Evil Dead (1981)
In Evil Dead 1981, a character known as Professor Raymond Knowby, is referenced during the movie as the first person to discover the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, or "Book of the Dead". Only his voice is heard in the film, as he recounts his experiences in the cabin with the evil dead. His story is never fully told, until now. This title sequence will uncover the mystery of Professor Knowby and the unfortunate possession of his wife, while foreshadowing the events of Ash and his friends.
When Evil Dead was made in 1981, the film had only $350,000 to produce, a small crew, and limited resources. All special effects were hand-made, so that was very impressive being that it was a pretty gory film at the time. It was important to Lindsay Kilbury and I, that as a tribute to Sam Raimi and crew, we remake the title sequence for Evil Dead 1981 specifically, taking inspiration from their hand-made techniques, not the most recent 2013 remake, which used all 3D modeling. All effects we produced were practical with the exception of the eyes between the “cabin” wood panels. The title sequence is comprised of various scenes which brief the viewer on the background story of the book, the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, Professor Knowby and his wife.
This project was one of the most exciting I’ve worked on; working with live actors, traveling to different filming sites, compositing different scenes using practical effects, to create my first horror title sequence. I could not have hoped for a better co-producer than Lindsay Kilbury. Her love for horror films and trying new things made this a flawless experience. As I would have to act in most of the scenes, Lindsay was behind the camera, building the composition, in the dirt, determined to get the perfect shot. Credit for post-production also goes to Lindsay; the eyes through the wood panels, color correction, and digital titles were all completed by her.
As proud as I am of this title sequence and how it turned out, much of the execution was dependent on our ability to be resourceful and get it done even when we didn’t have all the supplies/resources. That is what I am most proud of, and I hope Sam Raimi would be too.
Software : Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro
Equipment : Sony rx10, Arri LED Studio & Softbox lighting
The titles of our sequence began as a practical effect which were later combined with digital, more legible text.
A simple, but effective wooden pallet served as panels of the cabin. The idea being that the monster is trapped behind the wall, trying to escape. Each of the main actors names were written in fake blood by the monster, foreshadowing those that will be affected in the movie.
The blood seeping out from behind the panels was accomplished with a small pipette. Other props like rusted nails and rope were also added for further enhance the scene.
The lengths we will go to provide a semi-realistic depiction of a monster in the woods. Lindsay and I completely immersed ourselves in the world of Evil Dead, and did our best to produce a convincing story of Professor Knowby and his possessed wife.
Lindsay with the camera, and me dressed in a night gown set deep into the woods of Thunderbolt, GA. Inspired by the original movie, we constructed a sarong out of a beach towel and placed the camera inside, swinging the camera throughout the forest. This gave the appearance of a steady creature looming across the floor, jerking its head, searching for blood.
Then we see her. Only for a second, however thoroughly scaring everyone involved. Lindsay covered me head to toe in fake blood, pouring about a quart on my head, letting it drip down onto my dress. For extra effect, I painted my face white, and darkened my eyes with black eyeshadow. Even I was scared, and I was the one doing it! Barefoot, walking through the forest, hiding behind trees, we captured the possessed evil that starred in our sequence.
Having experience feeding meal worms to my bearded dragon, I knew that including them in one of the scenes would add an extra note of creepy to the sequence.
Watching you from behind the wood panels of the cabin looms the evil dead. This composition is not only one of the most successful in our sequence, but the most terrifying.
Most of the work was accomplished in production with the camera and lighting, focussing in and darkening the scene to create a very direct relationship with the eyes. The footage was then taken into post production where Lindsay added the glossy white, veiny effect over the pupils.
Now to bring all our blood soaked, worm infested, nightmare footage into Premiere to edit. This was just our first attempt on bringing our story to life, but already I was getting excited to see everything coming together.
Some would argue that the score and editing is the framework of any horror film, and I would agree. I heavily relied on our choice of music to set the mood and pace of the sequence. The song itself is horror influenced, filling you with anxiety while you listen, and I knew instantly that it would bring a unique sound to our visuals.
The style of editing for our Evil Dead title sequence was heavily inspired by famous title sequences, American Horror Story and Se7en. Each sequence is edited with quick, choppy cuts synchronized perfectly to the music. The American Horror Story sequences include many different scenes which also influenced our concept. Overall, we shot 12 different scenes that we cut together to tell the story of the professor and his wife.