Evil Dead creator Sam Raimi is already on board as producer for an official reboot of his classic horror franchise, but now he's locked in a legal battle with another production company trying to make their own Evil Dead 4 without his permission. The company's defense? The franchise isn't Raimi's anymore, and it hasn't been for a while.
Renaissance Pictures, the company Raimi formed in 1979 with co-producer Rob Tapert and actor and producer Bruce Campbell to help make The Evil Dead, filed a lawsuit this week against Award Pictures in an attempt to stop them from making a planned fourth film in the franchise entitled Evil Dead 4: Consequences.
It sounds like an open-and-shut case. After all, Renaissance made all three previous Evil Dead films, and Raimi's already at work producing the fourth (with a little help, of course). Now another company comes along and brazenly decides to make its own fourth Evil Dead without Raimi's involvement or permission. What gives?
Award's defense is that Raimi basically opted out of all rights to the franchise 12 years ago, when he and Tapert were quoted in The Evil Dead Companion as saying "We're never going to do a sequel."
"This statement is a public declaration by the defendant that the defendant abandoned the alleged 'mark,' Evil Dead, decades ago," Award said in papers filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The company goes on to claim that the two sequels to the original film don't count as continued use of the Evil Dead trademark because they were "works for hire," and asserts that Renaissance's continued use of the trademark is fraud.
In their lawsuit, Renaissance counters by saying that regardless of whether Raimi ever intended to make a sequel, the Evil Dead brand saw continued use in a number of spinoff products, including action figures, T-shirts, videogames and comics, all of which came through the original Renaissance trademark.
"As a result of Renaissance's use of the Evil Dead mark and the cult success of the films and related products, the Evil Dead mark has acquired enormous value, has become famous among the relevant consuming public and motion picture trade and is recognized as identifying and distinguishing Renaissance exclusively and uniquely as the source of goods sold and services provided under the Evil Dead mark."
Renaissance is asking for an injunction against Award to stop production on this alternate Evil Dead 4. No word on how this case could affect production of Raimi's reboot, but it does raise an interesting point for all franchise filmmakers: Never say never to a sequel. It just gets you in trouble.