‘Evil Dead Rise’ Explained: Motherhood, Possession, and Lots of Blood

Evil Dead Rise is everything an Evil Dead movie should be: gory, violent, and a ton of fun. This article answers all your questions about one of the best horror movies of the year.

Evil Dead Rise (2023) was worth the ten year wait, though hopefully the wait won’t be that long for the next one.

Table of Contents

The Evil Dead franchise is one of the most consistently great franchises in horror history. Evil Dead Rise continues the greatness of the series with a gory, violent, and darkly humorous good time. In this article we break down Evil Dead Rise, answering any lingering questions you might have about this amazing film. Beware of spoilers, obviously.

What is Evil Dead Rise About?

The Deadite Ellie smiles as she looks through a peephole in Evil Dead Rise (2023).
Seeing a Deadite mother emotionally manipulate her young daughter in Evil Dead Rise is a grueling experience. (pictured: Alyssa Sutherland as Ellie)

The majority of Evil Dead Rise takes place inside a rundown apartment building in Los Angeles, California. Living in one of the apartments is a family consisting of a single mother, Ellie, and her three children, Danny, Bridget, and Kassie. Ellie’s sister Beth comes over for a visit, hoping to get some advice and support from Ellie in regards to a life-altering discovery Beth made earlier in the evening. However, Ellie has problems of her own she’s dealing with.

Danny and Beth look at the Necronomicon in Evil Dead Rise (2023).
Someone always foolishly plays around with forces they don’t understand in this franchise. This time, Danny (pictured on the left) is the culprit.

During the evening, Danny unwittingly summons an evil force when he plays an old record he discovers in a hidden vault underneath the apartment building. The force takes Ellie, turning her into a demon-possessed monster. The rest of the movie focuses on Beth as she does her best to protect the lives and souls of her nieces and nephew from what their mother has become.

Evil Dead Rise Ending Explained

A bloodied Beth wields a chainsaw in Evil Dead Rise (2023).
It could hardly be an Evil Dead movie without a chainsaw. (pictured: Lily Sullivan as Beth)

The finale of Evil Dead Rise isn’t terribly complex. Prior to the film’s climax, Ellie’s two older kids, Danny and Bridget, become possessed. Also, Ellie finds her way back into her apartment after being locked outside for most of the movie. Beth was holding onto hope that one of the records Danny found might hold the key to their salvation, but upon listening to them, Beth learns that there is basically no stopping the evil force once it is summoned. Beth takes Ellie’s final living child, Kassie, and makes a final, desperate attempt to escape the apartment building.

Beth and Kassie take a free-falling ride down a blood-filled elevator to get to the apartment building’s parking garage. They nearly escape through a troublesome metal gate, but Kassie is pulled back into the garage by Ellie. Beth goes back to save Kassie, using a chainsaw to fight against Ellie who is now a spider-like monster made up of the merged bodies of Ellie, Danny, and Bridget. Beth is nearly fed into a wood chipper by Ellie, but, with Kassie’s help, Beth manages to push Ellie in the chipper instead. In a rain of blood, Ellie’s body is shredded piece by piece, with her still-talking severed head being the last to go. With Ellie gone, Beth and Kassie leave together.

A Deadite floats above a lake in Evil Dead Rise (2023).
Jessica was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now she is a Deadite. Her possession provides us with one of the most memorable shots in the movie though.

The final scene in Evil Dead Rise shows us the following morning. Jessica, a woman from the same apartment building but from a different floor, is leaving for a trip to a cabin in the woods. She eventually sees the gory mess in the parking garage, but before she can do anything, the unseen evil force takes her. This then connects back to the intro of the movie where we see Jessica, possessed, attacking her friends in the woods. The demons have escaped the apartment.

How Does Possession Work in Evil Dead Rise?

Evil Dead Rise (2023).
Most people in Evil Dead movies end up dead one way or another.

The ending is straightforward, so the only real question people might have about the ending of Evil Dead Rise relates to the method of possession in the movie. Why do some people get possessed while others don’t? This is something that remains relatively vague throughout the entire Evil Dead franchise, but we can make strong assumptions based on what we see in this and other Evil Dead movies.

For starters, any dead body can be possessed and reanimated as a Deadite (the term for a possessed person in the Evil Dead franchise). The demon inhabits the body with ease, using it like a puppet. But what about living people?

