The Evil Dead Series that Ran for 7 Films
The Evil Dead Series that Ran for 7 Films
When Evil Dead released on October 15, 1981, no one could have known how successful the film was going to be. It was a low budget horror, starring people we had never heard of from a director no one knew. Sam Raimi’s experimental film suffered a disappointing domestic release, despite the audience’s enthusiastic response. But Raimi built upon the hype and quickly grew The Evil Dead into an international success.
The film was almost released as The Book of the Dead, until B-Movie producer Irvin Shapiro suggested Raimi changed the name of the film, with The Evil Dead being the “least worst” title on offer. But what’s in a name? A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, and an Evil Dead film with any other title would still see poor Shelly chopped to pieces with an axe. Certainly it would seem that international audiences believed that names are important. In the Evil Dead’s case, a simple title change opened the series to whole host of unofficial sequels that would forever besmirch Raimi sick little baby. Come with me now, into the dark cellar, as we discover The Evil Dead Series that Ran for 7 Films.
Whilst Italian directors were busy pumping out horror films during the 1980’s, Italian disruptors were busy putting the “hates” on American film titles. It seems that the names of the films were huge sticking point for many internationals, the creative titles were just way to ambiguous, or disturbing for the distributors, and alternative names were dreamed up to make the films more marketable. Many American films were given tedious names, turning films like Dawn of the Dead into the simplified Zombie, Or A Nightmare on Elm street into Nightmare. Whilst most of these name changes can be forgiven, the Evil Dead’s distributed name change paved way for a series of unofficial sequels.
La Casa (The Evil Dead)
It started when producer Shapiro advised Raimi that distributing the Evil Dead worldwide, would garner a larger income. With dollar signs flashing before Raimi’s eyes, the film was whisked off around the world, albeit slowly at the markets demand. When the Evil Dead finally made its way across the Atlantic in 1984, three years after its US premier, the film’s title was shifted to something more easier to sell to an international audience. Whilst the Evil Dead sounded awesome, the Italians preferred something more down to earth. Let’s face it, trying to shift a film called The Evil Dead would be hard enough at the most of times, but in the country that homes the Pope, and with a huge religious majority, anything with Evil in its title would not go down too well. So, the name was shifted to the nicer sounding La Casa, which literally translates to The House. Even though Evil Dead took place in a cabin, the name fitted in a roundabout way.
La Casa 2 (Evil Dead 2 : Dead by Dawn)
Evil Dead 2 : Dead by Dawn was released in the states on March 13 1987. Due to the original films popularity, the sequel hit international shores in the same year, with Italy getting their first look on October 1st. As the first film was re-named La Casa, it seemed logical enough that the 2nd film be called La Casa 2 (House 2).
La Casa 3 (Ghosthouse)
Whilst Raimi took a departure from horror to make his first superhero movie (Darkman), impatient Italian filmmaker Joe D’Amato decided to take the matter into his own hands. With Umberto Lenzi in the director’s chair and D’Amato producing, they completed the project known internationally as Ghosthouse. During a conversation with producer Achille Manzotti, it was suggested that the films name was changed to La Casa 3 (House 3) to take advantage of the films popularity. The name change made it the very first unofficial sequel to The Evil Dead.
Paying a little lip service to its name sake La Casa 3 (Ghosthosue) is story about a Ham Radio operator that discovers an old deserted house. He and his girlfriend find a group of youths are camping outside the house and they decide investigate the building together. Little do they know that the place is cursed and the spirit of a dead girl ( and her toy clown) who is about to makes things messy for the naïve ghost-hunters. The mixed up, confused and badly acted film barely held a candle to Raimi’s Evil Dead, and yet D’Amaot passed it off as a bona fide sequel to Evil Dead II. It’s hard to believe that Italian audiences were convinced that this was indeed the third Evil Dead film. Even director Lenzi was ashamed of the film, choosing to use an alias Humphrey Humbert on the films credit.
