Five college students take a weekend vacation, and rent an old cabin 'up in the mountains'. Scott & Shelly are together, as are Ash & Linda, and Cheryl is Ash's sister. They drive over an unstable bridge, down a trail and arrive at the isolated creepy cabin, have a look round, and unpack. Later that evening, they are all eating dinner in the dining room. In the main room, a trapdoor leading down to the cellar swings open, startling the group, and they rush in from the dining room. Scotty goes down the steps, into the cellar to investigate. Concerned, Ash soon follows.
They find each other and look around, spotting a table in the corner. Among other objects are a book, tape recorder, shotgun, and shells and they take some of the items upstairs. Listening to the tape recorder, they hear a voice who reveals that the book is called the 'Book Of The Dead', bound in human flesh and written in human blood, it contains Sumerian burial rites & incantations, which are read aloud. This releases a dark spirit into the woods, which calls to Cheryl to come outside, which she does. Upon going deeper in to the woods she is attacked by the trees, then chased back to the cabin by the spirit. In her frantic state, Ash decides to drive Cheryl back to town rather than her remain at the cabin. They drive off, only to find the old bridge has been destroyed, cutting them off from the outside world.
Later, back at the cabin, Cheryl becomes possessed and attacks the group, wounding Linda. Scott forces her into the cellar, and locks the trapdoor. Then spirit returns smashing in through a window and possessing Shelly. Scott battles with her, finally dismembering her with an axe. With his girlfriend dead, Scott leaves the cabin and ventures out into the woods.
Ash checks on Linda in bed in the back room. She jolts up possessed, and Ash rushes back into the main room, only to find Scott wounded & dying. Linda leaps upon Ash, and he stabs her, seemingly killing her. Ash buries her outside, meanwhile, Cheryl escapes from the cellar. Linda rises out of her shallow grave and attacks him again. Ash manages to decapitate her with a shovel, and rush back inside the cabin, only to find the broken trapdoor.
Having the shotgun, but no shells, Ash ventures down in to the cellar to get them. Upon emerging shot gun in hand, an almighty battle ensues between good and evil where only one can survive, but even then the nightmare isn't over...
You can read about & download a personally preserved HD digital transfer of the 35mm The Evil Dead trailer shown above, on the The Evil Dead Trilogy 35mm Trailers page in the Features section. As of the date of writing, this transfer is the only HD version of the trailer available anywhere in the world. It's included in standard definition on a plethora of DVD & Blu-Ray releases, but none of these are in high definition. It's freely available for personal use and fanmade DVD/Blu-Ray projects. Should anyone want access to the untouched 2K transfer, or should any professional media companies wish to include this trailer on a retail release, please contact me first. You can also read a PDF version of the script below. This is the original shooting script, not a transcript. It's formatted as per the original, with the back & front cover images as drawn by Tom Sullivan.
Reading the script, there are a few small but interesting differences to the finished film. Even though it's only 66 pages long, there are a good few lines missing in the film from the first half of the script, but you can really see how the film works much better having been tightened up. It's well known that Sam didn't have an ending until the end of location shooting. The script finishes simply with Bruce leaving the cabin at dawn, and the final shot of the spirit rushing though the cabin, suggested by Josh Becker, was one of the last things filmed.
There are a few other little differences worth noting, such as the cellar trapdoor originally being found to be nailed shut in the script, so when it opens by itself later it is obviously more of a shock to the group. Additionally when Scotty leaves Ash in the script they part as good friends with Scotty going to get help, as opposed Scotty running out on Ash leaving him to fend for himself in the film.
Its also strange how changing one word in a line of dialogue can make something flow/scan so much better, like changing "...I don't know what I would have done if I had remained on THE hot coals burning my pretty flesh..." changed to "...I don't know what I would have done if I had remained on THOSE hot coals burning my pretty flesh..." Also "...like the others before you. We will take you one by one..." to "...like the others before you. One by one we will take you...."
Of the trilogy, The Evil Dead is the straightest horror film, lacking the slapstick and one liners of it's sequels, and is probably the most far removed from the Super-8 shorts in tone & gore. With the exception of Clockwork, there is really little linking one to the other. Comparing it to Within The Woods, you can see Sam has learned to make the most of the suspenseful or creepy elements. One good example is the sing chair outside the cabin, which Sam plays far more on the suspense here, than in Within The Woods, where it is a single almost a throw-away shot.
You can see from the film itself, along with the many anecdotes told by the cast that many individual shots have been carefully thought out & crafted some taking many hours, and that care and attention really comes through. This is an element that is progressively reigned in, to an extent not only in each of the sequels, but broadly across all Sam's films to date, although this is only really to be expected with the growing cast & crews, and the financial and studio executive constraints.
Given Bruce, Sam & Rob's somewhat lowly drive-in aspirations, The Evil Dead has achieved far more than any of them could ever have hoped, earning money and drawing new generations of fans nearly 30 years after it's initial release.