Bridget eats a wine glass in Evil Dead Rise (2023).
The dead don’t fight back, so moments like when Bridget eats glass could be the demon inside her trying to kill Bridget’s body so there is no chance it can be forced out.

Essentially, the evil force, sometimes referred to as a Kandarian demon, can possess people who are vulnerable in some way. Ellie is chronologically the first to be possessed in Evil Dead Rise after the evil force is summoned by the words spoken on the record Danny finds. From a zooming point-of-view camera, we see Ellie react to the force before being grabbed by the possessed elevator (yes, the force can possess and manipulate inanimate objects, though maybe not every inanimate object). So, intense fear combined with an already vulnerable state of mind is a way for the evil force to possess a living person.

Other living people become possessed after suffering a wound in an attack from someone who is possessed. Bridget becomes a Deadite after Ellie scrapes a tattoo machine loaded with her blood across Bridget’s cheek. Other people from other Evil Dead movies have also been shown to become Deadites from non-lethal injuries inflicted by possessed people. The reason could be that the fear of becoming possessed is heightened by an injury, and the fear is what really lets the demon inside.

Kassie looks at Staffanie in Evil Dead Rise (2023).
Kassie’s doll-head-on-a-stick, Staffanie, provides a source of strength for Kassie. Or, it at least represents Kassie’s desire to be strong.

So why doesn’t Beth become possessed? She is stabbed through the hand early in the movie and suffers further injuries throughout her ordeal, but she never shows signs of possession. It could be that her inner strength keeps the demons from taking over her mind. Beth was fighting not just for her own life, but for the lives of her nieces and nephew. Beth turns out to be stronger than she initially thought she was, and her mental strength keeps the demons away. As for Kassie, she was also looking out for others (comforting her siblings and helping Beth fight Ellie) which shows an inner strength.

That’s really the best answer there is for how possession works in the Evil Dead series. The specifics are left open to interpretation which allows filmmakers to shape the demonic forces to best fit the story they’re telling.

The Main Theme of Evil Dead Rise

Alyssa Sutherland as Ellie in Evil Dead Rise (2023).
Ellie appears frustrated before she is turned into a Deadite. After her possession the demon inside her twists Ellie’s frustrations into attacks against her children and sister.

The Evil Dead movies aren’t exactly known for possessing deep, meaningful themes. Grueling horror and dark humor tend to be the main points of the franchise. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be more going on underneath all the blood and violence. In fact, most of the movies do have underlying themes that help us get invested in the characters. From love, to sacrifice, to guilt and reconciliation, the Evil Dead films each have themes that relate directly to the characters and the action.

In Evil Dead Rise, the main theme is motherhood. Beth discovers that she is pregnant towards the beginning of the movie, and her initial reaction is to be fearful of what that means for her. Beth is visibly shaken when she sees her pregnancy test turn out to be positive. Beth’s main reason for visiting Ellie is to get advice from her sister about her pregnancy. Even though Beth never really gets the chance to talk with Ellie at any length about her pregnancy, Beth’s words leading up to trying to talk about it makes it clear that she sees her pregnancy as a mistake. To Beth, it is something that she is at fault for, and something that will change her life for the worse.

Lily Sullivan as Beth in Evil Dead Rise (2023).
Beth lies to Kassie, telling her that everything will be okay.

When Ellie is attacked by the evil force (Kandarian demon) set loose by the records Danny finds, Beth seems as scared and unsure as Ellie’s children are. Like Ellie’s children, Beth looks to Ellie for support and comfort, but that part of their lives is quickly slipping away as Ellie’s mind is lost to possession. When Ellie dies, Beth, alone with the corpse of her sister, makes her feelings clear when she says she is terrified of facing her nieces and nephew now that their mother is dead.

Of course, Ellie’s corpse rises as a Deadite, and Beth is forced into the role of protector for the remainder of her family. Beth’s instincts aren’t perfect, but she does the best she can. That’s all any mother can do. Through her struggles, Beth loses Danny and Bridget, but by the time it is just her and Kassie, Beth comes to a turning point. While trying to help calm Kassie with a comforting lie, Kassie tells Beth that she would be a good mother. Why? Because Beth knows how to lie to kids. Though the line is darkly humorous, we can see a sign of recognition in Beth’s reaction. She is a little surprised by Kassie’s words, but she also appears to understand what her young niece is saying. At the beginning of the night, Beth was searching for guidance. Now Beth is the one guiding her niece.

