evil dead franchise characters

Freddy Krueger. Jason Voorhees. Michael Myers. Let’s be real: Besides the main baddie and maybe the damsel in distress, most horror film franchises don’t have many memorable characters. That’s kind of the point, right? The other characters are just there to get hacked to smithereens by the charismatic killer until he or she "dies" (only to show up in sequels once the box office receipts are tabulated).

"Evil Dead" is different. The face of the series isn’t a psychopathic slasher, but a smart-alecky doofus with a boomstick in one hand and a chainsaw for another. But while Ash Williams, Bruce Campbell’s dimwitted dude-in-distress, is a household name among horror fans, he’s not the only great character in the "Evil Dead" franchise. A master of mixing the madcap with the macabre, "Evil Dead" creator Sam Raimi filled his signature series with an eclectic assortment of memorable characters. I’m going to count down my favorites from the franchise, focusing specifically on the films and the TV show to keep this groovy list from being longer than a rough draft of the Necronomicon.

12. Ted Raimi

Ted Raimi holding photograph

My first choice isn’t a character, but rather a number of characters. Ted Raimi, Sam Raimi’s little brother, has appeared in every installment in the "Evil Dead" franchise, save for the 2013 remake.

Frankly, I couldn’t include just one Raimi role because they’re all so good. In the original "The Evil Dead," Raimi was credited as "Fake Shemp," which is movie lingo for the body double who steps in when the original actor isn’t available. For "Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn," Raimi graduated to Deadite Henrietta Knowby, a role he reprised in "Ash vs Evil Dead." In "Army of Darkness" he played a few bit parts, including Ash’s long-suffering S-Mart co-worker Ted. However, Raimi’s juiciest role — and my favorite — is Chet Kaminski, who appears in the second season of "Ash vs Evil Dead." Chet is Ash’s best buddy from high school, and helps Ash lure a group of teenagers to a party with their signature cocktail only to get killed by Ash’s Deadite sister, Cheryl.

Whether he’s playing a deranged ghoul, a disgruntled grocer, or a delightfully douchey Boomer trying to relive his glory days, Ted Raimi gave his all to his "Evil Dead" roles. However, as awesome as he always is, Raimi’s roles are usually bit parts and cameos — or, in the case of Chet, glorified comic relief. Thus, while Ted Raimi definitely deserves a spot on this list, I can’t place him higher than 12.

11. Brandy Barr

Arielle Carver-O'Neill coming down the stairs

In season 3 of "Ash vs. Evil Dead," Brandy Barr was revealed as Ash’s long-lost daughter, and quickly became one of the series’ most relatable characters. While the smarmy teenager who hates her parents is a well-worn trope in movies and TV (and, y’know, real life), Brandy defies this cliché. As the season progresses, she begins to display many of Ash’s personality traits, including his reflexive sarcasm and stubbornness, despite growing up without her father.

Brandy showed up at the perfect time in "Ash vs. Evil Dead," reminding us what it was like to have a main character who wasn’t used to seeing people be massacred by zombified monsters. Yet Brandy rises to the occasion as the season progresses, becoming a capable fighter in her own right. She also humanizes Ash in a way that even characters like Pablo and Kelly can’t by giving him someone to really care about besides himself.

In the end, Brandy shows the same courage as her father, while also revealing something within Ash that he didn’t know he had. Brandy could have been a typical long-lost kid archetype. Instead, she not only grew into one of the franchise’s best characters, but made the ones around her better, too. Alas, her limited screen time keeps her out of the top 10. Had Brandy had more time in the spotlight — or if Starz didn’tcancel the show — she certainly would have ranked higher.

10. Baal

Joel Tobeck looking annoyed

While Baal is one of the Big Bads in the Bible, he has to settle for supporting antagonist status in the second season of "Ash vs. Evil Dead." Accidentally summoned by Pablo Bolivar, Baal’s a demon who’s hellbent on seeing if Ash is truly the Chosen One. Unlike the other villains in this show, Baal doesn’t rely on his brute strength to assert his will, but rather his ability to seduce others and control their minds.