La Casa 4 (Witchery)
With La Casa 3 becoming a commercial success, thanks mostly to its name change, Joe D’Amato decided to replicate its success by making a sequel. With the La Casa series beginning to take on a life of its own, the next entry, also known as Witchery, attracted an odd cast for its story of witchcraft. With David Hasselhoff and Linda Blair, La Casa 4 had a weird mixed genre vibe. Poor Hasselhorf was on a dry spell between filming between Knight Rider and Baywatch, Whilst Blair was acting in just about anything that was offered to her. The result was a just an awful mess with a plot which revolve around demonic forces and bodily possession. With bizarre dialogue and blatant rips from films such as the Exorcist and The Shining, even the cast seem a little confused on what was going on. The apocryphal film completely strayed away from The Evil Dead’s cabin in the woods theme, in favour of a hotel on an island off the coast of Massachusetts. Director Fabrizio Laurenti also choose to use an alias, Martin Newlin. The film was also re-released as Return of the Exorcist, making it an unofficial/illegitimate sequel to the 1973 American film The Exorcist! Shame on you D’Amato!
La Casa 5 (Beyond Darkness)
Joe D’Amato gave the wet rag one last squeeze with the third unofficial sequel, La Casa 5 (House 5) in 1992. Much Like Ghosthouse, the film original started life as a film called Beyond Darkness – Beyond the Dark, before crafty old D’Amato changed its name to sit flush with his previous success. This time around D’Amato team up with Troll 2 creators Rossella Drudi and Claudio Fragasso filming inside a real death row prison in Louisiana and during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Not happy ripping off one franchise, La Casa 5 was also billed as House 5 in re-releases years later. This rebranding was intentionally made to convince audiences that the film was the 5th in the House series. The comedy horror films ran from 1986 until 1992. But this was not the only time the La Casa series masqueraded as House.
La Casa 6 (House II: The Second Story)
So, this is where things start to get real confusing. In 1990 House II: The Second Story (1987) was written and directed by Versatile Ethan Wiley, who also wrote the screenplay for the first movie in the series. However, for its release in Italy, the film adopted the title of La Casa 6 (House 6). Italian distributors thought that releasing the film as House 2 would be way too confusing for audiences, and so they simply dropped it in as the next film in the La Casa line. And so House 2 became La Casa 6 (House 6), and without any help from shifty D’Amato.
La Casa 7 (The Horror Show)
starring Lance Henriksen and Brion James, the next film to be released under the “Evil Dead” mantle was one known as The Horror Show. The film mirrors the story of Wes Craven’s Shocker (released the same year in 1989), in which a serial killer is executed on the electric chair, only to be brought back to life through a pact with the devil.
The Film was release in the US as The Horror Show, however internationally it underwent a few name changes, to more align it with other series. Most non-us markets received the film as House III: The Horror Show, despite having no connection story wise (The film did not even feature a haunted house!). However, for its Italian release, the film followed in line with the previous House film and become known as La Casa 7 (House 7).
The Army of Darkness
Four years after La Casa 7 was released, the officially third film in the evil dead series arrived. Army of Darkness pitted Bruce Campbell’s Ash against the Medieval Dead, in a battle of wits and strength (yes, it is a surprise that Ash actually wins!). The film’s original title of The Evil Dead III : The Army of Darkness was shortened due to fears that it could be confusing to anyone that had not seen the previous films. Yep, the official sequel dropped its titular claim to being an Evil Dead film. In Italy, it was released as L’armata delle tenebre (Army of Darkness) also dropping any claims to the La Casa Legacy.
As the Evil Dead series continues, albeit via TV with Ash vs the Evil dead (one of the third films alternate titles Raimi had considered.), it’s obvious that the series appeal is still very strong, even after 33 years since it begun. That silly little horror flick that launched careers and influenced film makers the world over, inspired its very own faux film series. And that’s it really, the thing that really spurned this whole ordeal, apart from its name change, was the dream of a single producer. Joe D’Amato loved the Evil Dead, and he wanted to make films just like Sam Raimi. They do say the imitation is the best form of flattery, even if you only borrow a films name!
In 2013 The Evil Dead re-make was released in Italy as La Casa, as a homage to the original films release.
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“Hey Horror Fans – Well wasn’t that DEAD interesting. Who knew that the Evil Dead was such HOT property. People are just DYING to get a piece of the AXEtion. Come back soon and we’ll have another SLICE of Horror Entertainment to server you…hope you like it COLD! HAHA