Wormed (pardon the pun) my way into another sneak peak last night. This time it was Sam Raimi's new horror film "Drag Me to Hell." It was exactly what you would expect from Raimi- lots of sick, twisted humor mixed with moments of sheer terror. It was very much in the vein of "Evil Dead 2." If you haven't seen that flick then think Three Stooges meet Poltergeist. If you're like me and a longtime fan of the ED films then this movie is for you.
I have sort of an interesting history with Raimi. I'm a reluctant fan. When ED2 came out I had a buddy that insisted we see that movie. Even though a "zombie flick" was the last thing on my list to see I had nothing better to do so I gave in. What followed was one of the best experiences I'd ever had at the cinema. The crowd watching the movie with us was rowdier than hell, making the film a participatory experience akin to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" sans toast.
Probably my favorite autobiography is Bruce Campbell's "If Chins Could Kill." There's something so quintessentially American about the story of Rob Tappert, Sam Raimi and Campbell as they pushed their way into the film industry in their late teens. They didn't know what the hell they were doing. They had no formal training. They just had a love of film combined with enough naivete to think it was easy to break in to the business. The fact that all three of those guys got to be successful in their own way tickles me to no end.
Raimi is an incredibly gifted filmmaker so it's been kind of sad to see him burn himself out on the Spiderman franchise. The last film in particular stunk of studio meddling and creative battles lost. Many fans were wondering when Raimi would get back to his old school, low budget style of film. Raimi's triumphant answer to that question is "Drag Me to Hell."
I can't think of the last movie I saw that was as attuned as this one as to the audience reaction it wants to invoke. Not the ephemeral sentimentality of your average film snob waiting in line at the Sundance festival for swag. I'm talking about your popcorn chewing knucklehead who is willing to throw down 10 bucks of their hard earned cast to be entertained. This film is self-conscious entertainment with a capitol "E."
Allison Lohman plays Christine Brown a bank mortgage officer who denies a loan extension to an old gypsy woman. In revenge the old woman curses Christine. Over the course of three days she will be tortured by an evil spirit until she is literally dragged to hell. Unless she can find some way to lift the curse...
Most of the reviews of this flick up at Rotten Tomatoes are positive but Rex Reed of all people posits that the central plot is razor thin thus the film is too mainstream. Yes, the film doesn't sway much from it's main story but to say the film is mainstream is supremely stupid. One of the joys of "Drag Me to Hell" is chock full of stuff that you would never see in a big budget Hollywood film. No thing and no person is safe in this movie. There are things that happen to children and animals (off camera) that would send your average studio executive running from a screening room to take a shower.
That isn't to say this film is in the mold of modern torture porn horror. It's not. The gross stuff in this movie isn't much worse than what you'd see watching "Fringe" or "House." The gross stuff usually follows a jump scare and is intentionally calculated to turn a scream into a quick laugh. I had no problem watching this flick with my 15-year old daughter who isn't usually a fan of horror. She loved the movie more than I did, which is to say a whole heck of a lot.
Finally- for fellow fans of Sam Raimi - The Classic figures prominently in this film. I chuckle everytime I see that car in his movies.
-- Dean Wormer