While Within the Woods is well-known as a precursor to The Evil Dead—Raimi has a number of sequences he uses again, once he’s got a budget—it’s more significant for its differences. First, it’s a monster movie. While gory, it has more in common with an old Universal horror picture than it does Evil Dead. Second (and related to the first), it’s Raimi’s only film for many years with a female protagonist. Bruce Campbell’s not the lead here, it’s Ellen Sandweiss.
As a director, some of Raimi’s shots work and some don’t. Once he gets to the horror sequences, he’s more in his element, but he does have some strong material before.
Sandweiss is excellent—even if her last ten minutes is constant screaming—as is Campbell. Mary Valenti’s good, Scott Spiegel isn’t.
It’s an interesting, moderately successful film. It deserves a real release, for Sandweiss’s performance alone.
Written and directed by Sam Raimi; director of photography, Tim Philo; produced by Robert G. Talpert.
Starring Bruce Campbell (Bruce), Ellen Sandweiss (Ellen), Mary Valenti (Shelly) and Scott Spiegel (Scotty).