Like a chainsaw arm to a zombie skull, the ugly demon of civil lawsuits has once again cut its way into the news. And this time, I’m fairly certain I know whose side we’re all on.
A legal battle has erupted over the rights to a fourth Evil Dead film. When Sam Raimi and Renaissance Pictures registered the mark for a fourth installment of the cult classic series, they found a nasty surprise in the dark, dank basement of the U.S. Trademark Office. Awards Pictures is claiming that they have also been planning a new Evil Dead, and that they maintain the rights to make the film.
Sam Raimi and Renaissance Pictures are suing Award Pictures after an unusual legal interpretation by the latter. Awards Pictures claims that Raimi and co-producer Robert Tapert gave up all trademarked rights to the Evil Dead name in the 2000 book The Evil Dead Companion. In the book, Raimi and Tapert are quoted as saying “We’re never going to do a sequel.”
I do not pretend to be an expert on civil law, and I often find myself growing increasingly frustrated and flabbergasted by the civil decisions made in courts. In this case, however, I feel a lawsuit is necessary not just for Raimi and the integrity of Evil Dead, but for all artists and their works. How many times have we seen the things we loved ruined by inept filmmakers and studios who only care about the almighty dollar? Perhaps Raimi did not intend to do a sequel in 2000, but that does not mean that he wanted his magnum opus, his baby, to be taken over by someone else. Perhaps he felt that his work was done, and that no additions were necessary at the time. Personally, I loved the ending of Army of Darkness. It felt final, but also implied the possibility of more adventures.
But times change. Maybe Raimi let some ideas grow while thumbing through the Necronomicon (what, you don’t think he has a copy?) and has now decided to let these dreams manifest. Remember Drag Me To Hell? Yeah, you do. We’ve seen what Raimi can do to the horror genre with a budget and modern effects. Can you imagine a new Evil Dead gracing this modern horror landscape?
And from a the perspective of my limited knowledge of civil law, how can Award Pictures possibly consider a quote from a book published twelve years ago to be a binding legal contract? I’m well aware that this may be unreasonable conjecture, but it seems to me that anyone willing to use this sort of sneaky, questionable legal tactic probably does not have anything close to an artistic soul. Art is best left in the hands of the creator, for better or for worse.
We will see where this all goes, but I can assure you all that I will always side with the guy with the boomstick and a chainsaw for an arm.