If you ever wondered if Sam Raimi (“Evil Dead,” “The Gift”) would return to his horror roots after the success of the “Spider-Man” trilogy, then “Drag Me to Hell” will answer that question.
The answer in the simplest of terms is “yes.”
Truthfully, Raimi is an independent renegade pioneer of horror cinema because of “Evil Dead” and the way he managed to create serious thrills and chills on a limited budget. That film left an everlasting impression on horror fans that spawned two sequels.
The greatest attribute to his talent as a director is his ability to scare an audience. Certain horror films create a sense of fear, but you are still able to distance yourself from the action on screen, but Raimi can terrify the audience almost as much as the main characters. You have no clue of knowing what is in his bag of tricks and that creates a serious aura of horror when watching his films.
Well, after a short recess with the Spidey series, the chills return. What he has created here with “Drag Me to Hell,” is a bright and intelligent horror film, brimming with humor.
Once that MCA logo comes up on the screen and the terrifying music starts to play, you immediately feel a throwback to that 70s Grindhouse feel. However, unlike the pseudo directors trying to make their interpretations of what a true Horror/ Grindhouse film should be, Raimi doesn’t try.
He just does.
And actions speak louder than words.
While concept of this film seems to be borrowed from something out of the early Hammer films, Raimi uses that to unleash a funhouse of horror on you with eerie atmosphere. This creates a true carnival of amusement for the audience.
The film follows Christine Brown, played by the beautiful Alison Lohman (“Delirious”) who seems to have a decent life. She works an average job as a loan officer and looks to be next in line for a promotion. She has the perfect boyfriend, Clay Dalton (Justin Long, “He’s Just Not That Into You”) with whom she is deeply in love.
The film never makes us question whether or not they are right for each other. It is a given and Lohman and Long share some great screen chemistry.
Her life is soon turned upside down when she refuses an elderly lady for a loan. She puts a hex on Brown, which gives her three days to live. The lady’s first appearance is handled in a way that is intended to gross out the audience and – boy, does it.
The rest of the film is focused on Brown and Dalton trying to solve the mystery of this supposed curse. Is it for real? Dalton doesn’t quite believe her but loves and will do anything for her.
A sweet touch to a film otherwise brimming with terror.
Dalton’s uncertainty of the situation allows for some of the film’s humor to come into play. Some might find that creates tonal differences in the movie, but that is what is missing from most horror films today.
An excellent horror flick mixes humor with horror and never takes itself seriously. An example of that would be “An American Werewolf in London,” which understands that rule. The way this rule is applied is when a writer creates realistic and charismatic characters. Then the humor of real life situations blends quite well with the horror universe. Taking the humor out of a horror film gets you a piece of trash, like “Hostel.”
An outstanding sequence in “Drag Me to Hell” is the result of Raimi’s uses of comedy. Dalton takes Brown to meet his family for dinner to get her mind off the hex. Only Brown can see and hear the ghosts while the family is enjoying dinner.
Humor and horror personified.
What also comes out there is genuine empathy for the character. Brown is so charming that you really wish the dinner could have worked out better.
Despite the appearance of “Drag Me to Hell,” it still seems that horror movies have been in the decline over the past ten years. Most of that is due to the fact they are made by fanboys incapable of creating quality horror cinema (Eli Roth).
That can hardly be blamed on Raimi though.
This film is a treat that remains and shines amongst the sludge.