Okay, so outsmarting a dim-witted doofus like Ash might not be that difficult, but Baal also manipulates other, more intelligent characters, like Ruby and Pablo. He’s also a master of disguise, as seen when he possesses other people’ bodies, or when he transforms into the puppet-wielding weirdo Doctor Peacock. While most villains want to dominate the world, Baal wants to destroy it. Hey, we can’t fault him for a lack of ambition.

With his cunning and guile, Baal provides Ash and the crew with a new type of threat, and surprises viewers used to more mindless horror villains. But while Baal was critical to the success of the show’s second season, he’s more like an end-of-level boss, not the final one. As good as he is, "Evil Dead" has more compelling characters.

9. Cheryl Williams

Ellen Sandweiss as monster

Cheryl Williams has the ignominious honor of being both Ash’s little sister and the first Deadite in the series. She also had a high school fling with Chet Kaminski, so she doesn’t have great taste in men, either. And yet, if her brother had listened to Cheryl and not read from the Necronomicon, their weekend in the woods would have been much more pleasant. Alas, Ash is gonna Ash, so here we are. Cheryl pulled the classic "dumb horror movie character" move of going into the woods by herself, where she was — and I can’t believe I’m about to type this — violated by a tree in what is probably the series’ most controversial scene.

Upon transforming into a Deadite, Cheryl is barricaded in the basement, creating the franchise’s most iconic visual, and decomposes after her brother sets fire to the book. She returns in "Ash vs. Evil Dead" as a disguise for a Kandarian demon, who murders Chet but is shot and decapitated by Ash. The real Cheryl later returns as a ghost and seemingly forgives her brother, whose idiocy got her killed in the first place. Cheryl would place higher here if she had more screen time, but as it is she still stands out as the series’ most tragic figure: a shy, innocent teen who joined her sibling on a trip to the woods, and was turned into an evil zombie for her trouble. Hey, we’ve all been there, right?

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8. Bad Ash

Bruce Campbell evil make-up

If clickbaity self-help articles written by bots have taught me anything, it’s that everybody has their dark side — and if you’re Ash Williams, your dark side happens to be a medieval zombie warlord. Bad Ash appears as a hallucination in "Evil Dead 2," and takes a physical form in "Army of Darkness." The latter version of the character begins life as a fun-size version of Ash, transforms into a fully-grown doppelganger, then is shot in the face, chopped up, and buried, only to be resurrected when Ash can’t remember the words "klaatu," "barada," and "nikto." You got all that?

In "Army of Darkness," Bad Ash leads an army of Deadites to conquer a medieval castle, but is obliterated (literally) when Ash blasts him off a gunpowder-laden catapult. If you love watching Campbell ham it up, seeing him turn his performance up to 11 as Bad Ash is a treat. If Ash is Campbell’s caricature of the traditional movie hero, Bad Ash is Campbell’s riff on a mustache-twirling villain, albeit one with a rotting face instead of facial hair. Bad Ash really only figures into one film in the series, but as the main antagonist in "Army of Darkness" and the final boss of the original "Evil Dead" trilogy, Bad Ash gives our hero the only threat worthy of him: himself.

7. Mia Allen

Jane Levy screaming

Mia Allen is the only character from the 2013 "Evil Dead" remake to appear on this list, and for good reason: She’s deeper and better fleshed-out than the other characters in this series. Mia spent her teen years taking care of her mother, who was suffering physically and psychologically from an unidentified illness. To help her cope, Mia started taking heroin, and nearly died of an overdose following her mom’s death. A year later, Mia, her friends, and her brother celebrate her recovery by visiting a cabin in the woods. I think you can see where this is going.

