evil dead 4 - bruce campbell

In retrospect, it’s obvious why Evil Dead 4 never came together. Sure, Army of Darkness is beloved now, but it was a box office whimper back in 1992. And then director Sam Raimi became one of the biggest and busiest filmmakers in Hollywood with the original Spider-Man trilogy. And then Drag Me to Hell, a spiritual cousin of sorts to the Evil Dead movies, was a financial bust. The external factors alone, including a very good remake, made a big screen continuation the original Evil Dead series feel nearly impossible.

Of course, the new adventures of Bruce Campbell‘s chainsaw-armed demon hunter have found a new home on Starz with Ash vs. Evil Dead, which is set to return for its second season this fall. In the meantime, the first season has just hit Blu-ray and DVD and Raimi has revealed some of the abandoned concepts for the never-made Evil Dead 4. It seems that various creative issues also kept this project from finding life.

ScreenRant listened to an advance preview of a commentary track on the Ash vs. Evil Dead season one set, which features Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, executive producer Rob Tapert, and co-executive producer Ivan Raimi explaining how the show grew out of the failure to write Evil Dead 4. According to Sam Raimi, the Evil Dead brain trust spent the past few decades hammering their heads against the wall trying to find the right angle, but to no avail:

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.

Raimi goes to reveal one especially left field approach, which would have centered on Ash traveling the country to promote a documentary about himself, only to learn that nobody cares about his story other than him. It’s a cute concept – and one that would allow the filmmakers to ruthlessly rib Bruce Campbell’s actual existence as a fixture on the horror and genre convention circuit – but it also doesn’t sound much like much of a hook for a full feature-length film.

Things got really confusing when they tried to write a version that would take both the American ending (Ash returns home and gets back to work at the S-Mart) and the international ending (Ash gets stranded in a desolate post-apocalypse) into account. Raimi says:

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.

For the record, here’s the ending seen in American theaters:

And here’s the original, darker ending that was seen elsewhere:

Campbell even notes that there was a version he calls “Ash vs. the Machines,” but it would have been too expensive to pull off.

In any case, Evil Dead 4 is almost certainly never going to happen, but Ash vs. Evil Dead season 2 is set to premiere on October 2, 2016. That feels like a fair trade. You can read additional details from this commentary track over at ScreenRant.

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