June 5, 2023

It would be incorrect to state that only Fede Álvarez and Cronin’s installments have worked towards leveling the playing field for its female characters, as the “Ash vs. The Evil Dead” series also features strong, self-sufficient female characters of various moral temperaments, like Kelly Maxwell (Dana DeLorenzo) and Ruby Knowby (Lucy Lawless). While Campbell’s Ash is still the primary protagonist, these women are compelling protagonists and antagonists in their own right, with some fighting alongside Ash to skillfully defeat superpowered entities.

However, Cronin establishes that female characters, especially in a domestic, familial setting, do not need to embody conventional heroic qualities to be deemed “worthy” of survival. No gratuitous assault scenes are required to denote possession, as a wealth of gnarly imagery can be etched together to present a picture of terror. There’s plenty of hyper-violence present: sharp scissors are stabbed into nostrils, throats are ripped out, and body horror is employed in gruesome ways to evoke an environment of pure fear and claustrophobia. Moreover, Ellie and Beth do not have to fulfill traditionally “feminine” roles — if anything, the fun lies in the subversion, where survival often demands cruel acts and characters can shape their own idea of justice.

“Evil Dead Rise” allows women to take center stage and shape the landscape of demented horrors with existential fears about traditional female roles and the anxieties it evokes. There are throughlines of emotional baggage, familial expectations, and difficult choices, where women can be both empathetic and a force to be reckoned with (which includes being a terrifying demonic force). It’s about time that the franchise explicitly did that, and this will hopefully be second nature in the gnarly sequels to come.

“Evil Dead Rise” is currently in theaters.

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