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January of 1979, Bruce was living in Royal Oak, Michigan. Rob and Sam Had an apartment together in East Lansing, attending Michigan State University where Sam was studying literature and Rob was Finishing up an economics degree.

Rob had become very involved in The Happy Valley Kid, and was equally fascinated with the situation surrounding It's Murder!. These experiences opened up an entirely new world for Rob, something infinitely more interesting than economics, "The idea started formulating in my mind. Well, I know a few guys who have money, maybe I could get the money together." Rob recalled, so he proposed that Sam do a feature film next, but initially, Sam didn't share his enthusiasm, but decided to play along to see how far they could take the idea.

Preliminary phone calls between the three of them centred on the inevitable question: Could they make a real film for the real world? They decided to press on, and started looking at the type of film most likely to succeed commercially. Their Super-8 film library up to that point consisted almost exclusively of sappy comedies, and they felt their efforts just didn't compare to the professional 'Hollywood' efforts around at the time. They felt a failed comedy would make less money than a failed horror movie, even if the horror movie was bad.

Something had that happened during the screenings of the murder mystery flop, It's Murder!, that made then take note. A suspense scene played out when a heinous criminal leapt upon an unsuspecting victim from the backseat of a car. Screenings of the film were always met with a lacklustre response, but that scene always delivered - people never failed to jump out of their seats. Aside from comedy, 'scares' were the only other guarantee of provoking a strong reaction from the audience.

It's Murder (44:04) - The lead is trying to escape in his car, the soundtrack goes silent, suddenly a menacing figure leaps up from the back seat.

Having experimented with the horror theme with the Super-8 short; Clockwork, made only a few months previously, they felt that horror would be the way to go. They did some research into the genre and one destination seemed requisite, the drive-in theatre. Although in 1979, this mode of exhibition was a fading cultural phenomenon. Most drive-ins showed either kung-fu flicks or horror. Having sat through numerous showings the message was loud and clear; keep the pace fast and furious, and once the horror starts, never let up. They were encouraged by the fact that very few, if any, boasted the requisite 'name' actors, fancy clothes or exotic locations associated with other genres. Aside from ample amounts of blood, they didn't even require that many special effects. With their minds made, they decided the way to proceed would be to shoot a prototype. By doing so, they felt that they could prove not only to themselves, but also to our potential investors, that a full feature was possible.

At Michigan State University in Ypsilanti, Sam had been studying H.P. Lovecraft in his creative writing class, and the Neronomicon (aka the Book of the Dead) in his ancient history class. These basic elements gave him some ideas for a short story, "it was about being alone in a cabin" remembers Sam. So following Christmas that year, Sam returned to their apartment with Rob with a rough idea for a horror movie. A story about a group of young people isolated and in danger, then killed one by one with maximum impact and suspense. Over the course of the script's creation, the original idea of basing the central 'book' on the Egyptian Book of the Dead was replaced by references to Sumerian religion. Like other writers, Sam later borrowed the term 'Necronomicon' from author H.P Lovecraft.

By that point, staging a Super-8 film was old hat, and they mustered a cast of regulars. Ellen Sandweiss was the natural choice as the starlet/female victim. Ellen had been in numerous Super-8s and expressed a sincere desire to be an actress. Bruce was cast as her innocuous boyfriend, Scott Spiegel, who demonstrated a gory flair in Clockwork as the psycho, was cast as the obnoxious boyfriend of Mary Valenti; who was daughter of a friend of the Tapert family.

To pull this $1,600 film off, they needed make-up effects, something that couldn't be achieved by a trip to the local costume shop. Sam's story called for knives into necks and abdomens, mutilated body parts and possessed people. To do this, they enlisted the help of Tom Sullivan, who had worked with them on a couple of past shorts. Tom was made responsible for the special effects & makeup needed, along with some special props like the Indian pottery fragments and knife. He also painted the unfired pottery that would be smashed over Bruce's head for a fight scene.

The film, was shot over very hot weekend (three or six days depending on who tells the story), in the hot spring of 1979, at a farmhouse owned by the Tapert family friends' outside of Marshall, Michigan. Incidentally the basement in same farmhouse was used to film the cellar sequences in The Evil Dead along with a number of later pick-up shots once principal photography had finished. The shoot proved to be much slower than the other Super-8 films, so the weekend dragged on. There where additional factors such as realistic dialogue, difficult make-up effects, and the beginnings of Sam's complex shooting style which came to full fruition on The Evil Dead.