A multi-limbed monster as seen in the Necronomicon in Evil Dead Rise (2023).
As in previous movies, the pages of the Necronomicon foreshadow what is going to happen.

The finale in the parking garage drives the theme of motherhood home in a blood-soaked fashion. Now grotesquely melded into a multi-limbed monstrosity with two of her children, Ellie makes a final attempt to swallow the souls of Beth and Kassie. Beth is now the ultimate protector, fighting back with everything she has to get her niece to safety. Beth finally accepts the fact that Ellie is gone when she punts her sister’s severed (but still talking) head into a wood chipper. Beth walks away with Kassie in one hand, and a chainsaw in the other.

Ellie’s time as a Deadite shows Beth (and us) a twisted form of motherhood. Ellie’s possessed body manipulates the emotions of her children, utilizing her role as their mother to break their spirits. Beth is initially portrayed as a person who is often oblivious to the emotions of the people around her, but seeing her sister change so drastically forces Beth to find a side of herself that she never knew was there. Beth repeatedly puts the children’s physical and emotional well-being before her own throughout the night. And after her bonding moment with Kassie, she comes to realize that motherhood isn’t as scary as she thought it might be. At least, not usually.

The Cast and Characters of Evil Dead Rise

Lily Sullivan as Beth

Beth is covered in blood in Evil Dead Rise (2023).
Beth gets the full-body blood treatment of previous Evil Dead protagonists.

Lily Sullivan is an Australian actor whose most high-profile role prior to Evil Dead Rise may be the Prime Video series Picnic at Hanging Rock (2018) in which she starred along with Samara Weaving and Natalie Dormer.

In Evil Dead Rise, Beth is a guitar technician who, at first, seems oblivious to the feelings of her sister Ellie. Beth looks to Ellie for support and comfort, but her failure to provide the same for Ellie when she needed it causes friction between the two sisters.

Alyssa Sutherland as Ellie

Deadite Ellie rises from a bathtub in Evil Dead Rise (2023).
Alyssa Sutherland will go down in history as one of the creepiest Deadites in the series.

Alyssa Sutherland may be best known prior to Evil Dead Rise for her time in the TV series Vikings (2013-2016) as Queen Aslaug, and and in the series The Mist (2017) as Eve Copeland.

Alyssa’s character Ellie in Evil Dead Rise is Beth’s sister. Ellie is a mother who recently went through a separation from her husband and the father of her children. Ellie lives in a rundown apartment with her three kids, and, when we meet her in the movie, she is about to be kicked out of her apartment. Ellie tries to be strong for her kids and her sister, but a force beyond her control is about to take away what remains of her strength.

With her nieces and nephew behind her, Beth tries to talk to Ellie in Evil Dead Rise (2023).
This is the first Evil Dead movie to include a child in the main cast, giving the movie a slightly different feel.
  • Morgan Davies is Danny, Ellie’s son who is into music.
  • Gabrielle Echols is Bridget, Ellie’s eldest daughter who is into activism.
  • Nell Fisher is Kassie, Ellie’s youngest daughter.
  • Jayden Daniels is Gabriel, Ellie’s religious neighbor who is eager to help when he sees Ellie in trouble.
  • Mark Mithchinson is Mr. Fonda, a neighbor of Ellie’s who has a tree trimming business.
  • Anna-Maree Thomas, Richard Crouchley, and Mirabai Pease play Jessica, Caleb, and Teresa respectively. They are all featured in the frame story of Evil Dead Rise which takes place at a cabin in the woods.

Evil Dead Rise Review

The Necronomicon rests on a table in Evil Dead Rise (2013).
Director Lee Cronin has suggested that the Necronomicon seen in Evil Dead Rise is the same book as the “bitey” one from Army of Darkness.

Evil Dead Rise is exactly what an Evil Dead movie should be. Violent and gory with touches of dark humor. The look and tone of this movie, the fifth film in the franchise, is closest to Evil Dead (2013) directed by Fede Álvarez. Which is to say, it is not overtly comedic like Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992). There are absolutely comedic moments in Evil Dead Rise, but that comedy comes less from jokiness and more from just how over-the-top the violence can get. Evil Dead (2013) is similar in that way, and both of the more recent Evil Dead movies feel like a modern version of the tone set in Raimi’s original The Evil Dead (1981).

