In short: Yay! (SPOILER FREE TOO!)
Like many of us horror-fiends, I was thrilled upon hearing of this movie some time ago. Thrilled at the thought of Sam Raimi finally returning to horror for at least one more entry. Thrilled at the concept of Raimi bringing demons and curses back to us. Thrilled at the crazy and bold title, which promised us a movie experience to match its quirky insanity. If anything can predict what type of film this is, it is the title. It’s fun, crazy, off-the-wall, and devious. The trailers had me concerned because they portray the film as straight horror and admittedly, the plot is not one that could easily be rendered in seriousness. However, don’t let the trailers spoil you and remember that it’s Ted and Sam Raimi scripting this one after all.
For the first 20 minutes or so, I could tell the teenage audience in the theatre was not sure if it was supposed to be funny or not. Yes, kids, you can laugh. But they did know it was supposed to be scary. This is definitely one of those jumpy horror films—the kind where your seat is kicked every time someone pops up behind a character. Even I found myself jumping once…or maybe twice. Raimi is brilliant at utilizing camera movement to heighten tension, canted angles to unnerve us, slow and fast dollies to keep us guessing, and specific blocking to obscure things until just the right moment. While the film definitely won’t give you nightmares, it will give you that intense movie experience.
I also appreciated the refreshingly simple moral tale of Drag Me to Hell. It’s been a while since I’ve seen an American horror film with something to say about the everyday choices we make. As cheesy and cliché as it may seem to some gore hounds, I really enjoy a scary movie with a clear message. Young, pretty, and eager, Christine Brown is forced to make a tough decision: Does she help someone in need? Or does she please her boss in order to pull ahead for that big promotion? Of course, it’s always more tough to do the right thing and to possess enough moral courage to act accordingly. As fate would have it, the one wrong decision she makes amidst all of her other good deeds is the source of her downfall. Raimi doesn’t shy away from the moral of the story; he embraces it with screenplay rhetoric.
The horror sequences are just tons of fun. Three-stooges-style gags that remind us of Bruce Campbell’s incredible reverse-acting are mostly pulled off well by Alison Lohman, who had some big shoes to fill with this one. Prepare yourself for lots of objects inserted into the mouth and lots of projectile vomit—good ol’ fashion Raimi circus tricks to get us squirming. The only pitfall to these scenes is the CG. When you have Nicotero working under you, why would you even consider post-EFX for some of this stuff? I understand its place in a few scenes, but for the most part, all of the effects could have been done much better with practicals. I am very disappointed in you Mr. Raimi. Tisk, tisk. While we are on the subject of make-up and EFX, something must be said about the Mrs. Ganush, the old hag. Nicotero (KNB) did a fantastic job with this woman, which is showcased especially well during the miniature smackdown between her and Christine early in the movie. It’s a great sequence capped off by the unexpected line, “Ha! I gotchu, you ol’ bitch!”
I may look 14, but I'll bury you!
In summation, I had an awesome time with this film. A few technical elements were lacking here and there, but who the hell cares really? I was watching a Raimi horror film…in the theatre! The actors held up some oddly-placed dialogue and brought to life the fantastical script of the Raimi brothers. Bring some friends to this one and relish the silly horror that we’ve been missing out on for so long.