Ellie peeks over the edge of the bathtub in Evil Dead Rise, with yellow eyes and pale skin.

‘Evil Dead Rise’ Depicts My Deepest Fear as a Mother (and No, It’s Not Deadites)

By now, you probably know the plot of Evil Dead Rise even if you haven’t seen the movie. Ellie, a single mom raising three kids, is possessed by a demon when her son finds an ancient grimoire hidden in the basement of their apartment building. The movie doesn’t pull any punches, playing out in horrifying detail what would happen if a mother started hunting her own children.

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One of the most harrowing things about the movie is Ellie’s kids’ reactions to their newly undead mom. They stare at her in fear and confusion as she chucks whole eggs into a frying pan, muttering about how she wants to slice up her family. In one scene, her youngest child, Kassie, looks through the apartment’s peephole as Ellie tries to coax her into unlocking the door. Even after witnessing Ellie’s carnage in the hall, Kassie finally caves and opens it—that’s how fervently she hopes that her mom is still in there somewhere.

The most heart wrenching part of the story, though, is when Ellie briefly regains control of her body. “Don’t let them take my babies,” she gasps, before she’s taken over again. That line, along with a scene in which a seemingly dead Ellie begs her sister Beth to help her through her phone, shows that underneath the Deadite’s control, Ellie is still conscious. She can see what she’s doing to her children, and she’s powerless to stop.

As I mentioned in my review of Evil Dead Rise, one of a parent’s deepest fears isn’t that some outside threat will harm their children—it’s that they themselves will harm their children. That fear is at the center of what makes Evil Dead Rise so good. There are so many awful, unspeakable things that can happen to a child, and as a parent, you start to notice all too many of them. A PSA warns you not to look away for even a moment, lest your kid fall in the pool and drown. A news article declares that if you leave them with the wrong babysitter, they’ll end up murdered.

However, none of these fears come close to the intrusive thoughts that can start to bubble up when you have a baby. You’re so powerful, and they’re so vulnerable. When I first became a mother, I had some truly horrific fears, compounded by sleep deprivation and postpartum depression, that made me feel monstrous and out of control. What if I fell asleep and rolled over on my baby? What if I accidentally suffocated her? What if I had a break from reality and did something to her on purpose? Luckily, I learned from multiple sources that I wasn’t alone, but the thoughts were still terrifying.

What makes horror truly effective is when there’s a kernel of truth to it. It’s one thing for an evil spirit to swoop in and wreak havoc on a family; it’s quite another for that spirit to contain a hint of something you recognize from real life. The best demons in horror are the ones that reflect the demons you already carry—and in that regard, Evil Dead Rise succeeds admirably.

(featured image: Warner Bros.)

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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>