Tom made a plaster cast of Bruce's arm then produced the fake arm in a slush cast foam latex. The fake arm had a tube running out of its elbow and was duct-taped to Bruce’s elbow. His forearm was folded up to his chest. The arm was used during the climatic battle between Bruce & Ellen. Ellen was supposed to cut Bruce's hand completely off. Tom had never done any foam latex castings before, and had coated the mould with liquid latex prior to filling the mould with the foam mixture and baking it. The result was a thick rubber skin over the foam filler. This meant Ellen was unable to cut all the way though, and Bruce was left with the hand hanging but still partially attached to their only fake arm, with the camera was still rolling. Bruce tried to pull it off, but couldn't so in an inspired piece of improvisation, Bruce bites through the remainder of his wrist and drops the severed hand. When Sam yelled 'Cut' the crew went crazy, commenting that was the grossest thing they'd ever seen. The sequence worked so well it was re-used in The Evil Dead where a possessed Shelly does the exact same thing. Bruce's fake arm among a number of other original props can be seen in Tom's travelling Evil Dead museum, he shows at movie conventions every so often.

This shoot also required Bruce's first full-on monster makeup. Tom sculpted and cast an eyeball with optic nerve, to be dangled from Bruce's torn, bloodied and mutilated face. This appliance was glued in place by applying spirit gum to the back of the prosthetic piece, and when tacky, sticking into position and holding until set, then painting latex rubber over the edges to hide them and drying the whole thing with a hair dryer. Then he would paint the make-up with whatever came to hand, usually blemish cream or acrylic paint. Then scars, mud and fake blood were added to complete the effect. The schedule meant that Bruce stayed & slept in his makeup for the whole shoot. Bruce somewhat regretted this later though "When the shoot was over, however, I realized that my skin had undergone a disturbing change-of the DNA variety." Where the latex makeup had been applied, a rash emerged, and stayed with him for months afterwards. He also later discovered that the bile he was almost always drooling as a monster was actually black latex paint, the ingestion of which is not recommended!





Other effects were far more horrible in real life, such as attempting to attach a stabbed chest knife rig Scott's indescribably furry chest. Tom had provided the half-knife prop, but it still had to be secured, wiggle free, to the actor. That's when one of the great staples of Super-8 films came in handy - duct tape, although removing the tape was another matter! Another Super-8 standby was used courtesy of Scott's employment at the Walnut Lake Market: canned cherry cobbler. This provided a perfectly thick, pulpy substance for Mary Valenti to vomit out upon being stabbed in the neck.

The production allowed them to experiment various novel techniques. It was the first time that they blacked out windows to provide the false illusion of night, this allowed them to shoot at any point of the day or night making the most of their shooting time. Additionally this was a first for filming outdoors at night, all night, and they rented professional lights for the first time.

Sam was already developing complex camera moves, "I ran with the camera hand-held for the effect of the creature advancing on the house. I could see that a wide lens helped the distortion factor. The closer you could get the object to the edge of the frame in a wide A lens, it would warp as it went out of frame in a very dramatic way."

For the first time Sam experimented with camera speeds "taking it a little further than we had gone before, recording synch-sound at a third slower for a more monstrous effect. For instance, although we shot the movie itself at eighteen frames per second, we shot Bruce Campbell at twenty-four frames per second to give him more mass on screen, and to make him move a little differently than the other characters. And also to distort his soundtrack, to make it much slower and heavier, an inhuman pitch."

Once Within The Woods was completed, It was premièred to friends and relatives in the backyard of the Tapert family home. In August of that year, Rob Tapert arranged a full theatre screening, at a theatre on east side of Detroit; the Punch and Judy. It was running The Rocky Horror Picture Show every weekend and the management was "open and flexible." We approached them with the idea of showing Within The Woods just before Rocky Horror, and they agreed.

"The only real battle with this screening was a technical one." Bruce recalled "A Super-8 projector has limited bulb power, so we had to set the thing up halfway down the aisle of the theatre. It became a game of: "The image is too dim, move it closer." "Well, if we move it closer, the picture isn't big enough." Eventually, with the help of a new, $21.10 EFR Halogen 150 watt, 15 volt bulb, they found a happy medium. A trip to Radio Shack provided the hundreds of feet of audio extension cable needed to patch their projector amplifier into the theatre sound system. Even though the Super-8 projector only took up about a quarter of the screen, and an audio problem resulted in a slightly annoying hum. The 'cult' crowd gathered to see Rocky Horror seemed to share enough basic interest in real horror to enjoy themselves. Because they scored the film with music they didn't own the rights to, they donated the proceeds to the American Cancer Society, a total of $11.40, about half of what the new bulb cost. They even got a review from that screening in the Detroit News.
The auditorium of 'The Punch and Judy' theatre

Sam, Bruce & Rob pencilled shooting for The Evil Dead to start during the summer of 1979, but they would need to get moving if they were ever going to make this deadline, as by that point it was already May. With their prototype in the can, they began the arduous task of signing up investors.
 
 
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