Guest Review: Sam Raimi's New Drag Me to Hell!
by Nick Valentine
January 28, 2009
Sam Raimi and I had a falling out around 2002. And in 2004, we continued to drift. By 2007, well, let's just say we didn't even send a newsletter anymore. So when I found out that I was privy to an advanced test screening of Sam Raimi's upcoming camp-horror film Drag Me to Hell, I was apprehensive. Would this further cement our permanent departure from one another? To put Drag Me to Hell in perspective, Raimi hasn't directed a film with his trademark horror fare in over a decade -- Army of Darkness was his last in 1992. Well, Raimi has returned to true form -- resurrected like an Army of Darkness, you could say.
Drag Me to Hell follows the story of an ancient evil that attaches itself to a loan officer, Christine (Alison Lohman), after the most heinous, evil, elderly gypsy of all time casts a hellish curse upon her. Accompanied by her boyfriend Clay (Justin Long), the desperate Christine relies on a seer to try and save her soul whilst the ancient demon torments her every aspect of life with the sole purpose of literally dragging her to hell. What you should be taking away from that plot summary is as follows: evil, old gypsy; hellish curse; ancient demon. With that in mind, know that this is not a film where the story is all that important. I mean, the entire conceit of the film is summed up, quite completely, in its title. But when it's Sam Raimi doing horror -- the story really isn't why you're there at all.
We open in the past, where a woman battles for the soul of a young boy. She loses the battle, and the boy is drug into the very depths of hell. Then we flash-forward and meet Christine, a straight-laced professional, always looking to do the right thing, until Mrs. Ganush enters her world. After Christine denies the evil, elderly gypsy an extension on her loan payment, Mrs. Ganush attacks! In the dark parking garage after closing time, an epic battle is waged. There's a stapler involved, a projectile ruler, multiple car crashes, a set of dentures, and an excessively awesome amount of Mrs. Ganush-on-Christine gumming. Seriously. And after this physical confrontation just doesn't seem to get the job done for Mrs. Ganush, she curses Christine -- who is now, officially fucked.
Drag Me to Hell played like a vintage classic in the vein of Raimi's own Evil Dead series and the inimitable Bruce Campbell vs Army of Darkness. Bucket loads of blood and gore, edge-of-your-seat, clenched-cheek suspense, and laughs, laughs, laughs. Sure, Raimi recycles gags from his previous camp classics and doesn't stray from the tone of those films either, but that's why it succeeds! It's uproarious and over-the-top. And it's absolutely terrifying and really funny -- all within the same second.
Aside from the gore and dark comedy, Raimi is able to craft and hone characters you want to follow and wholly enjoy right along side characters you absolutely love to hate. And that characterization is never lost. As this was a very early screening, the effects are in dire need of improvement, but even in their unfinished form, I would STILL recommend Drag Me to Hell. Needless to say, Mr. Raimi and I have rekindled our passion for one another. A bloody, campy passion that Raimi proves he still has bubbling inside him. Damn great to have you back, Sam. Come May, you're not going to have to drag me to Drag Me to Hell.