Like the original "The Evil Dead," the 2013 remake isn’t a horror-comedy hybrid, but a no-holds-barred horror flick. As Mia, Jane Levy does a great job anchoring the film. She’s no Ash, but she’s a likable heroine in a genre known for having many forgettable female leads. But while Mia is better than most horror movie protagonists, the "Evil Dead" series has even more compelling characters. So, Mia will have to settle for (un)lucky number seven.

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6. Brock Williams

Lee Majors looking disgusted

For years, fans of the "Evil Dead" franchise wondered what kind of parent could possibly produce a son like Ash. We got our answer in season 2 of "Ash vs. Evil Dead." Brock Williams, my pick for number six, is played by Lee Majors, the star of "The Six Million Dollar Man," who portrays Brock as the ultimate Joe Six-Pack. Brock is a cantankerous old coot who buries his bitterness in cans of cheap beer. While the cranky old man trope is well-worn, Brock never drifts into caricature due to his nuance. Yes, nuance.

Despite his racism, sexism, jingoism, and pretty much every other "-ism," Brock still cares about his son and daughter. Though I hate to admit it, Brock is also hilarious, earning some of the series’ biggest laughs with his ribald rejoinders. While he meets his grisly demise in season 2, Brock shows back up in season 3 as a ghost. Sure, he’s still a huge jerk despite his journey to the great beyond, but ghost Brock shows he’s capable of growth as a person, even if it takes being brutally murdered by undead monsters. Watching Majors tango with Campbell is a blast, and earns Brock a high spot on this list.

5. Pablo Bolivar

Ray Santiago looking serious

A hero like Ash deserves a sidekick like Pablo Simon Bolivar. Between "Army of Darkness" and "Ash vs. Evil Dead," Ash worked a go-nowhere retail job and spent his weekends getting skunked at seedy dive bars, but Pablo recognized that he was something more: El Jefe, aka the Chosen One, aka the man who’s meant to defeat the Deadites.

However, while Pablo’s responsible for Ash’s return to his hero’s journey, he isn’t just Ash’s cheerleader. The nephew of a witch doctor, Pablo discovers that he was born with supernatural abilities, which gradually develop throughout the series. With his powers, Pablo disappears before demons, sees through the eyes of the Necronomicon, and even creates rifts between the real world and the land of the dead.

But it’s not Pablo’s abilities that make him one of the best "Evil Dead" characters; it’s his personality. Brave, but anxious. Friendly, but fierce. All that, and he has a mustache that’s almost as attention-grabbing as Bruce Campbell’s double-decker chin. We could all use a pal like Pablo (especially if you happen to dabble in the dark arts). As much as I enjoy Ash’s sarcasm and Kelly’s cynicism, there’s something earnest and endearing about Pablo’s optimism. Watching him inspire his friends to become the best versions of themselves is one of my favorite parts of "Ash vs. Evil Dead" and lands him solidly in my top five.

4. Kelly Maxwell

Dana DeLorenzo holding rifle

On any other list, Kelly Maxwell would probably be number one, which just goes to show how hard it was to put this ranking together. One of the few characters to appear in every episode of "Ash vs. Evil Dead," Kelly helps anchor the show thanks to her tongue-in-cheek attitude and near-constant incredulity. Personality-wise, she’s basically a female Ash, a chronic underachiever whose destiny reveals itself in the form of the Deadites. Like Ash, Kelly discovers that she’s a capable warrior and a charismatic leader who seems to actually relish battling demons. While Ash has his chainsaw and boomstick, Kelly relies on her M16 rifle and MP5 submachine gun, taking down Deadites with a smartass quip as she unloads every clip.

Yet, as the series progresses, you realize that Kelly isn’t just there to drop Deadites and one-liners. Her deadpan, devil-may-care attitude is really just a disguise that hides her loneliness, emotional vulnerability, and loyalty to her partners. Of course, this is still "Evil Dead"; over the course of the series, Kelly gets possessed, is covered in blood and gore, and survives numerous near-death experiences. Heck, at one time she’s nearly tricked into believing that she’s the Chosen One. But through it all, Kelly proves that she’s a formidable foe, a faithful friend, and one of the best characters in the "Evil Dead" franchise.

