By Ryan Parsons | Images property of Universal Pictures
Drag Me to Hell
Sam Raimi is totally having fun with Drag Me to Hell. He’s playing around with the audience giving them a feel of nostalgic horror within the trappings of a polished modern horror film. It’s extreme horror in grown up settings, not just some cabin in the woods.
Review: Drag Me to Hell
Just opening with the ‘80s Universal logo is the start of the fun. Then it’s joyfully gross but not in a gory way, more of a slimy, gooey way. It’s nothing worse than phlegm and dentures. That’s lighter than you’d see in a raunchy comedy, but it’s squirmier because it’s nasty stuff we actually deal with.
It’s loud and in your face with violence that looks painful, but it’s not fatal so it can go on and on forever. Of course, it doesn’t go on quite as long as the old Evil Deads but the impact is still there. There are sick gags with eyes and teeth. You know he’s doing it to your too when he slows down the film and pipes down the sound.
To prove he’s not just throwing stuff at the audience, Raimi crafts some elegant visuals too. Some of the monsters only move in shadow, not as a <B>Jaws</b> style “don’t show it yet” thing, just as a beautiful visual. He has some new fun with camera tricks thanks to the ability to put scary things in with CGI. The CGI is bad but what’s happening is so crazy, it works.
His heroine is actually a good person. It’s not like the gypsy hasn’t defaulted on her mortgage payments. We can’t give free rides to every deadbeat with curse powers. Maybe she could have given one more extension, but that would have just prolonged the inevitable and made it someone else’s problem.
That said, she’s not a great person. I mean, she hasn’t hurt anyone but she isn’t making the world a better place either. She doesn’t rescue puppies or feed the homeless. She’s a little self-interested in her promotion. That doesn’t make this some sort of karmic retribution, but it’s perfectly fun to see her get dragged to hell.
She does go there finally. Since she’s supposed to be a real person, she doesn’t go totally Ash for a while. She tries to make sense of things but by the end, she has to just let loose. There are a few delightful callbacks to Evil Dead movies and situations that hearken back to the slapstick days within the normal, credible story. The supernatural handles the cell phone question brilliantly.
There’s still comedy with the horror. Now it’s the contrast of in your face goo in the “respectable” settings of workplaces and mansions. Raimi has fun with suits too. The guys at the bank are sniveling A-holes we hate.
There is more talking than in Raimi’s original visceral horror movies, and it’s less joky, but that’s the material. These days there’s some B.S. about caring about the characters so they have to have relationships and jobs and stuff. The film knows how important this is (not very) but it goes through the motions to do the old switcheroo on today’s audiences. All the really grown-up explaining about post traumatic stress and banking percentages happens in the background, because it’s totally not important at all.
He’s not reinventing the genre, but he doesn’t have to. He already did that once, and now he’s just doing what he’s good at. His era of in your face outrageousness didn’t last long enough as far as I’m concerned. Now he’s the only one still doing it so thank you for giving us one more.