One of the first things you’ll learn about me is that I am a huge Evil Dead fan. Whenever somebody refers to a deadite as a zombie, I develop an eye twitch. For those unfamiliar with the term, a deadite is a person – living or dead – who has become possessed by the Unseen Force. These creatures are exclusive to the Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series. Zombies, on the other hand, are walking corpses – they are never living and their condition cannot be reversed.
I love zombies, but deadites are really under-appreciated. Can a zombie turn your friends evil without even touching them? Can a zombie take the form of your mother and sing your favorite childhood lullaby? Can a zombie swallow your soul? I rest my case. The following is a list of my favorites from the ED series, in descending order. Enjoy, and please comment below.
10. Pit Witches, Army of Darkness
When Ash is mistaken for one of Henry’s men, he is tossed into a deep, dark pit, knowing that the last person who went down there came out as a geyser of blood. At the bottom of the pit, amidst the skeletons and fog, Ash encounters one surprisingly fast and limber deadite with sharp talons. She knocks him around for a while until an old wise man finally tosses the hero his trusty chainsaw so he can relieve the witch of her head. Later, a second uglier deadite appears and does an impressive back flip off the top ridge of the pit. I had to include these witches on my list because they are among the few deadites I have ever seen do gymnastics.
9. S-Mart Witch, Army of Darkness
Depending on which versions of Army of Darkness you have seen, you may or may not be familiar with this deadite. The theatrical version ends with Ash returning to his own time, telling stories of his medieval adventure to an unimpressed S-Mart co-worker (Ted Raimi). Just then, a customer turns into a deadite and tries to kill Ash’s pretty female co-worker. He springs into action, pumping shotgun rounds into the old hag from atop of a moving stock cart. “I’ll swallow your soul!” she promises to Ash, to which he simply replies, “Come get some.” After incapacitating the witch and saving a store full of customers, Ash grabs the pretty girl and utters one of his greatest one-liners: “Hail to the king, baby.” I don’t so much love this deadite as I love the situation she creates. It’s no wonder so many people consider this to be the only true ending.
8. “She-Bitch”, Army of Darkness
Rounding out the trilogy of medieval witches, this gal is my favorite because she is in one of the film’s best scenes. Ash is being fed grapes and wine by wenches when his hedonism is interrupted by an evil deadite hag. After levitating and spouting some common deadite rhetoric (“We shall feast upon your soul” etc. etc.), the witch tries to play dead, but Ash does not fall for it. "It's a trick - get an axe." Then Ash pulls out his 12-gage double-barrel Remington and utters that famous line: “Yo, she-bitch – let’s go.” He fires shell after shell, but the final shot is one of the film’s funniest moments. As the witch charges Ash from behind, he lays the shotgun over his shoulder and fires. Then without even looking back to confirm the kill, he shudders at his own awesomeness. She was a creepy witch, but mostly I adore the way she dies.
7. Linda, The Evil Dead
The special make-up effects on the first Evil Dead were not as elaborate as its successors, but makeup artist Tom Sullivan and actress Betsy Baker still created one very creepy deadite. With white eyes, a painted smile, and a baby doll giggle, she does not look like your average deadite, but the effect is the same. Even after Ash punches her in the face repeatedly, Linda appears unfazed, giggling the entire time. She cruelly transforms back into her human form just to torment Ash. But Linda really hits the peak of her creepiness when she starts singing “We’re gonna get you…” in a childlike voice. That sound and the image of her later licking blood off a dagger are both forever burned into my memory.
6. Possessed Ash & Possessed Hand, Evil Dead 2
I chose to lump these two together since they obviously involve the same person. Even Ash is not immune to being possessed by the Unseen Force. He is first changed after being dragged alone through the woods, and again later in the cabin with Annie. This is one of my favorite make-up jobs from these films, with Bruce Campbell’s features exaggerated to appear monstrous (i.e., giant chin). But it is Campbell’s hamming that makes this deadite so great.
Fortunately, Ash turns back to normal, but he was not so lucky when it came to his right hand. His dead girlfriend’s head takes a bite out of it and the hand attacks him with hilarious results. After Ash chops it off with a chainsaw, it runs around on its own wreaking havoc and generally being a jerk. The hand is hilarious and one of the most memorable aspects of this film.
5. Ed, Evil Dead 2
This is another great make-up job by KNB. Ed’s grotesquely oversized teeth are both scary and hilarious. So is watching Ed trying to take a bite out of Bobbie Jo and swallowing a mouth full of hair instead. Ed also has one of my favorite deadite deaths from the series. Ash grabs an axe with his intact arm and single-handedly (literally) chops Dead Ed into pieces. As the axe rises and falls, green blood splatters across the room and Annie screams hysterically. Ed’s deformed hand spasms in front of the camera as a creepy female voice cries, “We live still!” until green blood finally engulfs the camera lens. This is a brilliant scene and I love every single thing Raimi did with it.
