ILHM Interviews Evil Dead's Tom Sullivan!!

If you are a Horror fan, you know his work. He has contributed some of the most memorable and iconic pieces of film property and FX in recent decades, and continues to contribute incredible Horror and Science Fiction artwork in various mediums. We are talking, of course, about the great Tom Sullivan, creator of The Book of The Dead, the Kandarian Dagger, and countless other creations from The Evil Dead series and beyond! Tom has served as an inspiration to aspiring artists across the globe, and has been gracious enough to speak with I Like Horror Movies tonight about his work on The Evil Dead and various new projects:

ILHM: Tom, thanks for taking the time to catch us up on your current projects! Any horror fan will immediately recognize your work on The Evil Dead series, having designed each of the props including the Necronomicon. I'm sure the first question you hear most often is 'What was it like working with Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and the Ladies of Evil Dead?'

Tom: It was like summer camp without adult supervision and we were all figuring out how to make a movie. Despite the usual wrenches that get thrown into the machine it went pretty well. It was a lot of work but I don't recall any egos, tantrums, delays or stops.

ILHM: Did Sam give you creative control over each of your designs?

Tom: I would come up with ideas and run them past Sam of course. Because Sam didn't know about pre-production at that time I had 3 weeks with the script before production began . This meant I had to stay up all night and design and build the props or special effects needed for the next day as well as prepare and apply the make-up. Not much time for sleep.

ILHM: You commonly reference the meltdown scene as being your favorite FX sequence in the first film; how was this sequence achieved, and how long did it take to film?

Tom: Bart Pierce and I used stop motion animation utilizing life sized models of bendable armatures covered in clay. Tiny changes were made and photographed one frame at a time. We also used split screen mattes to combine live action bile, blood or falling hair with clay animation tissue decomposition. It took a full three months.

ILHM: How did your experience working on Evil Dead 2 differ from working on the original?

Tom: Sam decided to micro manage the FX work on ED2 and it lead to a lot of re-shoots and lifeless sequences. I was also limited to my film credit being one word. This was disappointing because I created props like the Books and Dagger and did several stop motion sequences. All in all it was a very disappointing time.

ILHM: What is the story behind your departure from the series in Army of Darkness?

Tom: I didn't depart, I had moved back to Marshall, Michigan after the death of my wife, Penny in 1987. Rob Tapert called when AOD was beginning and asked for another ED2 Book of the Dead. I made it and sent it off. When I hadn't been paid in 3 months I called back and was told they needed a larger version so the Art Director had made a new one based on my designs. They cropped my interior artwork and used that in the film. AOD is the only film I was credited for the design of the Book.

ILHM: What is the most positive effect The Evil Dead series has had on your life?

Tom: I love being a guest at Horror Movie Conventions and meeting fans and networking with film makers and artists. It's great to know how influential Evil Dead has been.

ILHM: Your prop and set designs are some of the most unique and memorable creations in the horror genre. What were your main inspirations in the designs for The Evil Dead?

Tom: The Illustrations for the Book of the Dead were influenced by the DaVinci notebooks and the imagery of the script and my own conjecture of what was going on in a supernatural sense. The Book's cover was my idea from Ilse Koch's skinning of her husband's concentration camp victims and who's tissue was used as lampshades, curtains and book covers. I needed a recognizable human skin portion so I chose a face as being as disgusting as possible. Short of putting a schlong on the cover.

ILHM: I know you've been working on non-horror related projects as well, can you tell us a little about the work you've done for Renaissance Faires and any other creations?

Tom: I made an Ogre puppet. It's a huge suit held up by a backpack and it attacks soldiers and threatens the innocent. We are still adapting it. Come to Mayfaire in Marshall, Michigan in May and face the Ogre!

ILHM: In your many years as an artist, you have been pulled back and forth between your passion for film and a career in illustration; if given the opportunity, what would be your dream job in your remaining years?

Tom: Working at the SEC. I have excellent web searching skills.

ILHM: You have been acting and producing recently in several Indie Horror films, as well as developing your own domain under your DARKAGEPRODUCTIONS label. What are some of DARKAGEPRODUCTIONS' current projects?

