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That Time Bruce Campbell Frightened Churchgoers With His Bloody Wardrobe While Shooting The Evil Dead

Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams in The Evil Dead
(Image credit: Renaissance Pictures)

While starring in horror movies may sound like fun gigs, the jobs aren't always so easy. Sometimes the fear and anxiety you see on screen is not too far from what the cast experienced on set, which is something the cast of one of the all-time best horror movies, The Evil Dead, can attest to. Star Bruce Campbell is often a fount of BTS stories and has one such behind-the-scenes story that is as painful as it is hilariously awkward. 

He recalled the memory in a featurette included on the recently released The Evil Dead Groovy Collection 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray set. The short documentary, called “The Ladies of The Evil Dead Meet Bruce Campbell,” sees the B-movie legend, who plays Ash Williams, conversing with his co-stars Ellen Sandweiss (Ash’s sister, Cheryl), Betsy Baker (Ash’s girlfriend, Linda), and Theresa Tilly (Shelly, credited then as Sarah York). The cast discusses their experiences filming the low-budget, 1981 cult classic from future Doctor Strange 2 director Sam Raimi. 

The Evil Dead Groovy Collection

The Evil Dead Groovy Collection

At one point, the actors mention how low temperatures at the Tennessee cabin they filmed at made the fake blood much stickier than expected. Bruce Campbell really learned that the hard way, as he explained:

I had a fun blood experience when we were shooting one night, all night long and it was a Saturday night. We were shooting in the Bible Belt, here in rural Tennessee, and I couldn’t get my clothes off. I had so much fake blood on me, every time I pulled to get my sleeve off, I’d take a shank of hair with it. It was like sandpaper. So, we had this rented white pickup, so I sat in the back of the pickup truck, looking like Charles Manson, basically, covered from head to toe on a Sunday morning as people are coming out to go to church and I’m going, ‘Hi! Good morning!’

Even without any background knowledge, watching The Evil Dead gives the viewer a pretty clear idea of the challenges Bruce Campbell and others faced on the set. During his ill-fated stay at the woodland cabin setting, “hero” Ash Williams is relentlessly tormented by malicious spirits that turn his friends into grotesque minions. It should come as no surprise that he is covered head-to-toe in blood by the end. 

Bruce Campbell in The Evil Dead

(Image credit: Renaissance Pictures)

However, to discover the degree of misery that the fake blood caused the actor when the cameras were not rolling is especially heart-wrenching. I am not sure which is more painful: the fact that Bruce Campbell’s own arm hair was coming off with the blood (which he later explains in the featurette had to be melted off with a hot shower before finally getting his clothes off) or how it must have felt to scare  the hell out of bystanders about to pray to the Heavens.

On the other hand, scaring people is something the actor has continued to revel in since, having reprised his best-known character three more times in 1987’s horror-comedy classic Evil Dead 2, the cartoonish medieval epic Army of Darkness in 1992, and the Starz original TV series Ash vs. Evil Dead from 2015 to 2018. You can relive all of the chainsaw-handed Deadite killer’s adventures (excluding Army of Darkness, unfortunately) and learn the secrets behind each installment with The Evil Dead Groovy Collection, which is available now.

While Bruce Campbell has retired from playing Ash on camera, he will return in the upcoming Evil Dead video game and has re-teamed with Sam Raimi to produce a new installment for the franchise called Evil Dead Rise - one of the most anticipated upcoming horror movies which wrapped shooting in October 2021 and will be released exclusively on HBO Max. With a bigger budget, the cast and crew likely had an easier time on set than the original cast did. However, according to director Lee Cronin’s tweet, it was no less bloody this time. Groovy!

Jason Wiese

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.