Success doesn't always guarantee a sequel for a popular movie franchise, and no other series represents this better than Sam Raimi's cult classic Evil Dead trilogy. After gradually shifting from being a straightforward horror to a fan-favorite dark comedy, a fourth Evil Dead movie seemed like a logical movie.
Instead, The Evil Dead would lay dormant for more than two decades until 2013. Then, a remake and the hit TV show Ash vs Evil Dead brought Ash Williams's trusty boomstick back into relevance. As great as its spin-offs are, fans of the Evil Dead movies have been waiting for a true cinematic sequel to Army of Darkness, even if the likelihood of it happening are close to zero.
What Could Have Been
While talking with Screenrant, creators Sam Raimi (director and co-writer), Ivan Raimi (co-writer), Bruce Campbell (star) and Rob Tapert (producer) discussed the long journey Evil Dead 4 went through before it was scrapped altogether.
Sam Raimi: "Ivan and I wrote a lot of different versions of 'Evil Dead' as a feature in the years after 'Army of Darkness.' We’d get 20 pages into one draft and realize it was not good, do another five pages a different direction."
Sam Raimi wanted the fourth installment to be the best movie it could be, but no matter how hard he and his co-writers thought, no one could figure out the perfect way to continue Ash's Deadite-slaying adventures. Given how Army of Darkness actually had two different endings depending on what region it was released in, the difficulty in cracking the story for its follow-up makes all kinds of sense.
The writers would eventually give up and hand the reins over to a new set of storytellers while sticking around as producers. The failed follow-up to Army of Darkness eventually became Ash vs Evil Dead which, due to many legal problems, cannot directly reference the Evil Dead movies despite starring Bruce Campbell and incorporating majority of the franchise canon into its narrative. Most of the legal matters have been kept behind closed doors, but the ownership to Army of Darkness began changing hands when a sequel to the movie was announced without Sam Raimi's involvement.
Sam Raimi: "Because of some licensing issues we no longer have the rights to use... anything that came out of ‘Army of Darkness.’ I’m not sure exactly who owns the rights, but we’ve made sure… even gone out of our way… to make sure that will not inhibit the fans’ enjoyment of the show."
Thanks to this loophole, some fans still hold on to the hope of Sam Raimi making a proper sequel to Army of Darkness, even if the director has suggested he and producers ultimately found the plans for Evil Dead 4 too ambitious.
Ash Vs. The Lost Ideas
During the same interview, Sam and Ivan discussed some of their ideas for the scrapped Evil Dead 4. True to the franchise's changing style, these ideas continued the Evil Dead's shift from being a simple gorefest into a self-aware splatter comedy. The first potential plot they revealed followed the meta theme to the letter by turning Ash into an aspiring journalist of sorts who had plans of turning his gory adventures into a documentary.
Sam Raimi: "Bruce is a documentary filmmaker I remember one of them was, capturing his own journey through life. I remember we wrote one version; we started to write one version of 'Evil Dead 4.'"
Ivan Raimi: "Bruce travels cross country to sell his documentary in a car to explain the importance of his story being told."
Sam Raimi: "No one thought it was a very important story except him."
If you thought Ash trying to film his fights with the Deadites for a feature documentary wasn't meta enough, Sam Raimi actually tried to combine the two endings of Army of Darkness to create the ultimate time-bending trip for Ash.
Sam Raimi: "So we wrote an 'Evil Dead 4' that followed both realities. We were going to be following two Bruces — one in the future and simultaneously crosscutting to Bruce here in the present. And we realized, we have really lost our mind now and we must stop."
In its original theatrical cut, Army of Darkness ended with Ash waking up in a post-apocalyptic England after oversleeping and screwing up the incantation that should have brought him back to his reality. The movie's American release gave Ash a more upbeat and campier ending, with him returning to his correct timeline and blasting a Deadite in the face before posing heroically with the damsel in distress.
Combining the two endings may sound cool, until you realize the amount of continuity issues that would raise. Interestingly enough, this premise was originally the story for Ash vs Evil Dead, but the creators decided to stick with the American ending's modern day setting for simplicity's sake.
Possibly the craziest version of Evil Dead 4 is the one the group didn't bother to delve much into. It was what Bruce Campbell could only describe as Ash vs The Machines. Here, Ash may have woken up in a distant future where humanity lives under the might of their new machine overlords who may or may not have some connection to the Deadites. Dreams of Ash fighting the T-800 will sadly remain as fanfiction for the foreseeable future.
Does An Evil Dead 4 Really Need To Happen?
As enticing as a sequel to Army of Darkness may be, an Evil Dead 4 is somewhat unnecessary at this point. Outside of a few continuity changes due to the aforementioned legal problems, Ash vs Evil Dead is doing a great job of keeping the crazy and bloody Evil Dead spirit alive. The series is so successful that it's been renewed for a second season, which promises to be even wackier and gorier than before.
Check out the teaser poster for Ash vs Evil Dead below.
That's not to say that Evil Dead 4 is completely unwanted. Should a miracle befall Sam Raimi and an Evil Dead 4 script moves into production, you can bet that longtime Evil Dead fans will show up on the long promised fourth installment's midnight release. Until this distant dream turns into a reality, Evil Dead fans can at the very least enjoy a TV show that gives them everything they want while watching their one true king kick all kinds of Deadite ass.
Get hyped for the return of Ash vs Evil Dead with the bloody teaser trailer below:
Do you want to see an Evil Dead 4?