In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

That's One Pissed Off Granny!

I awaited Sam Raimi's new movie Drag Me To Hell with a combination of excitement and trepidation. I wanted to be good and up to Raimi's high standards, but most of all I think I just didn't want to be disappointed. I was afraid that perhaps Raimi had been rubbing elbows in Hollywood for so long, that perhaps he had lost touch with the genre that put him on the map. When the trailer was released a few months back, it did nothing to assail my fears. It looked like a combination of homogenized big budget fare of late, like The Unborn and Asian horror remakes (The Grudge was coincidentally imported by Raimi's own production company Ghosthouse Pictures), but I wasn't going to pass judgment just based on a trailer. On Thursday night, I headed into town to catch the midnight screening of Drag Me To Hell and now as I'm typing this review I feel ashamed. I'm ashamed because I never should have doubted that crazy fucker.

After a young loan officer (Alison Lohman) is cursed by an elderly gypsy, she has only three days to reverse the hex before the evil demon Lamia comes to collect her soul and carry her off to the burning fires of hell!

Drag Me To Hell is soooo much fun and a total blast to watch. What will knock you flat almost immediately is the amazing sound design. Drag Me To Hell is cranked to eleven. The film is packed with jump scares, but they come from so many different angles that they never get monotonous. There were times where I was sitting there giggling like a schoolgirl in anticipation of the next spike. It was a little stressful, I don't mind telling you. A good stress, however; the kind only the best can bring out of you. The trailer does the movie a disservice. It gives you no indication as to the craziness that ensues within. You clearly get the feeling that Raimi and Greg Nicotero (of KNB EFX) were just going balls-out and having fun with this. I can almost picture the two of them spit balling ideas for ways to torture the protagonist, all the while with huge grins on their faces. Speaking of Alison Lohman, I have to give her credit. She was a real trooper. Raimi subjects her to as many bumps, bruises and ooey-gooey indignities that he could pack into ninety-nine minutes. I wonder if Bruce Campbell gave her any pointers.

Ellen Page is a wuss.

Sadly, Bruce does not make an appearance in Drag Me To Hell, but Raimi's old Classic 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 gets a lot of screen time, probably the most its had since the Evil Dead films. It's still looking good. I'd say the only negative for me was Drag Me To Hell's reliance on CGI. It wasn't that they were necessarily bad quality, I was just always aware of them. I don't know why they went this route – I would imagine it was more to do with the PG-13 rating than lack of funds – but it made me long for the days of KNB's practical effects. However, supernatural subject matter is a lot easier to pass by the censors, than the stuff we see in slashers and zombie flicks, so I don't think it really hurts it that much. Probably most important, is that Raimi never forgets that we are here to be entertained. There are so few directors out there that can do what he does successfully. I mean the majority of movies I see, I'm just observing them, but with Drag Me To Hell I was IN IT. Last week, I linked to an interview with Sam talking about what he set out to do with this picture;

“I felt that in some really good horror films, like when I saw John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN for the first time, the whole audience was electrified with fear. They were all as one, all terrified and amplifying their fears one on to the next.”

I felt that. By the vibrations on the rail I had my foot on and the kicks to the back of my seat, I could tell that we were all one, and just enjoying the ride. If you're not into this movie after the parking garage scene, then I don't know want to tell you. It was then that I realized that this movie was going to be more Evil Dead 2, than Evil Dead, and I was fine with that. By the time the climax rolls around, it seems like you are almost watching the precursor to a fourth installment. I know Sam Raimi didn't intend it that way, but all the hallmarks were there. I won't spoil them here, but your jaw will open, you will laugh and you will join us. I implore anyone whose even a little bit interested in checking this out to please do so, as Drag Me To Hell is best viewed in a theatre with an audience.

Lastly, all I would like to say is welcome back to horror, Mr. Raimi. We missed you.


Matt said...

I saw this tonight and I have the same feelings you have. This was pure entertainment. The trailer did it no justice at all!

Anonymous said...

My exact thoughts when I saw this film were: meh. The only parts that I really enjoyed were the scenes that were reminiscent to the Evil Dead series. So basically, what made the movie good for me, was the shit I already knew and loved; nothing new here. It could also be that CGI usually ruins my interest, like you said, Jay, I am just too aware of it. It was pretty gross, however, but then again, it's the same kind of gross as the Evil Dead. They even had the eyeball popping! The plot in itself was corny, and I felt that overall the movie was just a homage to when Raimi was really awesome.

The Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse said...

I saw this opening night and I totally loved it. I may be letting my enthusiasm carry me away, but I felt like I was seeing a future classic. Here's my review (not on my zombie site, obviously -- I do like and write about other horror!)

Drag me to Hell review