1978 - Director. Sam Raimi.
Review by Justine Ryan.
Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert (credited as RIP Tapert) made Within the Woods as a blueprint to show investors that they could make their first feature film - Book of the Dead, (later retitled The Evil Dead by distributor Irvin Shapiro).
Spending a weekend away at a remote cabin, are couples, Bruce (Bruce Campbell), Ellen (Ellen Sandweiss), Scotty (Scott Spiegel) and Shelly (Mary Valenti). Ellen (Sandweiss whom is long time pals with Raimi and Campbell and high school chums, returns in The Evil Dead as Ashes sister, Cheryl) and Bruce decide to go for a picnic in the woods. To Ellen's dismay, Bruce informs her that they are picnicking on an old Indian burial ground, telling her not to worry - "You're only cursed by the evil spirits if you violate the graves of the dead. We're just going to be eating hot dogs". As Ellen goes off in search for some wood, Bruce begins to dig a hole in the earth to make a fire, uncovering an old cross and Indian dagger. As the soundtrack becomes eerie, we the audience, know that this cannot be good!
As Ellen returns, Bruce shows her what he has uncovered, explaining further that "When the medicine man of a tribe died, they used to bury one of his possessions with him, so he can have it in his next life. All that's left now, is Tinga! - The Indian spirit of the woods - who watches over and protects the medicine man's grave for all eternity".
Awaking from a nap alone, Ellen goes in search of Bruce who is nowhere in sight. Ellen trips over his mutilated body, and is startled by inhuman sounds all around her. Reminiscent of the chase sequence after being raped by the vines in The Evil Dead, Ellen is chased by an evil force through the woods, making it back to the cabin before the force can get her.
Within the Woods is a great companion piece and prelude to The Evil Dead, showcasing many future scenes that would be carried over into The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn. Ellen Sandweiss does a fine job just barely holding her own against possessed (Deadite) Bruce.
Within the Woods has been floating around as bootlegs for the past 10 or so years. It was originally going to have it's first DVD release on Anchor Bay's 2002 Limited Edition of The Evil Dead: Book of the Dead, but due to issues with the copyright for it's music, it was scrapped as a DVD extra...until now!
Madman Entertainment will be releasing The Evil Dead Anthology on 26/11/14, exclusive to Australia. The set will include The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, Army Of Darkness, the 2013 reimagining of The Evil Dead, Within the Woods and the documentary 'Invaluable' on Evil Dead special make-up effects designer Tom Sullivan. The set includes the Necronomicon and a replica of the dagger used in the film. I absolutely love Within the Woods and am thrilled this is finally getting it's deserved treatment. The series has been very near and dear to me since I was a kid (as I know many other fans share this same story), hiring them on video. I have lost count the total amount of times I have watched each film, but it probably isn't considered healthy!
Editorial update: The upcoming Madman release will no longer feature INTO THE WOODS for legal reasons.