Drag Me To Hell (2009)

MAY 19, 2009


Back in 2007, I was at some party for the LA Film Festival, and Sam Raimi was there to present the winner of some Spider-Man 3 contest with a prize (a film scholarship, if memory serves). Afterwards, he spent a good hour making his way from point A to point B (a distance of about 30 feet) as every 20-30ish male in the room mobbed him. By the time he got close enough to me, I had already had a couple of beers, which puts me in the perfect mood to meet an icon: I’m loose enough to not clam up and stammer, but not drunk and making a fool out of myself (as I did with another icon later that year). I shook his hand, told him that I was honored to meet him, and then leaned in closer and said “Please go back to horror.” (had I already seen Spider-Man 3, I probably would have been less polite with my request). So really, I think I will take all the credit for Drag Me To Hell, because he did as I asked.

And he knocked it out of the f-ing park, if you ask me. He hasn’t made a legitimate horror film since Evil Dead 2 (no, Army of Darkness fans, your beloved film is not a horror movie. Nor is it particularly enjoyable to watch, thanks to your incessant quoting of it over the past 17 years), but he hasn’t lost his ability to fully entertain while combining slapstick-y violence with bodily fluids and monsters. Bruce Campbell might not be around, but this is more of a sequel to Evil Dead 2’s spirit than AOD ever was, and hopefully, it will go on to be the first "summer blockbuster" horror film since 1999 (Blair Witch Project and Sixth Sense).

Now, let’s get something out of the way quick: yes, it’s a PG-13 movie. Does it matter in the slightest? Well, let’s see: a little kid is killed in the first 5 minutes, half of a bank gets sprayed in blood, our heroine gets every green/black/red substance ever created for a horror movie in her mouth (and a few body parts as well), and an old woman gets her eye stapled. So... no, it doesn’t. Stop fucking whining about it. Christ, Army of Darkness would have been a PG-13 if Bruce Campbell didn’t swear so much. It’s one thing to make a PG-13 sequel to an R rated franchise like they did with Terminator; it’s another to make an intentionally fun summer rollercoaster movie with monsters and ghosts (and lots of trademark Raimi-style abuse of his actors) and get the same rating.

What’s great about the movie (even more so when you take the rating into consideration) is that there are almost zero false alarm scares. When Alison Lohman sees something by her window or hears a noise, it’s the witch (or a force acting on her behalf), not a bird or a bunch of metal hangers or a goddamn mail delivery. Not only does this keep the audience from rolling their eyes and getting annoyed, but it keeps the pace up to an overly impressive degree. Thinking back, I can’t think of a single time where the movie dragged (heh), which is even more impressive when you consider that there isn’t a particularly high body count and most of the horror/violence is directed at Lohman, who you know won’t be dying anytime soon. It’s not like Evil Dead where you have 4 other people besides Bruce for the monsters to fuck with, Lohman is the only target. Her boyfriend (Justin Long), co-workers, etc are never placed in any direct danger throughout the film.

So it’s with some remorse that I must admit Lohman’s performance is uneven. The entire movie rides on her shoulders, and she’s fine for the most part, but there are key moments that fall a bit flat due to her bizarre decision to channel original star Ellen Page at times. For the record, I think the movie would be insufferable with that talentless bore in the lead (she dropped out supposedly for scheduling conflicts, but she has no movie coming out. I suspect she realized that being tossed around and getting puked on would be too far outside her range of playing her unlikable self in every movie). But it seems like there are a few “ironic” lines that were added to the script to accommodate Page’s razor-thin range, and that Lohman figured she’d say them exactly as Page would. It’s really odd. Other times she simply doesn’t react at all to the nuttiness around her. It’s not too damaging, and she’s terrific in some of the scenes (the car fight, for example), but it’s a shame that someone who really would have dove 100% into the role wasn’t hired instead (Anna Faris would have been a godsend).

But that’s about the only bad thing I have to say about the movie. Otherwise, it delivers on every level that I hoped it would, and surprisingly lives up to the hype that has been surrounding it since the entire horror community seemingly snuck into the test screening for it a few months ago (I was stuck at work and couldn’t go). Raimi fans will be pleased to know that the Oldsmobile and Ted Raimi make appearances (Ted’s is nearly impossible to detect though), and his usual gonzo camerawork is on full display. Whereas the Spider-Man films (and obviously, his more dramatic work like Simple Plan and For Love of The Game) had to settle for mere glimpses of his style, this is 100% unmistakably a Raimi film, making even Quick and the Dead look subtle in comparison. Some have balked at the use of CGI over practicals, but other than a quick shot of a possessed farm animal and some gags involving things going inside of people’s mouths/nostrils/etc (by the way - like yesterday’s Grace, this movie features a fly going into someone’s nose), it all looked great to me (and the farm animal part is so funny I wouldn’t care if it was drawn with a crayon).

