Tag Archives: Lily Sullivan

Brick by Brick


by Brandon Thomas

Having already made a strong impression in last year’s Evil Dead Rise, Lily Sullivan delivers an even more impressive performance – and one where she’s the only actor on screen – in Monolith. Sullivan’s command of the screen for the entire 94 minute running time is a testament to her understanding of the material, and how that allows us, the audience, to recognize her character’s (known only as The Interviewer) complex motivations. 

Monolith begins with Sullivan’s former journalist holed up in her parents’ luxury vacation home. Nursing an enormously bruised ego after having been fired from her previous job for not fully vetting a source, the Interviewer is desperately hoping for that next big thing that will find her career redemption. The answer is an anonymous email that leads the Interviewer to a woman who once had in her possession a mysterious black brick. As the Interviewer digs deeper, she finds that multiple people in various parts of the world also have these bricks. The more the Interviewer reveals about the bricks and their owners, the more she also starts to succumb to a mysterious force. Is it the influence of the bricks or is the Interviewer’s own hubris and vanity causing her to spiral?

Director Matt Vesely and writer Lucy Campbell are able to wring so much tension out of a single location and a lot of phone interviews. As already noted, much of Monolith’s success rests in Sullivan’s hands. Her isolation as an actress informs the same isolation that the Interviewer is feeling. The audience begins to slowly match the Interviewer’s paranoia and discomfort with the bricks and the strange influence that they seem to have over people. Vesely’s command of tone and mood syncs up perfectly with Sullivan’s captivating performance.

Monolith is the kind of film that teases that it might show its cards but never actually does. For movies that are high on plot this might be a problem, but Monolith is character-centric through and through and the ambiguity only serves the Interviewer as she sinks further and further into obsession with the bricks. In fact, while the finale itself retains that overall ambiguity, it also reveals just how deeply personal the Interviewer’s journey ends up being. It’s a satisfying reveal that isn’t treated as some sort of Shyamalan “surprise,” but instead acts as the final piece to understanding Sullivan’s character and her true motivations. 

Monolith is the best kind of slow burn: one that trusts the audience to come along for a satisfying ride, but also delivers enough twists and unsettling scares that even the tiniest amount of boredom never sets in.

Big City Nights

Evil Dead Rise

by Hope Madden

Deadites hit the big city in Lee Cronin’s Evil Dead Rise, the latest instalment in the old Sam Raimi demon possession franchise. As was true with its predecessors, blood will rain, viscera will spew, chainsaws will bite, and the dead will most definitely rise. Just don’t expect any jokes this time around.

We open, as usual, on a cabin. Despite the top-notch title sequence, though, this episode will not be a cabin-in-the-woods horror. Cronin, who’s credited with the script as well, takes the Necronomicon and all its secrets into an urban high rise to see what hell he can raise.

Beth (Lily Sullivan) has some troubling news and wants to lay low with her sister’s family for a bit. But her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) is about to have some real troubles of her own because an earthquake opened a hole from the parking garage to a vault beneath the building. That vault held a book and some vinyl.

Lessons we should all have learned by now:

  • Don’t play unknown albums backwards.
  • Don’t read from flesh bound books.
  • Stay out of elevators. I know this one is pretty inconvenient, but honestly, it’s for the best.

Cronin (The Hole in the Ground) tosses in some loving homages to the Raimi films. Who doesn’t love a demon POV shot?! In fact, he uses disorienting angels and shots throughout the film to beautifully bewildering effect. A fisheye-of-death through a peephole is just one of the film’s many horrifying highlights.

Sutherland takes the most abuse as devoted mother turned chief Deadite, a role her lanky, angular frame is ideally suited to. She’s terrifying, but the most disturbing idea at play in this sequel is that children are fair game.

Cronin’s vision offers none of the slapstick, Three Stooges-esque humor of Raimi’s original trilogy. In fact, it leans far closer to the tone of Fede Alvarez’s underappreciated 2013 genre treasure, Evil Dead. And while this installment’s nods to the iconography of the original set is wonderful, Evil Dead Rise also recalls [Rec] and Joko Anwar’s Satan’s Slaves: Communion and even a little bit of Kubrick’s The Shining, Carpenter’s The Thing (or maybe Yuzna’s Society) – all exceptional horrors and worthy inspiration.

It’s also fun that Evil Dead Rise boasts an altogether new storyline, since so many films in the franchise are reworkings of earlier episodes. That storyline is somewhat slight, but what the film lacks in depth it makes up for with inspired visuals, solid casting, and so much blood.