For longtime fans of the franchise, there are a good number of references to past films. And really, the whole movie feels very much like the cabin-in-the-woods scenario seen in three of the four other Evil Dead movies. The apartment isolates the main characters from the outside world similar to a cabin, and the overall flow of the story feels entirely familiar. That’s a good thing, because even though this movie contains all new characters and a new setting, it still feels like Evil Dead.

A cheese grater in Evil Dead Rise (2023).
The cheese grater briefly became a minor horror celebrity when the Evil Dead Rise trailers were released.

Like other Evil Dead movies, Evil Dead Rise does not hold back on the gore. It is a rite of passage for stars of an Evil Dead movie to be covered head to toe in blood and various other fluids, and Evil Dead Rise follows that tradition. Limbs are lost, faces are bitten, legs are grated, and every character in the movie generally has an awful time which is precisely what we go to see Evil Dead for.

We also watch Evil Dead for interesting lead characters. The first three movies and the TV series have Bruce Campbell as Ash, but he has since stepped away from the live-action side of the franchise. Mia is great in Evil Dead (2013), and Evil Dead Rise gives us a pair of great new characters in Beth (Lily Sullivan) and Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland). As sisters, they are like polar opposites whose paths run parallel to each other. They play off of each other incredibly well, making Beth and Ellie the best sibling duo in the franchise.

A Deadite stalks its prey in Evil Dead Rise (2023).
Though the frame story isn’t strictly necessary, it is fun to watch.

There’s not a lot to complain about, but if nitpicking is your thing, there are a few things that don’t work as well as previous films in the series. There is a frame story taking place at a cabin in the woods that begins and ends the movie. Though it’s a nice nod to the history of the franchise, it doesn’t do much to add to the main story. Also, at times the story does feel like it spreads out a bit too thin when dealing with some of the ancillary characters who also live in the apartment building. They’re just there to be killed, but their deaths mean much less to us than in most of the previous movies (i.e. the ones in cabins) where every death has a strong effect on the main character. These are very minor gripes though.

A needle is dangerously close to Bridget's eye in Evil Dead Rise (2023).
Our recommendation? Watch Evil Dead Rise.

Overall, Evil Dead Rise is great. It is nearly on the level of Evil Dead (2013), so if you enjoyed that movie, you’ll enjoy this one as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a post credits scene in Evil Dead Rise?

No, there is no scene during or after the credits in Evil Dead Rise.

Is Ash in Evil Dead Rise?

No, Ash will not be in Evil Dead Rise. After Ash vs. Evil Dead was cancelled, Bruce Campbell announced that he was retiring from playing the character of Ash.

That said, Bruce Campbell does make a cameo in Evil Dead Rise. Bruce Campbell’s voice can be heard on one of the records Danny finds in the vault underneath the apartment building. Director Lee Cronin teased that the voice cameo might actually be Ash Williams, but the truth of this in the movie is left intentionally vague.

What is Evil Dead Rise rated?

Unsurprisingly, Evil Dead Rise is rated R. The rating is for “strong bloody horror violence and gore, and some language.”

How much blood does Evil Dead Rise have?

In an interview, Lee Cronin told Empire magazine that his team used 6,500 liters (about 1,700 gallons) of fake blood. That’s certainly a lot, but Evil Dead (2013) reportedly used a whopping 70,000 gallons (more than 260,000 liters) of fake blood, though most of that was in the final “blood rain” scene.

Will Evil Dead Rise be on Netflix?

No, there are no plans to release Evil Dead Rise on Netflix. Evil Dead Rise is currently available to stream on Max. It can also be streamed as a VOD rental on various sites including Amazon Video.

Is Evil Dead Rise available on Physical Media?

Evil Dead Rise was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K in North America on June 27, 2023. However, fans with the ability to play 4K discs might want to consider the UK release instead.

Releasing on July 17, 2023, the UK release of Evil Dead Rise includes a commentary track by director Lee Cronin which is not included in the North American release. The UK disc also includes a short film from Lee Cronon titled Ghost Train. Please be aware that if you decide to import Evil Dead Rise from the UK, the 4K disc can be played in any region, but the Blu-ray and DVD discs are region-locked and are not playable on most North American players.

