A Brief History of The Evil Dead Franchise
The spectacularly gory 2013 release Evil Dead, famously a remake of the celebrated 1981 Sam Raimi cult experience, is actually the fourth feature film to tap into that particular continuity, and the sixth chapter of that particular tale, if you count two Evil Dead video games to be part of the canon (Hail to the King and A Fistful of Boomstick came out in 2000 and 2003 respectively). The series has come a long way since 1981, and in celebration of the 2013 feature film, we here at CraveOnline have elected to give you, dear readers, a brief rundown on the series as a whole, and trace the evolution of The Evil Dead from 1981 to the present.
The Evil Dead (1981)
Directed by the up-and-coming Sam Raimi, the original The Evil Dead is low-budget horror at its finest. Clearly working with a very small budget and limited resources, Raimi, his star Bruce Campbell, and the rest of the put-upon and hardworking crew sought to make a film they claimed would be “The Ultimate Experience in Grueling Terror.” While the film is harrowing and gory (it was originally given an NC-17 rating), and features a scene of a tree doing naughty things with a young co-ed, it's most notable for how fun it is, despite its obvious low budget. Perhaps the prime example of “cabin in the woods” movies, and introduced the concept of the “evil book,” The Necronomicon, a prop that would remain in all the iterations.
Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987)
Not so much a direct sequel as a slightly-rejiggered remake, Evil Dead 2 is often considered one of the most important cult films of all time. Raimi, directing again, turned his low-budget horror original into a slightly-higher-budget horror/comedy, reuniting with Bruce Campbell who decapitates his girlfriend, cuts off his own hand, and eventually shoves a chainsaw into a giant monster's eyeball. No horror aficionado has not seen Evil Dead 2, and generations of teenagers can still find a subversive thrill in the well-worn “splatstick” of this indisputable classic.
Army of Darkness (1992)
In a bizarre conceit, Campbell's character Ash from the first two movies is thrown back in time to around the early 14th century to do epic medieval battle with an army of evil skeletons that he himself accidentally resurrected when he mispronounced a set of magic words. Just as well-regarded (and just as often quoted) as its predecessor, the mid-budget Army of Darkness is very far from the horror roots of the original, but manages to be one of the funniest and most fun movies of the 1990s.
Evil Dead: Hail to the King (2000)
Fan clamored noisily for a fourth Evil Dead feature film, but much to their chagrin, the series' star Bruce Campbell would repeatedly announce that he had no interest in reprising his leading role, and that Sam Raimi had grown more accustomed to bigger-budget films like The Gift. Campbell did, however, lent his voice to a comedic video game rendition of the Evil Dead story with Hail to the King, which was more an excuse to hear Campbell cracking wise than any sort of earnest sequel.
Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick (2003)
And, as is the case with any video game that is only moderately successful, a sequel was put into the works, with Campbell returning once again to play Ash, this time fighting off an entire town of evil Deadites who had been summoned by the Necronomicon via a TV broadcast. In the spirit of the previous game, however, it was more intended as a prop for Campbell's funny performance.
Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash: The Nightmare Wars (2010)
Written by Jeff Katz, this was a comic book rendition of a screenplay that was intended to be a follow-up to 2003's Freddy vs. Jason. In it, Ash finds himself facing off against both Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, famed movie monsters the both of them. Perhaps a little too geek-centric to work as a feature film (yes such properties still exist), the project was scrapped by film studios and eventually adapted into comic book form by FvJ's producer. It's gory and fun and every geek's dream come true.
Evil Dead (2013)
In this outright remake of the 1981 original, director Fede Alvarez sought less to recapture Campbell's and Raimi's humorous tone, and dove straight back to the “Ultimate Experience in Grueling Terror” thing. His film, also a cabin-in-the-woods flick, has average twentysomethings facing off against evil spirits that would kill and possess and horribly mutilate them. Trauma to limbs, faces, and tongues abound, and the film ends with a literal rain of blood. It seem that the grueling horror and over-the-top slapstick of the original will never truly die.
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