The Evil Dead (1981) is a favorite for most horror fans, and for good reason. Sam Raimi kills it in taking a very small budget and creating an absolute gem. Bruce Campbell as Ash was a revelation, catapulting him into an exalted status as a horror powerhouse. But, in your annual rewatch of this horror classic, you may have noticed an Easter egg hidden in the background of an important scene. That one hidden detail resulted in a back-and-forth between two of horror’s most prominent directors, and we’re here for the drama.
What’s hidden in the basement?
Toward the beginning of The Evil Dead, the friends find a hatch in the floor of the cabin leading to a creepy basement. When Scott heads down and disappears, it’s up to Ash to go down and find him. After a jumpscare on the part of Scott, the pair check out a desk tucked away along one cobweb-crusted wall. It’s there that they find the big-bad of the film: The Book of the Dead.
While you’re watching Ash flip through the book at around 15:00, you may have missed the Easter Egg tacked onto the wall behind the desk. With the bottom half torn off and half of Papa Jupiter’s face missing, the poster for The Hills Have Eyes (1977) hangs in tatters.
This was Sam Raimi’s nod to prolific horror writer/director Wes Craven. Sam Raimi said in an interview with Esquire:
There’s a torn-up poster of Jaws in [Craven’s] The Hills Have Eyes, so I thought it would be funny to tear a Hills Have Eyes poster into pieces in The Evil Dead, to tell Wes, ‘No, this is the real horror, pal.’Sam Raimi, Esquire
And so their mostly innocent feud began. A few years later, Wes Craven had his opportunity to get Raimi back.
Wes Craven responds.
In A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), around 34:00, Nancy is trying to keep herself awake by watching TV. When the camera flashes on the television, you can see she’s watching The Evil Dead. Unfortunately, Raimi’s hit isn’t enough to keep Nancy awake and she manages to fall asleep and ends up in Freddy’s world of nightmares. Of course, this is a pretty obvious take from Craven that his horror is better: Raimi’s movie is so tame you’d fall asleep watching it.
Over the years, the feud would continue. In Evil Dead II and The Army of Darkness, there were quick Easter eggs of Freddy’s glove in the background of select scenes. But it wasn’t until years later that Raimi would get his revenge in person:
Years ago, I was at the Cannes Film Festival giving a radio interview — I had never met Wes — and he came up to the booth. I thought, This is where I’m going to get old Wes. I hid and leaped out with a terrific shout, and he just jumped out of his skin. [Laughs] Then I introduced myself. He gave me a look like, Are you out of your mind? He’s been very kind to me ever since.Sam Raimi, Esquire
Unfortunately, that’s the end of their feud. Wes Craven passed away in 2015 from a brain tumor. We still have these classic movies to look back on though, and the world of horror is better for their inclusion in the genre.