The environments in which a film is set can have massive effects on what kind of impression it leaves. Just imagine how much of its personality Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy would lose with the exclusion of the otherwordly and beautiful scenery of New Zealand. But sometimes the great outdoors can be more than just a backdrop for the action of the plot or the emotions of the characters. Sometimes the environments themselves can be an instrumental part of a film's story, harboring meanings and themes important to an overall understanding of the film's content.

Take horror movies for instance, where the woods are a prominent piece of more than a few of the genres works. A bunch of teenagers or young adults heading off to a cabin in the woods and getting attacked by something sinister has become such a well-known horror trope that we've reached the point where a film can literally just be titled Cabin in the Woods. An interesting example of films like this is the Evil Dead franchise. The basic premise of the first two films in Sam Raimi's trilogy, and in the recent remake, is a group of people heading off to a cabin in the woods, where they happen to come across an ominous book. In the original film, a tape recorder is also found, and when the characters play the tape it has someone reading incantations from the book which raise evil spirits that one by one possess the characters. In the remake, the minor difference is that instead of a voice on a tape doing the reading we have one of the characters reading from the book themselves.

The series' humble beginnings can be traced to a 1978 short film the series' creator Sam Raimi directed called Within the Woods. Much like the trilogy of films it would spawn, the short stars Bruce Campbell, although in a nerdy role quite different from the one of Ash that he is best known for from the Evil Dead movies and the recent Ash vs Evil Dead TV series. Compared to the setting of the first Evil Dead film, the setting of Within the Woods is fairly similar as well. In Within the Woods, four friends are shown inhabiting what seems to be a house out in the country somewhere. Two of the characters then decide to go out for a picnic. Unfortunately, the property happens to be located on top of an Indian burial ground, and once Bruce, played unsurprisingly by Bruce Campbell, happens to disturb one of the graves while digging in the ground and finding a dagger among other things, he becomes possessed and all hell breaks loose.

We can assume that since Within the Woods was made in the late '70s, that its events are probably set in the late '70s as well - a time where people have in large parts become accustomed to living in cities. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch then to assume that maybe the characters in the short are initially from the city but have come out to the country for the weekend. As a Finn, I've come to find that in the cinema of my country - particularly around the 1940s and 1950s - the big city was often portrayed as a dangerous and sinful place ripe with murder, drugs, prostitution, what have you. In many of these films a young person from the country ventures out to the big city but finds it's nothing like what they thought it would be. The happy ending then comes in the form of them returning back to the idyllic state of life in the countryside, or in the darker movies the unhappy ending is them meeting their demise in the city. In films such as these, nature and the country represent "the good old days", the city symbolizing everything that threatens the old superior way of life - when times we're simpler and man was closer to nature.

In its own way I'd dare say Within the Woods and the Evil Dead movies could be said to mirror such a sentiment of modern man becoming detached from nature. While the films can hardly be said to make the great outdoors an idyllic place seeing as how that's where the characters essentially go to die, there is something to be said about the woods being the place where they meet their demise. In Within the Woods we have characters who we can assume to be from the city heading out to the countryside. When there they then foolishly disturb the graves of a people who were there far before them - people who unlike these youngsters with their modern comforts - are in touch with nature in a way that they aren't. And thus, these kids pay the price for it. In The Evil Dead and its remake, things are taken even further when it's not just evil spirits attacking the characters, but the woods themselves, the trees seemingly alive.

The great outdoors can be many things in film. They can be pretty backdrops, they can mirror the mood of a scene, or they can be an integral part of a story's narrative. In Within the Woods and the Evil Dead movies, they are places of great evil, showcasing that maybe sometimes the great outdoors isn't so great after all.