Mixed feelings here.
First up I’m stoked that after a decade of making paint by numbers Spiderman stuff Sam Raimi is coming home to the genre that made him. I also hoped that my one reader (where are you reader?) would consider checking out Sam’s pre-Spidey films after reading a glowing outline, any of ‘em really, they’re all better than Spidey 2 or 3, (OK with a couple exceptions.)
On the other hand though, after all the glowing praise that has been thrown at Drag Me To Hell I expected something of T2 or Die Hard proportions, something that redefined a genre and set a high water mark for all other filmmakers to aspire to. That clearly doesn’t happen here, but in any case this is a very good (most importantly fun) horror flick which is definitely worth checking out and is at least better than 90 of the last 100 horror flicks that I’ve seen.
Still not quite enough to crack my all time top 10 horror movies though.
A good horror movie should aim to do at least one of the following:
- Gross out
- Build suspense
- Provide some good gore
- Kill 90 minutes in a more enjoyable way than watching 3 episodes of Will & Grace.
Drag Me To Hell does four, it primarily amuses, at times it scares, it aims to gross out and achieves this goal, and let’s be honest almost anything is better than watching a 2000’s version of “Are you being Served?” minus the laughs.
What you won’t find here is suspense, Sam has no time for it and prefers the build up, then scare, scare, scare for 80 minutes. What does this mean? Well in reality this is pretty much what the Evil Dead movies would have looked like if he had a budget, and many scares and scenes rip freely from the trilogy.
First the plot in ten seconds: A young bank employee does a gypsy lady wrong and is in turn cursed by same. Unless she appeases the demon spirit within three days she will be Dragged to Hell.
I could give you the same info in another 27 paragraphs but instead I have decided to give you some random thoughts as I watched the movie:
– Justin Long was in Jeepers, Creepers. This is a definite step up. He is such a good and understanding boyfriend that it is obvious he reeeeeallly knew he wasn’t ever going to do any better and decided to believe anything she said rather than dump her and find someone more sane. (C’mon I like Justin Long, but if he wasn’t an actor would he be scoring with anything above a 7? Be real now.)
– The girl, Alison Lohman, is a pretty good actor, cute enough to be interesting, but not memorable enough for me to want to watch what she is in next.
– Why would someone put their Mum on speaker when you know she doesn’t approve of his girlfriend and she is in the room?
– Being a former bank Johnny, it is good to see that even movie characters assume all bank employees are tellers regardless. (It happened all the damn time!)
– There are tossers who will stab you in the back in every workplace.
– Why would leaves blow through a deserted underground carpark?
– The characters have a cat. I initially thought that “Here we go, how many forced scares will we get from here?” You know what? Zero. (Points: Raimi.)
– When you have three days to go before being dragged to hell, unless you make amends with the curser. Don’t put it off until the last minute.
– Between this, Thinner, and even Snatch, don’t ever mess with a gypsy!
Now some thoughts about Sam’s pet likes:
– Sam likes eyes, especially eye trauma. (If you think about it, his Ghost House Logo starts out as a skull eye looking through the keyhole.) In Evil Dead 2 we had the memorable “eye down the throat” gag, in Army of Darkness the initial “eye in the shoulder”. Here he kicks it up a notch, or at least as far as a PG horror movie will allow, we have a cake-eye and an eye stapling to keep us warm until his next flick.
– Sam uses simple body fluids more effectively than almost anyone else outside of porn directors. The gross-outs in Drag Me To Hell come frequently, and even though you know it is only a film they just look gross. Notable examples include a high pressure nose-bleed, numerous mouth to mouth vomitings (!) and the aforementioned dinner scene.
– A single buzzing fly is sometimes more disturbing than 1,000 decapitations. I can watch someone get a pitchfork in the head and not blink, but when the fly goes up one nostril and out the other I nearly gagged.
– When you use the plot device of having the lead character susceptible to random visions, you can have an attack from ANYWHERE! This leads to so many unexpected shock scares that you can understand the lead character going nuts.
– Sam still loves the “possessed guy rising above the floor and speaking loudly in a disembodied voice” thing.
As a horror movie I don’t think this is ready to be considered an all time classic. I personally enjoy Army of Darkness and Slither more than this. BUT: if you wanna go to the movies and spend 90 enjoyable minutes with a few scares and some great gross-out comedy, you likely won’t do better this year.
Final Rating – 8 / 10. Thanks for coming back Sam. You’ve still got it, but go back to R and give us one more real crack at horror before “Spidey 4: Tobey Needs One More Paycheck To Afford A Lamborghini Murcielago”.
(And you’re damn right I had to google that!)