Interview: Alyssa Sutherland and Lily Sullivan on surviving the “best and worst” time filming Evil Dead Rise

For such a bloodied horror experience, the leading ladies of Evil Dead Rise are all smiles and levity as they discuss the “torturous” episode of filming, their own descent into “the abyss”, and how exactly Jim Carrey was used as a reference point.

Ahead of the film’s global premiere earlier in the year (read our review here), Peter Gray had the absolute pleasure of speaking with both Alyssa Sutherland and Lily Sullivan about heading the charge of the latest instalment in the long-running horror franchise – a twisted tale of their two estranged sisters whose reunion is cut short by the rise of flesh-possessing demons, thrusting them into a primal battle for survival as they face the most nightmarish version of family imaginable.

I’m a massive horror fan, and this movie just bloody horrored all over the screen!  I can’t say how excited I was to see this on the big screen and just have blood thrown at me.  And I feel that horror has such a great relationship in giving us strong female characters, and I have to say, Alyssa, what you do with your face? I was so giddy!  I thought Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl, Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns…all those women that you love even though they’re evil.  For the both of you, is there any performance from the genre that you look at as sort of the pinnacle?

Lily Sullivan: I mean, that list was pretty badass.  You just stole some real cracker female leads.

Alyssa Sutherland: Yeah. I think, for me, I looked at a few other things. This is going to sound really weird, but one of my references was Jim Carrey in The Mask.  Obviously that’s not what I did, but I watched it because there was a joy in his character when he had the mask on.  It was so interesting, the joy of this and how terrifying would it be if I am really delighting in everything that I’m doing.  I’ve tried to bring the joy of messing with people to it as sort of an underlying thing.

I can definitely say you had that joy.  I kind of wanted you to win.  I’m sorry, but I was like, Alyssa, just take them all out!

Lily Sullivan: (Laughs) “Take out all your children!” “Murder all your children!” (Laughs)

And on that, because you’re dealing with thousands of gallons of blood, when you’re reading this script and realise how much you’re going to be covered in it, and there’s the physical and practical effects, how much fun is it? And is there ever any sort of worry about, “Oh shit, what I’m about to ger myself into?”

Lily Sullivan: Yeah.  Definitely the best time of your life and the worst time of your life.  It’s a form of torture.

Alyssa Sutherland: (Laughs) A tale as old as time.

Lily Sullivan: A tale as old as time! It’s epic bliss, and you feel like you’re 12-years-old and then you feel like you’re 94, and you’ve been through a traumatic, hectic experience.

Alyssa Sutherland: You read it on the page and you go, “Hmm, that’ll be an interesting day.”

Lily Sullivan: And you try to schedule how long things will take, and you’re like, “Oh, we’ll shoot that sequence over a month.”  And this movie is one long moment, as Evil Dead films are. It just doesn’t stop! You’re in the same costume every day that slowly deteriorates shooting in chronological order.  You literally descend down into the abyss, just slowly until the climax of this roller coaster ride.

Alyssa Sutherland: I was soaking wet, I think, for three weeks straight.  Three or four weeks straight because of the bathtub.  Everything happens so immediately after that bathtub…

Lily Sullivan: For continuity.

Alyssa Sutherland: That was worse for me than the blood or the prosthetics was having to be cold, dripping wet in winter in New Zealand.  That was a little tough, but the crew (was) fabulous, with their hot water bottles and they had heaters.  They do take great care of you, but I was like, I’d have to take a big deep breath and be like, okay, “Here we go.  Wet me down.”

Was there a particular scene that was the longest to shoot? Just so when I watch (the movie) again I can know just how much torture you’re going through?

Lily Sullivan: The end sequence just doesn’t stop.  Because each location was built, studio-wise, so that whole carpark section was just…yeah.  It felt like you were in a video game moving (around) as you went through all the carnage, left with all the blood and guts on route.  But it was the last sequence which was after a nine-week lockdown as well.  Losing out minds in that way that is a form of torture also in another country, and then going back to finish the final sequence of the film (laughs).

Alyssa Sutherland: Are you okay? (Laughs) It’s all coming back! (Laughs).

Evil Dead Rise is screening in Australian theatres from April 20th, 2023.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.