In the end, it’s a blast from start to finish. I can’t recall the last major studio horror movie that left me cheering and laughing and smiling the whole way through, without a shred of irony. Hell, even Shaun of the Dead got sappy near the end. There are some minor plot contrivances (does everyone carry a plain white envelope with them at all times?), but they don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. And I LOVE that in a month with hundreds of millions being spent on underwhelming spectacle (Wolverine) or dull adaptations (Angels & Demons), Sam Raimi comes along with a comparatively small and ORIGINAL movie, beating them at their own game by doing the whole “summer movie” thing completely right for a fraction of the cost.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


  1. ..Now I know where I am going to spend the last 12 bucks of my paycheck after paying the loans.... Yay!!!

  2. What?! Based on the theatrical trailer, I had written this one off. Looking forward to the review.

  3. SO f#*king happy to hear (or read) it!

  4. it's thursday, post already!!!!

  5. Anna Faris..really? wtf?

  6. Hey BC..i was there at the ArcLight sitting front row cuz well all you press people stole the good seats haha.... But i have to agree with you on this film..there are a few times i looked back into the theater and saw people smiling and giggling...it was a fun movie...The Scare scenes freaked my friend out who was nice enough to go with me and the humor was just like evil dead 2 with the drool and other gags...I cannot wait till this comes out so i can see it again. And did u see the prop they had for the terminator movie? the water creature? All in all this was my first experience at that theater and well worth it and i Hope Raimi doesnt leave the horror genre again and makes another fun movie for all of us horror fans.

  7. Aw man I probably walked right by you... my buddy Todd was in the front row too (right side) so I went up to talk to him for a bit.

    And yeah it was kind of BS... they had like 4 rows blocked for press and they only needed 1 or 2 tops. People got turned away and they didn't need to.

  8. Thanks for the review! I'm definitely going to go and see it now!

  9. I saw this last nite as i won some advance passes thanks to Bloody Disgusting, and I have to say It was phenomenal. Glad to see Sam hasn't lost anything doing all the spierman films. This was freaky and fun, themost fun I have had with a Raimi film since Darkman. I will go and see this again just so it makes some money, its that damn good.

  10. YES! Thanks for the review. So glad Raimi is back... let's hope he stays!

  11. i disagree slightly about Ellen Paige, thought she was great in Hard Candy (that movie is incredibly good/disturbing)

  12. Damn. The trailers weren't doing much for but not that I've read your review I'm gonna have to go plunk down the money to see this in the theater before it's gone.

  13. what was with all of the stuff going into that girls face.

  14. I hated this movie. It wasn't bad pacing, poor acting, a bad plot... it was the fact that it's yet another 'cursed by a gypsy' flick. We (the Roma, not 'gypsies'- that's a little like the n-word to us) are *actual people* with an *actual culture*, rather than movie monsters who pick pockets, wear bandannas, and do tambourine dances, and very few of us run around cursing people- hell, most of us even have two eyes and decent hygiene.
    I fail to understand how it's the 21st century, and this kind of thing's still okay (especially considering how so many pride themselves on their 'cultural sensitivity'). It's this kind of thing that makes people think we steal babies and pick pockets as a matter of course.
    I know it's not your fault, and I'm not calling you out on it- you didn't make this film. I'm just beginning to wonder whether I'll see some kind of moratorium on crap like this in my lifetime.

  15. I was so let down by this movie. It could've been 10 times better. 1/10

  16. Aside from a teensy disagreement about the merits of Anna Faris, I say "Hallelujah, preach on!" to this whole analysis. Before seeing DMTH, I read a lot of online reviews that were REALLY unfair. One of the best horror movies I've seen in the last five years.

    That being said, if I may respond to the comment about stereotyping gypsies. I'm sorry to the reader/viewer who was offended. Personally, I've seen a LOT of scary movies and there's not an overwhelming amount I've come across with this type of theme. I had the same reaction when everyone was up in arms about the Sopranos. I'm Italian and I didn't find that or the Godfather remotely offensive. Anyone with half a brain will know that a movie like this in no way represents the culture of an entire people. Just like (I hope) most people know that not all Italians are part of the Mafia. If it helps at all I can tell you that at least my perception of gypsies or the Roma were not in the least effected by this film.

  17. The entire movie fell flat. Terrible CGI. Bad acting. A storyline that's been done before (which isn't always a bad thing, but there's nothing new here).

    I grew up with Evil Dead, but when I watched Army of Darkness with the commentary, I thought, "Wow. Sam Raimi really doesn't understand what makes these movies great."

    Now that I've seen Dram Me To Hell, I realize (sadly) that I was right. There's nothing scary, nothing funny, and nothing new.

    Horrible disappointment.


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