The Evil Dead is a 1979 recorded and 1981 American horror film written and directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, and Betsy Baker. The Evil Dead focuses on five college students vacationing in an isolated cabin in a wooded area. After they find an audiotape that releases a legion of demons and spirits, members of the group suffer from demonic possession, leading to increasingly gory mayhem. Raimi and the cast produced the short film Within the Woods as a "prototype" to build the interest of potential investors, which secured Raimi US$90,000 to produce The Evil Dead. The film was shot on location in a remote cabin located in Morristown, Tennessee, in a difficult filming process that proved very uncomfortable for the majority of the crew.
The low-budget horror film attracted the interest of producer Irvin Shapiro, who helped screen the film at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. Author Stephen King gave a rave review of the film, which helped convince New Line Cinema to serve as its distributor. Though a meager commercial success in the United States, the film made its budget back through worldwide distribution, and grossed $2.4 million during its theatrical run. Original critical reception was positive, and in the years since its release, The Evil Dead has developed a reputation as one of the largest cult films, and has been cited among the greatest horror films of all time. The Evil Dead launched the careers of Campbell and Raimi, who would collaborate on several films together throughout the years, including Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy.
The film has spawned a media franchise, beginning with two sequels directed by Raimi, Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992), as well as video games and comic books. The film's protagonist Ash Williams (Campbell) is regarded as a cult icon. A remake titled Evil Dead was released in 2013, with Raimi co-writing the script and producing the film alongside Campbell and The Evil Dead producer Robert Tapert.