Tom: DARKAGEPRODUCTIONS.COM is the name of my website. I am expanding my site to sell archival quality prints of my artwork and the replicas of my Books, and other props. I have a couple of talented friends helping me develop some ways of making lots of replicas of the creations I've kept over the years. That's a premiere announcement right there.

ILHM: Can we expect to see a serious Shakespearean Tom, a campy B-Movie Tom, or an amalgamation of different characters in your acting?

Tom: So far it's been a mixture. The doctor I play in The Dread is serious and dedicated to his patients. To his doom. I'm a homeless person trespassing into the wrong junkyard in Dog. Fun movie but not camp. Buddy BeBop VS The Living Dead, yeah, that's camp. It's a 50's teenage zombie movie with Rock and Roll music.

ILHM: What have been some of your greatest experiences traveling the country and meeting fans?

Tom: The biggest thing that I never expected was the number of film makers, special effects artists and illustrators who told me seeing Evil Dead inspired them to careers in the arts. I saw King Kong when I was 5 and that was that. I would not be selling insurance after that.

ILHM: Do you have any plans to direct in the future?

Tom: Hmm.

ILHM: You currently offer an array of unique prop replicas that you have hand-crafted from your filmwork. What items are currently available for purchase at your homepage and on eBay?

Tom: We are just know getting the limited edition Books of the Dead from Evil Dead going again. We are also going to be casting the Kandarian Dagger and Ghosts from the opening of Evil Dead 2 as well. There are some other goodies we are planning as well. Give us some time but it is going to happen. Thanks for asking.

ILHM: How would you like to be remembered by friends, family, and fans?

Tom: I vote for oblivion. Destroy all of my art and forget I ever existed. Reverse psychology.

ILHM: What are some of your favorite films in and outside of the genre?

Tom: I would rather list directors like Cocteau, Welles, Kubrick, Hitchcock, Wise, John Waters, and so many others. I love films period.

ILHM: What are your thoughts on the state of horror today?

Tom: Believe it or not most horror films scar the crap out of me. Torture porn kind of films are the kind I avoid. Sorry. I just saw a trailer for The Human Centipede and that's creeped me out. And I thought Evil Dead was the grossest thing I'd ever seen.

ILHM: What is your take on the increasing role of computerized imagery in film?

Tom: At the Conventions this topic comes up a lot. By far most of the fans are very old school about their FX. They prefer latex and mechanics, animatronics over bad digital. I like digital composting over the photo/chemical processes but I'm not as militant as some about CGI. There are certainly a number of excellent CGI studios who get the time and money to finish off the scenes with a photographic realism. And then there's the SyFy Channel stuff. I'd like to see Harryhausen type techniques combining stop motion creatures with green screen compositing replacing the rear screen, Dynamation he devised. With the advances in digital capture and actual time compositing I think stop motion would be even more effective and cost effective.

ILHM: The original King Kong served as one of your greatest inspirations in life; how receptive were you to the various reincarnations that have been made over the past several decades?

Tom: Kong 76 is unwatchable and I just tried again. Ugh. I love the ape in Kong 05. To me it's a living, breathing, thinking animal actually there. I just wish Peter Jackson had more time to reconsider the editing. I think it forgets it's an adventure story first and the pacing should be forefront. I would have had Kong enter at 45 minutes and put in the three dinosaurs that are found in the Extended King Kong version. I do like that movie though. The original is still a revelation to me.

ILHM: What lasting message would you like to leave to your countless fans across the world?

Tom: Earth needs Artists.


Tom graciously signs autographs for fans in addition to offering TONS of great reprints and replicas of his work at, so be sure to stop by and check out the site today! Tom, we appreciate all of your contributions to the genre and your time this evening, the best of luck to you on the website and thank you for making yourself available to us this evening!

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  1. This is Amazing news!! Great Interview! Very Informative! Three bloody thumb-stumps up! :D

  2. That was seriously cool. What a fascinating man. Great interview!

  3. Now, that was a great interview...thanks to both of you. He is much nicer about PJackson version that I am ;D
    Thanks for sharing.


  4. very nice read. like a salem witch on a burning... well done!

  5. Awesome interview Carl! I found out some new things, especially about the drama with the credits for the book design. Did not know that.