4. Evil Ash, Army of Darkness
Evil Ash’s conception is a bit complicated. ((Inhale)) So Ash looks into a mirror, which shatters, and creates a couple tiny Ash’s, and he ends up accidentally eating one, resulting in him sprouting a second head, who ultimately becomes a full clone. Ash kills him, but he resurrects as a rotting, walking corpse who becomes the leader of a medieval skeleton army that ultimately raids the King’s castle ((Exhale)) Did you get all of that? What I love about Evil Ash is simply the fact that he has all the cockiness and one-liners of the real Ash, but he is evil. I think all fans of this series can agree that one Bruce Campbell just isn’t enough.
3. Cheryl, The Evil Dead
Cheryl is easily the most memorable deadite from the first film. Ellen Sandweiss was fantastically creepy. Her initial possession is also one of the film’s best moments. While Linda and Shelly are playing a guessing game with playing cards, Cheryl starts naming off the cards in Shelly’s hand without even turning away from the window. As they marvel at her talent, Cheryl spins around looking like a monster and begins to levitate. A demonic voice spouts off threats (“One by one, we will take you!”) before she does the usual deadite opossum trick and falls to the floor. When Linda comes to check on her, she brutally shoves a pencil through her ankle.
Cheryl eventually gets tossed in the cellar, but spends the rest of the movie peeking under the cellar door – watching, snarling and taunting the others. At one point she uses her human voice to try and trick her brother Ash into letting her out. Thankfully, Cheryl meets her hand during an excruciatingly long, disgusting meltdown scene.
2. Linda, Evil Dead 2
Linda is the only character besides Ash who appears in all three films. Each time she is played by a different actress. I already mentioned Betsy Baker’s eerie portrayal of her in the first film. In Army of Darkness, Bridget Fonda makes a cameo as Linda in a flashback, but she is not shown as a deadite. My favorite of the three Linda’s is easily Denise Bixler in Evil Dead 2. After she becomes possessed by the Unseen Force at the cabin, deadite Linda attacks her boyfriend Ash. He is forced to chop her head off and bury her outside but she won’t stay dead. Her decaying corpse pops up out of the grave, puts her head back on, and begins to dance.
Later, the severed head falls into Ash’s lap and bites down on his hand. The next few minutes are hilarious as he tries to pry the head off his hand by banging it on the wall or hitting it with books. He has to run all the way out to the work-shed and stick the head in a vice before it finally lets his hand go. The head takes on Linda’s human form and pleads Ash not to hurt her, but that doesn’t stop him from taking a chainsaw to it. As the chainsaw digs into her head, blood splatters across a lone, hanging light bulb, giving the inside of the shed a red hue. Linda’s terror stops here, but Ash doesn’t yet know what she has done to his hand…
1. Henrietta, Evil Dead 2
This should come as no surprise given the name of my blog. Henrietta scared the shit out of me when I first saw Evil Dead 2 as a kid. I remember thinking she looked like a walking fruit cake, which is fitting considering she was buried in a fruit cellar. It was also terrifying how Ash was locked down there without a clue until an audio recording revealed what evil was buried down there with him. Just then, she bursts out of the floor, worms protruding from her head in stop-motion fashion. Ash’s subsequent scream still gives me chills every time I watch this scene. “Come to sweet Henrietta” she utters in a ghastly hag voice as she lumbers toward him.
Ash manages to escape Henrietta in the cellar, but she turns up again and again. Like the last two deadites on this list, Henrietta can take on her old human form in order to manipulate people. In one scene, she appears in her original form as Annie’s sweet old mother (played by Lou Hancock). She sings Annie’s favorite lullaby and almost convinces her daughter to let her out of the cellar. Later in the film, Henrietta appears again when she drags hillbilly Jake down the cellar and a waterfall of blood sprays out.
When the witch finally escapes the cellar, she transforms into a bizarre fat creature with a neck like a giraffe and the screeching voice of a monkey. It takes both Ash’s chainsaw and his boomstick to finally bring the bitch down. After lopping its head off, Henrietta utters its signature phrase, “I’ll swallow your soul! I’ll swallow your soul!” You can’t help but cheer when Ash then shoves the tip of his shotgun into its face and says, “Swallow this.”
Because the prosthetics and makeup were so extensive, deadite Henrietta could not be portrayed by the elderly Lou Hancock. Instead, she was portrayed by twenty-year old Ted Raimi in a latex suit made by KNB. It was a grueling experience for Ted. He lost literally pints of sweat each day and needed a breathing apparatus between takes. In one shot, you can see Ted’s sweat literally pouring out of Henrietta’s ear hole. For all his suffering, Raimi was brilliant in the role, and I’ll love him forever for it.