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'Evil Dead' seeks rebirth in iPhone game

The makers of the cult classic hope that their new game could fire up the passionate fans of the 30-year-old movie, while also attracting a new audience in advance of a possible "Evil Deal 4."

A screen shot from the iPhone game version of the famous film 'The Evil Dead.' Trigger/Ghost House

These days, Sam Raimi is famous for making the "Spider-Man" trilogy of movies. But to a core group of die-hard fans, he'll always be known as the director of 1981's cult-favorite "The Evil Dead."

Though that horror-comedy classic has had 30 years to blend into the cinematic background, it still has a passionate and devoted following. And now Raimi and production partner Robert Tapert and their Ghost House Pictures have teamed up with the Los Angeles-based entertainment consultants TriggerGlobal to fire up those fans--as well as try to create a new fan base for the film--with the official Evil Dead iPhone game.

Trigger/Ghost House

Next month, the game is expected to be released in the Apple App Store, and according to Jason Yim, Trigger's president and executive creative director, it was designed to be extremely faithful to the look and feel of "The Evil Dead." In an interview, Yim told CNET that much of the game follows the movie's action "beat for beat" and was designed that way to speak to the film's many fans. That means plenty of scenes with Ash taking on endless zombies and the attendant buckets of gore.

Raimi wasn't available to speak to CNET about the project, but in an interview, Aaron Lam, vice president of production at Ghost House, said the company's interest in collaborating on an "Evil Dead" iPhone game began with the opportunity to give "Evil Dead" fans "something fresh to play with," and its longtime familiarity with Trigger, with which it previously worked well on "Spider-Man" Web projects.

The game is, Lam said, a case of "an older franchise [meeting] new media technology," the blending of non-stop action with a story line near and dear to enough people's hearts that the two companies clearly are betting that it will quickly go viral.

When Trigger and Ghost House began working together on the project, they knew that they were going to be making something that would both rekindle the enthusiasm original fans of the movie had for it, and at the same time, have the potential of hooking an newer generation of horror fans who might not be as familiar with the 1981 film.

That could be especially important to Ghost House if, as Lam said is the plan, a new "Evil Dead" sequel is released in the next year or two. After all, it can be difficult to generate a new fan base for a decades-old franchise if it has been years since anything new came along.

Learning from Angry Birds
Lam suggested that other old films with strong grassroots support could also benefit from putting out an iPhone game--as long as the marriage of film content and game was done well, and made sense according to the original film story.

"It's easy to pair a movie to a game," Lam said. "But first and foremost, it has to be fun to play."

A big part of that can be resurrecting fans' favorite characters--and that's a big reason why the new "Evil Dead" game is built around Ash, the main character from the original film: he's someone that a lot of "people are such fans of," Lam said.

But while Raimi and Tapert may know how to make hit films, Lam said the folks at Ghost House were definitely not versed in what it takes to make a hit iPhone game. They decided to look elsewhere for inspiration on how to make it work. The question, Lam said, was because the success of the game would depend first and foremost on game play, they wanted to know how do you build a committed audience with no famous back story. The folks at Rovio Mobile, makers of Angry Birds had clearly demonstrated it was all about creating a fun experience, and served as a model, he said.

Build that first, they seemed to conclude, and then add a beloved fiction to the mix, and you could very well have a winner.