Within the Woods is a 1978 short film directed by Sam Raimi, which would later be expanded into the first Evil Dead film. It features the same basic premise and structure of the movie, focusing on a group of young friends staying at a cabin in the woods, only for one of them to go meddling where they shouldn't and accidentally awaken malevolent forces. Several moments and shots in the short were later reused in both the finished film and its sequel.
The short was made as a proof-of-concept for investors to secure a budget for Evil Dead, and as such it has never been commercially released. It can be found on YouTube, however, but in poor quality that can sometimes make it difficult to discern what is actually happening onscreen. This is the best version you are likely to find.
Tropes found in this short film:
- Accidental Murder: Technically subverted. Ellen stabs Scotty when he opens the door, thinking that it's now-possessed Bruce, but he manages to hold on and tell her to go down into the basement to get his gun. When she gets back, she finds that he has been killed by Bruce.
- Big Bad: The demonic entity possessing Bruce.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- There's no mention of either Professor Knowby or the Naturum Demonto/Necronomicon in this film. Instead, everything goes sideways as a result of Bruce taking a dagger from a Native American burial ground.
- Bruce Cambell's character is named Bruce instead of Ash, and his character is much more of a nerdy know-it-all than Ash is, certainly more than the badass action hero of Evil Dead 2 and beyond. There's also him getting killed off early in the movie, with Ellen serving as the protagonist and Bruce's demonically possessed corpse as the villain.
- Indian Burial Ground: The cabin was built on one. Bruce taking a Native American dagger from the area is what kickstarts the plot.
- Not Quite Dead: Done twice. Bruce is seemingly killed when Ellen stabs him with the dagger, but just as she walks away he grabs her leg and the struggle continues. Soon after, she manages to get hold of an axe and goes to town on him, before crouching in the corner of the room and sobbing to herself. The final shot of the movie is Scotty sitting upright in the foreground and turning his focus on her.