The newest installment of the “Evil Dead” film series, “Evil Dead Rise,” is set to release in theaters on April 21, 2023. The film centers on Beth (Lily Sullivan, “Picnic at Hanging Rock”), who takes a long journey to go and visit her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland, “Vikings”). Ellie is a single mother raising three children and living in a small apartment in Los Angeles, but Beth’s visit soon sours as a book containing supernatural powers is discovered in the apartment building’s basement, and demons are released into the world. The movie explores themes of loss and growth through the lens of a family being tested from all angles by a supernatural power.
A group of collegiate journalists were invited to prescreen the movie and participate in a roundtable discussion with some of the cast and crew from the movie.
The first roundtable interview was with the film’s director, Lee Cronin. He discussed his history of directing horror films and the experience of taking over an iconic and established film franchise. Cronin discussed the deep influences that the horror genre has had on his career as a director, saying, “‘The Shining’ is one of my favorite movies ever and … [I love] watching Spielberg movies”.
When discussing his approach towards taking over the “Evil Dead” franchise, he said, “if you’re going to break the mold, you’ve got to break the mold … [my goal is] to tell an ‘Evil Dead’ story that was something new, something fresh and a little bit different.”
In order to differentiate his take from the films in the series that came before it, he centered the story within the context of a family who had endured loss. Cronin said that his story was truly about “a family sitting at home, essentially minding their own business, and the evil comes knocking on their doorstep.”
Cronin also wanted to preserve iconic elements of the series to ensure that the soul of the “Evil Dead” franchise was ingrained into “Evil Dead Rise.” In particular, he highlighted the continuation of the iconic chainsaw motif, saying that “the hard part was when to introduce the chainsaw and how to introduce the chainsaw … and I hope that I brought it in just at the right time.”
The next roundtable featured Sullivan and Sutherland. The actresses discussed their approach towards accurately portraying family, their exploration into the horror genre and where they search for inspiration for their acting.
When discussing their approach to accurately portray family members as close as sisters, Sutherland said, “[we are] from the same hometown in Australia so we’re actually very similar and cut from the same cloth.” Sullivan echoed this sentiment and said that they made sure to have fun with the script. The actresses also discussed how they used the script as a unique opportunity to explore the role of family through the freeing lens of a horror movie.
Sutherland and Sullivan discussed their sources of inspiration for their performances. When finding the right approach to portraying a fight or flight response during long filming days, Sullivan said it was important to “find almost the dance in it through breath work.” She also had a routine of using pushups and “entering the body from that point as opposed to entering through the heightened sense of fear and death, because that becomes too much for three months.”
Sutherland added that she felt “it was [a] different [role] because dead-eye Ellie is full of rage, but she’s also full of joy … having those two opposing emotions gave me [material] to play and mess around with.”
“Evil Dead Rise” was the first major horror movie that Sullivan or Sutherland were featured in, and they both discussed their enjoyment of the genre. Sutherland expressed interest in continuing her career in the genre, saying that “I don’t think I could be a monster again, but I’d love to be a straight psychopath, but just your everyday psychopath.” Sullivan said that she thinks “the horror genre is incredible for up and coming filmmakers … [and] it can be super stylistic and stripped back and horror can just be done in so many ways.”
For Cronin, the film represents a continuation of his work in horror through the upholding of an iconic franchise. For Sullivan and Sutherland, the film represents their first significant exploration into the world of horror movies.