3. Ruby

Lucy Lawless holding dagger

Any character played by geek goddess Lucy Lawless is bound to be in my top five. That said, Ruby Knowby would be near the top of the list no matter who played her. "Ruby Knowby" is merely the character’s human disguise, of course, as she’s secretly an immortal demon known as the Dark One. What Sauron is to the One Ring, Ruby is to the Necronomicon, making her the main antagonist throughout all three seasons of "Ash vs. Evil Dead" (and, really, the whole franchise).

For that alone, Ruby is remarkably important to the "Evil Dead" franchise, but what makes her truly memorable is her character arc. Ruby debuts in season 1 as a mysterious foil whose true origins are unknown, is a time-traveling anti-hero in season 2, only to be murdered by her past self to become the main villain in season three. Her evil acts are many and myriad, and include giving birth to a demon baby. Yet, unlike some pop culture characters who clumsily drift between good and evil — looking at you, Daenerys Targaryen — every one of Ruby’s twists and turns is well-earned. It’s tough to pull off, but Lucy Lawless and the show’s creative team make it look easy, rendering Ruby the best human villain in "Evil Dead" history.

2. The Necronomicon Ex Mortis

Bruce Campbell holds Necronomicon

Unlike other horror film franchises, the real villain of the "Evil Dead" series isn’t an evil person, but the physical embodiment of evil itself. The Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, also known as the Book of the Dead, is bound in human flesh, inked with blood, and penned by a demonic race known as the Dark Ones. Originally created by H.P. Lovecraft for his 1924 short story "The Hound," the Necronomicon has also appeared as an Easter egg in "Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday" and "The Walking Dead." However, this sinister tome makes its biggest mark in the "Evil Dead" franchise.

When the incantations scrawled on its pages are uttered out loud, the Necronomicon summons a disembodied spirit that kills its victims and transforms them into Deadites. This malevolent energy is visualized by the franchise’s defining visual trope, a point-of-view camera twists and turns at great speed while chasing down its victims. The Necronomicon also possesses a sly and cunning personality of its own. As far as villainous objects go, the Necronomicon is second only to Sauron’s ring in "The Lord of the Rings." Like the One Ring, the Necronomicon is powerless on its own, and can only act through others. Unlike the One Ring, however, the Necronomicon also has a sense of humor, as proven by its numerous bouts with Ash. No mere MacGuffin, the Necronomicon is the "Evil Dead" series’ greatest villain.

1. Ash Williams

Bruce Campbell holding a shotgun

C’mon, who else could it be? There could be no other number one on this list than Bruce Campbell’s Ashley J. Williams, better known to his legions of fans as Ash. However, while Ash is the face of the franchise, that might not have been the case if he had only appeared in "The Evil Dead." In the original film, Ash is little more than a gender-swapped damsel-in-distress. He’s basically a male Laurie Strode, destined for little more than becoming the film’s sole survivor. It was only in the two sequels that Ash became, well, Ash — ie, the lovable, loudmouthed, overconfident doofus who fails at just about everything except for killing Deadites, who he’s almost always responsible for summoning in the first place.

Ash is a hilarious inversion of both the traditional macho hero and the Chosen One trope. And, of course, with his matinee-idol good looks and his nearly-unparalleled skill at slapstick comedy, nobody could play Ash but Campbell. We all know someone like Ash. He’s like your uncle who still hangs out at dive bars and always says something absurd at Thanksgiving, except he has a chainsaw for a hand.

However, Ash is not just an idiot. Throughout the "Evil Dead" franchise, he proves that he’s also brave and courageous. So, yes, Ash is a hero. He’s just not the kind we’re used to seeing in this kind of property. Ash is not only the "Evil Dead" series’ signature star, but also one of the most original horror movie characters ever created. Hail to the King, baby!