his crew were asked to leave the production, although they continued to rent Eugene's equipment. Again Tim Philo was offered and declined the job, and Peter Deming was brought in as the replacement cinematographer. As all the exterior night footage had been shot first, by the time Peter came on board many of the exterior shots had already been filmed, so Peter was credited as the 'Director of Photography', with Eugene as the 'Director of Night Exterior Photography'.
To gain the physique needed for the role, Mr. North Carolina was brought in to train Bruce in a mini-gym which had been set up in an empty classroom. Bruce worked-out for two hours a day, six days a week, with his food & nutritional intake carefully monitored. This continued well for twelve weeks, but once pre-production finished and shooting began, the exercise really took its toll. In the end, his hard work paid off, although because the film was shot out of sequence, the continuity in this respect does suffer somewhat.
Bruce did have a stunt double called John Casino for specific shots, but did many of his own stunts where possible. One sequence features Ash being propelled through the forest by the demon force. To achieve this, Bruce was strapped to the 'Sam-o-Cam', made up of a cast iron X, with boots bolted to the end of two of the limbs, and wrists straps the end of the other two limbs. This X was connected at the centre to a motor which allowed the rig, and Bruce, to spin 360 degrees from 1 to 20rpm. This was attached to a Chapman crane arm 15 feet off the ground, mounted on the back of a truck so it could be driven along. The shot was filmed on just outside of Cheraw, South Carolina on a three-quarter mile stretch of deserted road with overhanging trees, and the truck drove slowly along with the camera cranked a little so played at the standard 24 frames per second would appear sped up. Sam was at the remote controls, and it took an entire day to get the shot, although each run was only about 20 minutes.
During the production period, Scott Spiegel was busy acting in J.R. Bookwalter's The Dead Next Door, as a cop & zombie victim. Incidentally, Sam was an investor in this film and Bruce supervised the post-production audio. Because of this commitment, Scott was unable to be on the set of Evil Dead II full time, but did visit as often as his schedule would permit. He also took a cameo role as one of the knights in armour at the end, as did Josh Becker, Ted Raimi and Sam Raimi, supplemented with the Carolina National Guard.
The film ran over schedule by a few weeks, missing the August wrap date. Tim Philo was finally convinced to come on board to assist for the last portion of the shoot, among other things working on the shot with the 'Ram-o-Cam' (similar to The Evil Dead rig of the same name), built by Vern Hyde. This was a heavy twenty foot iron pole attached in the centre to Western dolly so it could pivot like a see-saw, with a camera fixed at the front end of the pole and six crew members pushing it from the back. This was used where the force punches through the windows of the Delta 88 Oldsmobile, which had to be done three times to get the final shot.
The film's wrap party consisted of a talent contest. Among other entrants, Sam & Bruce sang the 'Baby Moses and the Thrillers' greatest hit; 'Eight Mile Line', with Greg Nicotero on guitar.
Below you can watch 1h 5m 53s of camcorder footage covering that Evil Dead II talent show and dinner afterwards. This seems to be taken from tapes shot by Vern Hyde and his effects crew, rather than Greg Nicotero's camcorder footage. While it's in 480p DVD resolution, it was transferred from VHS and isn't exactly Blu-Ray quality, but this the only way anyone out there will likely see it.
Once shooting in North Carolina had wrapped, they returned to Michigan, but there was still footage that needed to be re-shot. Tim Philo stayed on to oversee some of the re-shoots in a warehouse studio in Dearborn, Michigan just outside of Detroit. The schedule was kept fairly tight, with three sets and two cameras in the space, along with a special effects area. While one set was used, another was being prepped so there was no waiting around between set-ups. Many of the more complicated shots & special effects animation was created here such as headless Linda attacking Bruce with a chainsaw, the climactic vortex sequence created using a the 'Sam-o-Cam' X rig & with blue-screen, and the 'blood-flood' scene.
The 'blood-flood' was something they had tried twice and failed to get back in North Carolina. Even after a third attempt, they still didn't have all the shots they needed.
It was initially planned for the introduction voice-over to run longer, joining Ash once already in the cabin, following Linda's death. They realised they really needed more set-up, so additional exposition was shot to expand on these opening scenes. They also re-shot & added other sequences such as Bobby Jo's vine attack scene, additional force POV shots filmed in some woods just outside the warehouse, and some driving shots for the opening of the film, shot in a park in down town Detroit. Watching the film carefully, you can usually spot the re-shoots as the lighting was bluer than the original footage, and some details on the costuming vary.
Joe LoDuca was brought in towards the end of the production, but had been signed up to score the picture far earlier in the production process. This was more a challenge than The Evil Dead not least because he only had three and a half weeks to complete the job, and there was a complicated blend of tones between the horrific & comedic, something which his score needed to reflect. The finished film came in slightly under budget and was very close to the shooting script, although some parts were written as less comic than they appeared on screen, and there were many ideas that didn't make it as far as the final cut for one reason or another.
In it's completed form, and despite their best efforts to the contrary, the film was very likely to get an 'X' rating from the MPAA. It would have been very difficult for DEG to release Evil Dead II unrated as they were a signatory of an MPAA contract prohibiting them from releasing any unrated movies. DEG decided not to submit the picture for a rating, and to get around the legal issue the 'Rosebud Releasing Corporation' was specifically set up to handle distribution. 'Fortunately' DEG had already booked 340 cinemas across the US and the advertising & marketing material had already been created and paid for before the movie was sold to Rosebud, so the only real difference in the situation was the name of the distributor. The ident for Rosebud was designed by Sam; a rose blooming in time-lapse photography with a painted sky backdrop, with the sound of a fly buzzing around it. The film opened theatrically to rave reviews in the US on Friday the 13th of March 1987, but did relatively poorly grossing less than six million dollars. It was however, a huge hit in Italy and Japan, and had some domestic success later when released on video.
Releasing the movie without a rating did present problems further down the line. Evil Dead II was part of a package of DEG films scheduled to be shown on a pay-TV movie channel, but the deal had been made before the film had been completed and was for an 'R' rated movie. Sam, Rob & Bruce worked with DEG heavily editing the movie in order for it to pass the MPAA, but removing the violence and lingering on Ash's horrified expression made the violence seem all the more disturbing. In the end so much had to be taken out as to make it nonsensical, and this censored version was never shown.
The end of Evil Dead II, also brought the end of the Renaissance partnership. Bruce was all too aware that he was primarily an actor, and at some point Sam would start getting directorial offers in which he couldn't cast Bruce. He decided to move to California and forge an acting career in his own right. As it turned out, he was right. Sam had sold a story idea to Universal, who entered into a production deal with Sam & Rob. Sam was about to get the biggest break of his career, Darkman.