There has been an element of Evil Dead in everything Sam Raimi has directed since the release of his flagship, comedy/horror franchise.
From his 90’s revivalist western, The Quick and the Dead all the way to the comic book antics of Spider Man, Raimi has never forgotten what worked about the The Evil Dead series.
Drag Me to Hell is Sam Raimi’s much hyped return to the horror genre.
It is a story about Christine (Alison Lohman), a loan officer who is cursed by a decrepit gypsy woman when she refuses her a third loan that would stop her from being kicked out of her home. The curse itself causes Christine to be visited and taunted by a ‘nasty demon’ (to quote the 50’s, B-movie dialect of the medium character, Rham Jas) over a period of three days.
On the morning of the forth day, Christine is said to be (wait for it) dragged to hell.
This simple horror set up (like The Evil Dead) allows for Raimi to concentrate on what he’s good at, bare knuckled, terrifying, gross out, lung collapsing hilarious fun.
In one of Drag Me to Hell’s most explicit moments of fan servicing, Raimi revisits the ‘flying eye in the mouth’ gag from Evil Dead II with disgustingly pleasing results. The point here is that Raimi hasn’t just returned to his routes, he has down right copy and pasted them onto a higher budget format. This is not to say that Drag Me to Hell is without merit, quite the contrary, it in fact thrives upon it’s stubbornness to pull away from a tried and tested formula. This is the reason Drag Me to Hell works so well.
Raimi knows his niche and has figured out a way to fine tune it into a well oiled fright machine. His crash zooms, canted angles and borderline cartoon sound effects are all present and accounted for, only now they look, sound and work better then ever before.
For example, during the spectacular séance sequence we begin to hear a flurry of ghostly screeches crescendo towards an unsettling loud peak whilst the camera arches and rotates into near ninety degree angles. There was a point here in the sound mix in which I genuinely thought I was going to be afflicted with permanent hearing damage. At the point that the sound reached it’s most excruciating level it stopped, leaving a deafening silence. During this silence one might be mistaken for thinking they can hear a subtle thumping in the sound mix, however I can assure you that this will be your own heart pounding inside your now nerveless chest.
For all of the film’s ‘business as usual’ systems it does feature at least two cinematic firsts. There is a moment in which embalming fluid is used in a way I’m pretty damn sure has never been committed to celluloid until now. Also, never in my life would I have imagined that I would be frightened by a harmless, garden variety handkerchief. Clearly, Sam Raimi still has some new tricks up those mischievous little sleeves of his.
For fans of Raimi’s work, Drag Me to Hell will be no nonsense return to basics. For those who are less acquainted with his horror credentials, this is a good place to start.
The movie is funny, scary, exciting, silly and serious all at once. For me, Drag Me to Hell was a pleasure from start to finish.
P.S. Watch out for the cat gag, I challenge anyone who thinks they can refrain from spewing forth an impulsive, vindictive burst of laughter.
Additional film information: Drag Me To Hell (2009)