History of the Evil Dead Franchise

A Quick Summary of the Evil Dead Journey.

From movies to the stage to television, there have been many incarnations of Evil Dead, solidifying it as the greatest cult series of all time. And it’s not just that this franchise uses multiple mediums, but each installment of this series is basically a brand new genre – going from terrifying horror to slapstick comedy to a combination of both. There’s never been a franchise with so many sharp contrasts in tone, but that’s what makes Evil Dead so amazing.

The Evil Dead (Evil Dead) was a low budget horror film released in 1981, and was made for just $350,000. This film launched the careers of writer / director Sam Raimi (Spiderman), producer Rob Tapert (Xena Warrior Princess), and starred a then-unknown Bruce Campbell in the iconic role of Ash. Stephen King called the original Evil Dead “the most ferociously original horror film of the year”, and it currently holds a 98% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Evil Dead II (also known as Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn) is a 1987 cult classic, that combined horror and comedy in a way never seen before in cinema. The film reunited Raimi, Campbell, and Tapert, (along with co-writer Scott Spiegel) though this time they had a much larger budget of $3.5 million. While technically it is a sequel, this film is unique, as it re-creates a lot of the elements from the original (as if the first film didn’t exist), but also adds a ton of new iconic moments that make it one of the greatest cult classics of all time.

Army of Darkness (originally conceived as Evil Dead III: The Medevil Dead) is a 1992 comedic, dark fantasy-adventure film. A sequel to The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness was again directed by Sam Raimi, written by Raimi and his brother Ivan, produced by Robert Tapert and starred Bruce Campbell (who also produced). Despite being a sequel to the two Evil Dead films, it is not as violent or gory, relying more on slapstick and dark comedy. At the box office, Army of Darkness was not a big success, barely making back its budget with a gross of $11.5 million domestically. But after its video release it has obtained an ever-growing cult following, along with the other two films in the trilogy, and remains beloved to this day.

Evil Dead The Musical is a comedy musical which combines the plots of Evil Dead 1 and Evil Dead 2. There are also small doses of Army of Darkness elements mixed in, though the tone of the musical more closely follows the comedic tone of that film. The musical is a true slapstick comedy, with hilarious show tunes, and tons of blood (including a Splatter Zone – the first three rows in the audience that get covered in blood). The show debuted in a small bar in Toronto in 2003,  made it Off-Broadway in New York City in 2006, and has since been performed in over 200 cities around the world. This musical has the full support of the original creative team behind the films, and Bruce Campbell has gone to multiple cities to see it. Plus, the musical has garnered a cult following of it’s own, running for over a decade, and prompting the New York Times to proclaim it as “The next Rocky Horror Show”.

The Evil Dead (Evil Dead) is a 2013 horror film that serves as a ‘reimagining’ or remake of the The Evil Dead, and the first film in the series since 1992’s Army of Darkness. Though it takes place at the iconic cabin, it is a very loose sequel to the original series, with only small hints of what happened in the original film. It is directed by Fede Alvarez and was produced by Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, and Rob Tapert. Jane Levy stars as Mia and Bruce Campbell appears in a very brief cameo after the credits. The film has a more serious tone than in previous installments, reflecting more of the deliberately gruesome and provocative nature of the 1981 original than the progressively lighter sequels.

Ash vs Evil Dead is a TV series that aired for three groovy seasons. After years of fans begging Bruce Campbell to return to the role of Ash, the original creative team shocked the world by bringing back the character in a television series instead of a movie. The show launched in 2015, and is developed by Sam & Ivan Raimi, Robert Tapert, with some episodes directed by Sam Raimi. This show is a return to Evil Dead’s light-hearted, slapstick past, and actually has a tone that is very reminiscent of the comedic nature of Evil Dead The Musical.

Evil Dead Rise is a upcoming horror film written and directed by Lee Cronin and released on April 21st, 2023. Produced by Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Bruce Campbell, Evil Dead Rise was the fifth film of the Evil Dead franchise… resulting in people never looking at a cheese grater the same way again.

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