Writer and director Lee Cronin has continued the Evil Dead franchise, with Evil Dead Rise, which takes the action out of the woods and into a condemned apartment block in the city. The movie tells the twisted tale of two estranged sisters, mum-of-three Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), who’s dealing with a breakup and guitar tech Beth (Lily Sullivan) who is dealing with a little surprise bundle of joy of her own.
However, the sisters’ reunion is cut short by the rise of flesh-possessing demons which thrust them into a primal battle for survival as they face the most nightmarish version of family imaginable.
We sat down with Alyssa Sutherland who plays Ellie about working on a horror movie, working with the three young actors who play her children in the movie and how Lee Cronin kept morale up with a quiz night…
Had you watched any Evil Dead movies before you were cast in Evil Dead Rise?
I hadn’t seen them when I auditioned, but then when I found out that Lee [Cronin] wanted to have a chat and meet with me, I did some watching. I like to do my homework!
I think it’s helpful to know what’s come before but at the same time, I really trusted Lee’s vision. So when it came to actually filming, I was very confident in Lee’s version of what he wanted to do. He was so skilled in linking back to the previous films while also creating something that was of its own kind at the same time.
Speaking of which, how does Evil Dead Rise fit in with the rest of the Evil Dead films, and how does it stand out?
There are some really fun callbacks. One of my favourite gags is the eyeball gag. When I first read that I was like, ‘okay’!
I had actually watched the first two films by that point, so I’d seen Evil Dead II. It’s just so crazy. It’s so outlandish and what Lee managed to do is bring that absurdity, but also, there’s more of a realism. He just spun magic, I feel.
I really trusted what he did. I really liked his first film. I also watched that before I spoke with him and I was really into the performances in that film – they were so grounded and I thought, ‘well, this is interesting’, because that’s the kind of work that I like to do, but with this outlandish script, this could be really cool. Maybe that’s it, maybe there’s a groundedness and absurdity all at the same time!
How would you describe Ellie?
I would describe her as a demented psychopath, crossed with the Tasmanian Devil! I liken playing her to being in (what I would imagine because I haven’t actually done it) one of those rooms that you go into with a baseball bat and you just whack things and get out all of your stressed shit! I think that might be why I enjoyed it so much…
Who is more fun to play: mum Ellie or possessed Ellie?
Possessed Ellie, hands down!
There is a lot of physicality to the role – at one point you’re on the ceiling – what was it like shooting those scenes?
I loved doing it. I went through a weird phase in my 20s where I got really obsessed and addicted to aerial circus arts. I spent a lot of my time exploring that and I did gymnastics when I was a kid. So I was all about it: Put me in a harness. Throw me around. Put me upside down. That’s really fun for me. I really enjoyed all of that.
I love doing the stunt choreography as well. I’m really into boxing. So I enjoyed bringing a physicality to a role that I hadn’t really had the opportunity to do before.
Ellie goes to some really dark places. How did you get yourself in the right headspace? We’re envisioning a Slipknot playlist…
I did have a playlist of stuff. Not Slipknot but I know there are Slipknot fans out there that like the “Mommy’s with the maggots now” line. So shout out to them!
I had a playlist but honestly I think I’m really good at believing it’s real between action and cut. I just go “well, this is real now” and my brain, I think, is just good at doing that. Making that switch.
Is it creepy working on set of a horror movie?
No, it’s a workday. It’s like going to the office. There are so many people around, it’s like “morning Dave, how are you doing?” so it’s kind of hard to make that creepy.
That’s a feeling of being on set that I love because I love to collaborate with everyone and doing a horror film is so much fun because you’re seeing every department be so creative. It’s incredible. So you can nerd out on all that stuff and then nothing’s a surprise to any of us. We’ve all read the script, we’ve had the rehearsal, so we know the moving parts of all of it. So it’s kind of hard to be creeped out by something when you’ve been so thorough.
What was it like working with the children in the movie, especially little Nell Fisher who plays Kassie?
For me, it’s another day at the office and I’m covered in blood but this is what I do. For Nell [Fisher] we did have her see some of the makeup application while that was happening and because the sets were really quite dark, we never had her see me for the first time that day on set. We would always have her come and see me and see what I looked like in a pretty bright light. Again she knows what’s happening. Nothing is a surprise to her.
Working with her was wonderful. She’s so talented. The proof is in the pudding. She’s so wonderful and so darling and just oh my gosh those big eyes! She’s adorable. And really smart.
We had a COVID lockdown for two months and Lee was so sweet trying to keep morale high and we had a Zoom trivia night. He came up with some trivia questions for all of us and of course, Nell at nine years old blew us all out of the water!
So Nell won the Trivia night?!
Okay, just because of my own ego, technically, it was a tie between me and Nell [haha]!
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