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History of the 'Evil Dead' Franchise

The history of the 'Evil Dead' Franchise has risen from the dead.

By Geeks StaffPublished 7 years ago 8 min read

A plague threatens to destroy all of mankind and the only one that can save us is a loner who is avoiding all responsibilities. The Evil Dead is an American horror film franchise created by Sam Raimi and consists of four feature films. The films revolve around the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, an ancient Sumerian text which wreaks havoc upon a group of cabin inhabitants in a wooded area in Tennessee. The protagonist, Ashley J. "Ash" Williams is the only character to appear in every installment of the original trilogy, consisting of The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987), and Army of Darkness (1992), all written and directed by Raimi.

The franchise has since expanded into other formats such as video games and comic books, and even a musical. The franchise was resurrected in 2013 with Evil Dead, both a reboot and a continuation of the series directed by Fede Alvarez and produced by Raimi. It is rumored that there will be three other installments of the franchise – a sequel to the 2013 reboot (Evil Dead 2), a direct sequel to the original trilogy currently (Army of Darkness 2) rumored to be directed by Sam Raimi and a seventh, and final, film which would merge the narratives of both chronologies. And of course we can't forget the most recent addition to the Evil Dead franchise, Starz's Ash vs. Evil Dead. The series, starring the original Ash – Bruce Campbell, serves as a sequel to The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness.

The Gorier the Merrier

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In January 1978, Bruce Campbell was a college dropout who had just quit his job as a taxicab driver. Sam Raimi was studying literature at Michigan State University with (producer) Robert Tapert finishing his economics degree. While putting the finishing touches on It's Murder!- Tapert suggested doing a feature length film to Raimi. Raimi felt it to be impossible because he felt they would never be able to raise the funding. Campbell did not mind stating that "I could always move back home." Tapert feared a career in fisheries/wildlife while Raimi was afraid that he would go back to work at his dad's home furnishing store. These were the practical reasons that convinced the three to embark on their journey to create a feature length film.

The three were highly supportive fans of the comedy genre, though they decided not to pursue that genre because they felt a feature-length yuck fest just wouldn't compute. They decided to produce a horror film after they were inspired by a well distinguished scene from It's Murder. This inspired Raimi to write the short film Clockwork. The three felt the end result was very effective and represented a new direction that their films would take – semi-successful horror films.

This would later lead to the research of low-budget horror films at local drive-in theaters. The many films watched were featured in a "two films for two dollars” promotion, giving them the opportunity to document the behavior and interest of what would later become their target audience. The message was very clear: keep the pace fast and furious, and once the horror starts, never let up. “The gorier the merrier” became their prime directive. The films they observed included Massacre at Central High and Revenge of the Cheerleaders. The idea to produce a prototype was commissioned, to prove not only to themselves, but also to potential investors that they were capable of doing a full length horror film.

That same year, at Michigan State, Raimi studied H.P. Lovecraft and was most impressed with Necronomicon, or simply The Book of the Dead. From these rough concepts, he conceptualized a short story in which a group of four friends unwittingly dig up an Indian burial ground and unleash horrific spirits and demons. In the spring of 1978, filming of Within the Woods started over a three-day weekend, on a budget of $1,600. Within the Woods – a prototype – impressed filmmakers. And so the beginning of the Evil Dead franchise loomed in the future of these young film makers.

The Evil Dead Rises

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The 1981 horror film The Evil Dead focuses on five college students vacationing in an isolated cabin in a remote wooded area. After they find an audiotape that releases a legion of demons and spirits, members of the group suffer from demonic possession, leading to increasingly gory mayhem. Raimi’s prototype short film Within the Woods secured US $90,000 to produce The Evil Dead. The film was shot on location in a remote cabin located in Tennessee, in a difficult filming process that proved extremely uncomfortable for the majority of the cast and crew. The low-budget horror film attracted the interest of producer Irvin Shapiro, who helped screen the film at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival.

Horror author Stephen King gave a rave review of the film, which helped convince New Line Cinema to serve as its distributor. Though it had little commercial success in the United States, the film made its budget back through worldwide distribution, and grossed $2.4 million during its theatrical run. Early and later critical receptions were both universally positive. In the years since its release, The Evil Dead has developed a reputation as one of the largest cult films and is cited among the greatest horror films of all time. The Evil Dead launched the careers of Campbell and Raimi, who would collaborate on several films together throughout the years, including Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy. The film spawned a media franchise.

Ash vs. The Box Office

Image viaTime Warner

The concept of a sequel to The Evil Dead was discussed during location shooting on the first film. Raimi wanted to toss his hero, Ash, through a time portal, back into the Middle Ages. That notion eventually led to the third installment, Army of Darkness. Evil Dead II opened on March 13, 1987 to a weekend gross of $807,260. At the time, it was only in 310 theaters, resulting in smaller gross profit. However, after a little over a month in theaters, the film ultimately grossed $5,923,044 domestically. It garnered positive reviews in which critics praised Raimi's direction and Campbell's role as the protagonist. Like the original, Evil Dead II accumulated a cult following.

Evil Dead II, according to Bruce Campbell, "was originally designed to go back into the past to 1300, but we couldn't muster it at the time, so we decided to make an interim version, not knowing if the 1300 story would ever get made." This lead to the creation of Army of Darkness. Promotional drawings for Army of Darkness were created and published in Variety during the casting process before the budget was deemed too little for the plot. The working title for the project was Evil Dead III: Army of Darkness. The title "Army of Darkness" came from an idea by Irvin Shapiro, during the production of Evil Dead II. This was used after Sam Raimi was unable to use his original title "The Medieval Dead" ("The Medieval Dead" would later be used as the film's subtitle for its UK release as Army of Darkness: The Medieval Dead). Army of Darkness premiered on October 9, 1992 at the Sitges Film Festival, and was released in the United States on February 19, 1993. It grossed $11.503 million domestically and another $10 million outside of the USA for a total worldwide gross of $21.5 million. Critical response was positive. Since its video release it acquired a massive cult following, along with the other two films in the trilogy.

Evil is Revived

Image via Sony Pictures

Evil Dead (2013) is the fourth installment of The Evil Dead franchise – directed by Fede Alvarez. The film is a remake and loose continuation of the series; the first neither to be directed by Sam Raimi, or have Bruce Campbell as the main star, nor to be scored by the original trilogy's composer, Joseph LoDuca. Instead it was scored by Spanish composer Roque Baños. The film is the feature debut of Alvarez, whom Raimi selected. It was produced by Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Robert G. Tapert. Evil Dead was shot in New Zealand outside of Auckland, with filming lasting one month. The film had its world premiere at the South by Southwest festival on March 8, 2013. The film brought in $26 million in its opening weekend and became a box office success, grossing over $54,239,856 domestically and $43,303,096 internationally, for a worldwide take of $97,542,952.

After more go around, it was revealed that we would not be getting any Evil Dead series', but we would be getting a lot of more of Ash and his universe. The Evil Dead franchise has collaborated with other franchises to make unofficial films such as Ash vs. Freddy vs. Jason. It has also branched out into unofficial sequels and indirect sequels. Multiple comics and six Evil Dead video games have also come about. The cult following continues to grow. Now that Raimi and Campbell have decided to go down the episodic route with Starz, rather than the sequel route, we are eager to see what answers will continue to be revealed in Ash Vs. Evil Dead.

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The biggest bunch of geeks gathered in one 12,000 sqft warehouse in Northern New Jersey who spend their whole day just being geeks.

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