EntertainmentMoviesThe Original 'Evil Dead' Kills Its Own Perfection With...

The Original ‘Evil Dead’ Kills Its Own Perfection With This One Scene


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TW: This article discusses the general topic of sexual assault and how it is portrayed in The Evil Dead.

The Big Picture

  • The Evil Dead is a highly influential horror movie that launched Sam Raimi’s career and made Bruce Campbell a pop culture icon.
  • The film includes a disturbing and unnecessary rape scene involving a character named Cheryl, which director Sam Raimi now regrets including.
  • The 2013 Evil Dead recreated the infamous tree rape scene despite Raimi removing it from the franchise in Evil Dead II, due to pressure from an unnamed producer.

1981’s The Evil Dead is one of the most influential horror movies ever. For starters, the feature directorial debut of Sam Raimi launched the filmmaker’s prolific career. The movie also helped Bruce Campbell to get his B-movie king crown since his protagonist Ash Williams would become a pop culture icon. The Evil Dead also showed how far a director could push practical effects to make a truly disturbing horror movie, drenching the audience in blood while unrelenting violence takes over the silver screen. More than four decades after the release of The Evil Dead, the movie is now known for kicking off one of the most successful horror franchises ever crafted. Yet, while The Evil Dead is nearly perfect, one scene can ruin any screening.

‘The Evil Dead’ Features an Unfortunate Rape Scene

Image via New Line Cinema

The Evil Dead follows a group of friends who rent a cabin in the woods to spend their vacations together. Little do they knew, the cabin belonged to a scholar studying the Necronomicon, the Book of the Dead. As expected, the friends inadvertently unleash the horrors trapped inside the book, and one by one, they fall victim to the Kandarian demon and the Deadites. The first person to be killed by the Necronomicon in The Evil Dead is Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), final boy Ash William’s sister. In the movie, Cheryl decides to investigate some strange noises in the woods all by herself after the whole group already witnessed bizarre events in the cabin. You don’t need to be a horror fan to know Cheryl is about to face death. Still, her fate turns out to be worse than becoming a Deadite.

When she’s alone in the woods, Cheryl is attacked by vines and tree branches. Following a distasteful trend in 1980s horror, Cheryl is first stripped naked by the vines before being tied down for nothing more than creepy shock value. Then, the Kandarian demon possesses Cheryl by raping her with a branch that brutally and explicitly penetrates her body. It’s an awful, tasteless, and completely needless scene. And as time goes by, that scene becomes even more distasteful.

RELATED: How Stephen King Helped Save The ‘Evil Dead’ Franchise — Twice

Sam Raimi Regrets the Tree Scene in ‘The Evil Dead’

Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) with a shotgun and chainsaw hand in 'The Evil Dead'
Image via New Line Cinema

Raimi knows he went too far with the “tree rape” scene. In fact, the filmmaker has talked about how he regrets putting it in The Evil Dead because “I think it was unnecessarily gratuitous and a little too brutal. And finally, because people were offended in a way that I didn’t…my goal is not to offend people. It is to entertain, thrill, scare…make them laugh but not to offend them.” Raimi was only 22 years old when The Evil Dead hit theaters and even younger when he came up with the script. Times have changed, and we have developed more empathy and sensitivity toward sexual violence in the past decade. So we can’t expect the young Raimi to have had the same knowledge and perception we do today. Still, we have to agree with Raimi when he says, “I think my judgment was a little wrong at that time.”

Thankfully, Raimi was open to criticism and ready to learn from his mistakes from an early age. That’s why, when he remade The Evil Dead as the first arc of Evil Dead II, he scrapped the “tree rape” scene and made the Kandarian demon possess Cheryl without any scene depicting sexual violence. Sadly, the “tree rape” scene reemerged in the franchise for 2013’s Evil Dead.

2013’s ‘Evil Dead’ Recreated the Tree Scene

Mia (Jane Levy) screaming in Evil Dead 2013
Image via Sony Pictures

While we can praise 2013’s Evil Dead for its brutal reimagining of the original movie, Fede Álvarez‘s feature directorial debut is still tarnished by the same violent attack that ruins The Evil Dead. Part sequel and part remake, 2013’s Evil Dead recreates some of Raimi’s most iconic scenes. That also includes the “tree rape” moment Raimi tried to erase. Sure, Álvarez is more careful with the scene than Raimi was in 1981 by allowing Jane Levy’s Mia to remain clothed during the scene. It definitely isn’t as brutal as the scene in the original movie. But, if Raimi removed the scene from the canon with Evil Dead II, why didn’t Álvarez respect the original filmmaker’s wishes? The blame seems to fall on an unnamed producer.

In an interview for Gizmodo, Álvarez revealed a producer asked him to rewrite the script and include the infamous scene. As Álvarez tells it, “I didn’t write one scene, and [the producer] asked, ‘Where’s my raping tree?’ So [types on the table and whistles] raping scene, there you go.” It’s easy to understand why a young director taking over a beloved franchise would feel pressured to follow a producer’s request. But it doesn’t make the return of the “tree rape” scene any less unfortunate or unneeded.

It would take ten years after Ávarez’s Evil Dead to get a theatrical sequel. The good news is that Evil Dead Rise finds a great way to pay homage to the original movie while getting rid of its most distasteful scene.

‘Evil Dead Rise’ Fixes That Disturbing Scene

Deadite Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) clutching on to the bathtub in Evil Dead Rise
Image via Warner Bros.

In Evil Dead Rise, another copy of the Necronomicon is found by an oblivious family, bringing the Deadites back to Earth. The first person to fall victim to the Kandarian demon is Alyssa Sutherland’s Ellie, who, if she hasn’t already, will definitely become a horror icon. Like Cheryl and Mia, Ellie is possessed by a demon and turned into a Deadite when alone and helpless. However, since Evil Dead Rise takes place in an apartment building instead of a cabin in the woods, the Kandarian demon has to get creative with his vines. Ellie is attacked in the elevator, with the demon using the cable and wirings of the machine to bind the woman. The scene echoes what happens with Cheryl and Mia in the woods. But this time, we don’t have any sexual violence to ruin the mood.

Evil Dead Rise made a splash at the box office. That, along with the movie’s overwhelmingly positive critical reception, will probably ensure director Lee Cronin will helm a direct sequel. It’s a good thing, then, that Cronin is willing to respect the franchise’s history while still getting rid of the elements that aged poorly. And in the case of the “tree rape” scene, we are glad the franchise seems to be over it.



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