The Evil Dead is a 1981 American supernatural horror film written and directed by Sam Raimi, produced by Robert Tapert and executive produced by Raimi, Tapert, and Bruce Campbell, who also starred alongside Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManicor, Betsy Baker and Theresa Tilly. The film focuses on five college students vacationing in an isolated cabin in a remote wooded area. After they find an audio tape that, when played, releases a legion of demons and spirits, four members of the group suffer from demonic possession, forcing the fifth member, Ash Williams (Campbell), to survive an onslaught of increasingly gory mayhem.
Raimi, Tapert, Campbell and their friends produced the short film Within the Woods as a proof of concept to build the interest of potential investors, which secured US$90,000 to begin work on The Evil Dead. Principal photography took place on location in a remote cabin located in Morristown, Tennessee, in a difficult filming process that proved extremely uncomfortable for the cast and crew; the film's extensive prosthetic makeup effects and stop-motion animations were created by artist Tom Sullivan. The completed film attracted the interest of producer Irvin Shapiro, who helped screen the film at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. Horror author Stephen King gave a rave review of the film, which resulted in New Line Cinema acquiring its distribution rights.
The Evil Dead grossed $2.4 million in the US and between $2.7 and $29.4 million worldwide. Both early and later critical reception were universally positive; in the years since its release, the film has developed a reputation as one of the most significant cult films, cited among the greatest horror films of all time and one of the most successful independent films. It launched the careers of Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell, who have continued to collaborate on several films together, such as Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy.
The Evil Dead spawned a media franchise, beginning with two direct sequels written and directed by Raimi, Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992), a fourth film, Evil Dead (2013), which serves as a soft reboot and continuation, and a follow-up TV series, Ash vs Evil Dead, which aired from 2015 to 2018; the franchise also includes video games and comic books. The film's protagonist Ash Williams is also considered to be a cultural icon.