It’s always good advice to consider your words carefully when speaking in public, particularly when you’re a filmmaker during an interview. This is what filmmaker Sam Raimi is currently learning as he engages in a legal battle with a production company over the rights to make an Evil Dead sequel.
Raimi has filed a lawsuit against Award Pictures, who has announced plans to make a new Evil Dead film entitled Evil Dead 4: Consequences – the only problem is, no one at Award Pictures has anything to do with Raimi or his Renaissance Pictures imprint (begun in 1979 for the sole purpose of making the original Evil Dead). How did this come to pass? Does Award Pictures have a leg to stand on? We’ll try to break down the legalese.
Award is convinced that they’re within their rights to make an Evil Dead sequel because they say Raimi and Renaissance abandoned their rights to the trademark. Their key argument hinges on a comment Raimi and Rob Tapert made in Bill Warren’s 2000 non-fiction work, The Evil Dead Companion, “Ha, said Rob and Sam. We’re never going to do another sequel.”
Because of that quote, Award feels that the trademark was no longer Renaissance’s and that they could move in and take over. They also cite the fact that “over 20 films have used the phrase Evil Dead in the title over the years” and that Renaissance hasn’t enforced their trademark rights.
Truthfully, even though we’re not lawyers, we think Award Pictures is screwed – and they probably know it. While Raimi may have said he’d never make a sequel in that interview, he’s talked about possibly making an Evil Dead 4 in countless interviews since. Plus, the trademark was never abandoned. While Raimi hasn’t made an Evil Dead sequel since 1992’s Army of Darkness, the intervening years have seen several Evil Dead videogames, comic series, memorabilia, and other items. This trademark has never been “abandoned,” even before Raimi announced the upcoming Evil Dead remake.
We suspect that Award Pictures knows they’re unlikely to win their lawsuit, but has decided that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. This gets their project loads of free press it wouldn’t have otherwise received, and even if they can’t call it Evil Dead 4, a lot of horror fans will now be aware of the film and some of us will probably even check it out if it ever gets released. If they did get away with calling it Evil Dead 4, that’s an even bigger coup – because as Renaissance contends, it would create confusion amongst the movie-going public and allow Award Pictures to profit from that confusion. It’s sort of a win-win for these guys.
That’s all interesting, but the best part of all this? Sam Raimi is seriously considering making an Evil Dead sequel for Sony and FilmDistrict. Someone tell Bruce Campbell to fire up his chainsaw – there’s Deadites that need slayin’!