Drag me to Drag Me to Hell AGAIN!!
* Please pause to admire how awesome this poster is.*
Drag Me to Hell marks Sam Raimi’s return to horror, after spending several years at the helm of the Spiderman franchise. Raimi got his start in horror with Evil Dead and its subsequent sequels, pioneering his own brand of do-it-yourself filmmaking that had a lasting impact on the way movies were made. And as you watch this latest piece of cinematic whoop-ass, you realize what’s been missing from the genre all these years. Cause this shit is good.
From the opening minute of this film, I was flipping out in my chair. This is a rock ’em, sock ’em kind of opening sequence, my friends. The kind that gets you amped exponentially until you feel the adrenaline leaking out of your pours. Let’s face it, this is Sam’s house. The tools of horror cinema may have been collecting dust up there in the caverns of his mind, but he knows what each and every one of them does… and knows how to use all of them.
The story itself is not a complicated tale. Nice girl (Alison Lohman) pisses off the wrong decrepit old woman (Lorna Raver), who seeks her revenge by cursing said nice girl to be haunted by an evil demon that wants her soul (not a spoiler, that’s all in the trailer). Hallucinations persist, as do appearances from the Mac Guy as Nice Girl’s boyfriend (he doesn’t get in the way, it’s fine) and scary calamitous shit ensues. It’s as neatly structured as it comes, even a little predictable, but it hardly matters. Raimi’s artistry lies not in complex storytelling, but in making the familiar seem revelatory. He relies on the audience to pick up on the cues, to know when to curl up in their chairs and half-heartedly shield their eyes. He understands that what keeps them invested is not what will happen, but how… and how much. And even when working within these obvious (even to the audience) parameters, he still delivers explosive surprises.
First of all, Raimi treats tension like opera, building it layer by layer, with rhythmic precision, both visually and sonically. It sounds basic, but it’s really not that easy, ESPECIALLY when precariously trying to balance funny, scary, grotesque, camp, romance, character and NOT sucking. But he totally pulls it off. Every shot and cut is deliberate and dare I say… kind of perfect. Every sound cue and every piece of foley comes in seamlessly and gets the audience shifting in their seats just enough to throw them off balance. And then he hits you. HARD. With joyous terror that elicits the kind of laughter and screaming that is 100% involuntary. We have to… or our hearts will literally explode.
What also gives impact to these visceral joyrides is Raimi’s embrace of gross out imagery, coupled with his mastery of rhythm and release. He is restrained in his excess and knows exactly when, how fast and how long to deliver those moments. And there are many wonderful moments (and by wonderful, I mean disgusting), some of which are even sprinkled among the more slow and steady parts of the story, evoking this fantastic dissonance inside of me, where my level of repulsion is matched only by my appreciation for his ability to repulse me. I know… I’mmm kinda sick. But it’s just so cooooool. And Sam is smart enough to keep things light (even during one event that would be absolutely HEINOUS in real life), which prevents DMTH from doing any permanent or psychological harm.
All in all, this film is just FUN. I could wax on about all the creative choices he made that totally rocked my world, but that would spoil it for everyone. The only thing left to say is this: Raimi don’t hold back. So if you’re skittish or squeamish or easily startled in any way… well… go see it anyway, it’s that good. But good luck!