Women are monsters, victims and heroes in 'Evil Dead Rise'

The franchise gets a new lease of life in hands of director Lee Cronin


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Director Lee Cronin, left, with actor Lily Sullivan on the set of 'Evil Dead Rise.'
Director Lee Cronin, left, with actor Lily Sullivan on the set of "Evil Dead Rise."

Published: Mon 24 Apr 2023, 12:17 PM

Last updated: Mon 24 Apr 2023, 12:18 PM

When director Lee Cronin set out to make the latest installment of the Evil Dead franchise, he knew he wanted to bring a fresh angle to his version of the iconic horror series while still giving winks and nods throughout to his source material.

“I didn’t want to reboot a reboot or reboot something from before. So, I needed to find a new world, new characters,” he said.

After meeting with Sam Raimi, who created the original 1981 “Evil Dead,” Cronin walked away with two stipulations for his new movie, “Evil Dead Rise,” which hits theaters Friday.

He wanted to take the “'Evil Dead' lore” to an urban environment, unlike the traditional rural cabin setting, and he wanted the story to center around a family.

“The cogs started turning in my mind and I knew family and city and a kind of a world that maybe people could identify with,” he recalled. “I started to look at the construct of that family and then to look at some of the people in my own life.”

Those people included “powerful women figures,” which inspired the director to make the first “Evil Dead” installment with a cast primarily comprising women.

Alyssa Sutherland in a scene from 'Evil Dead Rise.'
Alyssa Sutherland in a scene from "Evil Dead Rise."

“Evil Dead Rise” follows two sisters, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and Beth (Lily Sullivan). After her children discover a strange book hidden beneath their Los Angeles apartment building, Ellie becomes possessed by a demon hellbent on destroying everything in its path, leaving Aunt Beth with the seemingly futile task of trying to escape with the kids.

That backdrop, Cronin said, was ripe for probing the psychological terrors that can stem from familial relationships and that would be compounded by the existential threat of a blood-lusting demon.

“That works quite well in horror storytelling because every single human carries baggage with them every day,” he said. “It just lent itself to this exploration of maternal affairs and what it might mean if you’re a mother or what it might mean if your mother was to turn on you.”

And although Cronin thought through his heady inquiry of maternal relationships and attachment theory, “Evil Dead Rise” is, like the other films in its franchise, at its core a terrifying and bloody 100 minutes of entertainment.

Lily Sullivan in a scene from Evil Dead Rise.
Lily Sullivan in a scene from Evil Dead Rise.

While the film asked a lot physically of both Sutherland and Sullivan, they said it was ultimately an enjoyable and cathartic project.

“To see a really horrific woman and play a horrific woman on screen, that was wonderful,” Sutherland said.

“I would love to say that it was like a real struggle to get to that place but I recognized that I am a little bit of a former people pleaser, and I had a lot of unexpressed rage and I just tapped into that,” she added, musing that a lot of women can probably relate.

And although Sullivan recalled some of the physical demands put on her, including being completely submerged in fake blood, as being a “form of torture,” she and Sutherland said their days were ameliorated by the fact that their contracts included a “self-care fund” — which they both spent on frequent massages.

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