There are certain "dream projects" that get talked up for so long that, eventually, even eternally optimistic film geeks start to get a little "tell me another one" about them. One such project, or rather, "prospect," is that of Sam Raimi reuniting with Bruce Campbell to make another "Evil Dead" movie. (prior installments: "Evil Dead," "Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn" and Army of Darkness.") It seems like not a week goes by that we don't get yet another report of director Raimi (currently working on his 3rd "Spider-Man" film) either confirming or denying plans to continue the franchise that made him famous.
First it was coming. Then it wasn't. Then ED's "Ash" (Bruce Campbell) was going to battle the leads in a "Freddy vs. Jason" follow-up. Then that was dead. Then ED4 was back on. Then it wasn't. At this point, I'm not believing that ED4 is coming until ten minutes after I finish watching it.
Sometime last month, a new wrinkle was added as millions of web-browsing fans were met with the kind of news that immediately screams "Nightmare Scenario" to geekdom: "Evil Dead remake planned!" Nothing puts a film geek's shields up like the (lately) all-too-frequent prospect of a "cult" classic of yesteryear getting a "new, hip, fresh" makeover for the masses. The wrinkle to the wrinkle, however, thrust the issue into an entirely different paradigm: It was Raimi himself, and ever-present collaborator Rob Tapert, who would produce the remake through his "Ghost House" productions label, (which became a major financial powerhouse in the horror-movie game after releasing "The Grudge.")
And now the third twist: "Bloody-Disgusting.com," who can be counted on to scoop pretty much everyone when it comes to horror movies, has offered up an early tease of a coming interview with Raimi...
...wherein he seems to drop this tantalizing bombshell: "There will be an Evil Dead 4, and there will ALSO be an Evil Dead Remake."
"Aint-It-Cool-News' " leader Harry Knowles joined in with some rumor-mongering of his own...
...floating the prospect that Raimi is seeking South Korean filmmaker Chan Wook Park to helm the remake.
So here's what I think is going on here:
In my estimate, Raimi and Tapert (assuming this is all true and not miscomunication of some kind) are trying to recreate for the "Evil Dead" franchise what occured for George Romero's zombie series when the "Dawn of the Dead" remake came out: The remake wasn't really quite so terrible as most fans (entirely logically) hoped it would be, it was a big hit with the public and it drew big money and interest toward Romero's "real" zombie follow-up, the in-production "Land of The Dead."
So what I'm guessing is that Raimi's "math" on this is reading as follows: "ED is still primarily a cult item, famous director or not. All the fans are going to go see it no matter what, but who knows who else will? So with a remake we can aim for a big 'no baggage' hit for Ghost House, and ED4 can only benefit from that as well." Good plan, if it works...
What makes me curious (and also cautiously cautious) about the idea of a remake is... as much as I love "Evil Dead", there really isn't that much there to "remake." It's a "look what we can do" indie horror opus, a showcase for early gore FX, Raimi's innovative directing style and Bruce Campbell's manic lead performance. All three of those elements, by design, won't be present in any remake, so what's left? A bunch of friends go to a cabin in the woods, read a book they shouldn't, bad stuff happens. In other words: There's seemingly limitless room for the right director, the right cast and the right FX team to have a good time and show their stuff, just as Raimi and company did in the first place.
And really, if remaking the first one is what it takes to finally get #4, fine. Do it.