Will Evil Dead Rise have a sequel?

No official announcements have been made for more Evil Dead movies.

However, in good news for fans, Bruce Campbell (who is an executive producer on Evil Dead Rise) stated in an interview that “we’re going to try and do them more like every two or three years rather than every ten years.” He also mentions in the interview that Sam Raimi and his brother Ivan Raimi are creating a “bible” for the Evil Dead franchise to help guide future writers. So, even though a new movie isn’t official yet, it sounds like we will almost certainly get more from the franchise.

What is the book in Evil Dead Rise called?

The book used in the Evil Dead movies to summon the evil force goes by a few different names. The most common name is Necronomicon Ex-Mortis (or just Necronomicon for short). It is also called the Book of the Dead, and as of Evil Dead 2013 is has been referred to as Naturom Demonto.

Will there be an Evil Dead 2?

Evil Dead Rise is not a direct sequel to Evil Dead (2013). Evil Dead Rise is a new story with new characters.

Fede Álvarez was coy about definitively confirming whether or not his 2013 movie is a remake or a sequel to the original movies, though he did suggest Evil Dead exists within the same universe as Sam Raimi’s films. If that’s the case, and if Lee Cronin’s movie exists within the same universe as Raimi’s movies, then all five Evil Dead movies (and the TV series) could technically coexist. Even if that’s true though, don’t expect any crossovers. That would be more of a topic of debate for fans than anything that affects the movies.

Will there be an Evil Dead 4?

Lee Cronin has said that Evil Dead Rise exists “firmly in the universe” of Sam Raimi’s original trilogy. So if you want, you could say Evil Dead Rise is the equivalent of Evil Dead 4 (or even 5 if you count the 2013 Evil Dead).

As for a new Evil Dead that does directly connect to the original trilogy, Sam Raimi has previously mentioned interest. In an AMA on Reddit in January of 2020, Raimi wrote “I would love to direct a new Evil Dead movie… but I’d really like to do it with Bruce. And he says he’s retired the character. I hope not.” Bruce doesn’t appear to be budging on retirement, and no further news has come from Sam, so the chances of Evil Dead 4 are slim.

Is Evil Dead Rise connected to Army of Darkness?

The Evil Dead franchise has had a history of issues relating to copyright and what can and can’t be mentioned from previous movies. But Evil Dead Rise does have a very clear reference to Army of Darkness.

In the audio heard on Danny’s records, it is mentioned that the book Danny finds is one of three versions of the Book of the Dead. In Army of Darkness, Ash discovers three versions of the Necronomicon in a graveyard. Despite having a different appearance, Lee Cronin has hinted that the Necronomicon seen in Evil Dead Rise is the same book that flies around and bites Ash in Army of Darkness. That’s why Cronin’s book has teeth.

What are the demons in Evil Dead called?

The overall villain in the Evil Dead franchise is a demonic force called the Kandarian Demon. It is rarely seen by human eyes and is instead represented on screen through a first-person view that zooms around until ultimately attacking someone as they scream. The Kandarian Demon, often just referred to as the “evil force,” can manipulate the environment around it, but it’s main goal is to turn people into Deadites.

A Deadite is a person who is possessed by the power of the Kandarian Demon. Deadites aren’t necessarily the reanimated dead, although they can be. Deadites retain the memories of the body they possess, and their personality is often shaped by the person they once were. In general, there are very few sure ways to safely de-possess a person once they become a full Deadite.

Is Ash vs Evil Dead over?

Yes, Ash vs Evil Dead is over. The announcement of the show’s cancellation was made on April 20, 2018, and the final episode aired on April 29, 2018. The TV series ran for three seasons of 10 episodes each.

In the summer of 2022, it was reported that there were talks of an Evil Dead animated series. Bruce Campbell would return to voice Ash, giving fans hope that the story of Ash vs Evil Dead would continue. No further information has come out since the initial report.

Are the Evil Dead comics canon?

No, the various Evil Dead comics published over the years are not canon to the movies and TV series.
The official Evil Dead Rise poster, featuring Deadite Ellie embracing her three children.
The official poster for Evil Dead Rise.

Meet The Author

Chris has a degree in film studies at Temple University’s campus in Tokyo, Japan. He is a renowned expert on horror cinema.