Far lost are the “classic” horror movies where you actually cheer for the protagonist. These days, with films like A Haunting in Connecticut or the Uninvited, not only do you not root for the main character being tormented, in some cases, you’re rooting for their death. We don’t get the typical strong hero like Nancy from Nightmare on Elm Street. These days its all about killing nameless teens, which is fine, but something fresh is always welcome. That’s exactly what Sam Raimi brings to the table with Drag me to Hell.
From the moment the last trailer hits, you get treated to a classic horror movie experience, starting with the classic Universal Pictures animation, going all the way through this thrill ride of horror and comedy. This is the type of film that begs to be seen in a drive in theater, or in my case, at midnight showing full of other fanboys. Many critics are calling this film the fourth film in the Evil Dead series, and they are all 100% correct. If you replace “spooky cabin in the woods” with “evil gypsy”, this could very easily be in the same universe, if not the same timeline.
There are plenty of nay-sayers out there who don’t believe that you can do a truly scary film and stick to the PG-13 restrictions, but this film pulls it off. Modern “horror” films rely on shock editing and gore to get the audience to jump, whereas this movie gets the same reaction with very little blood, and lots of loud noises. The only times Drag me to Hell gets the audience to scream is done purely in the sound mixing room. Things get comfortably quiet, and then explode in a caucophony of sound, and it works every time.
Alison Lohman does a great job of making the audience believe she’s going to be just another helpless female in a horror movie until the half hour mark when she’s apart of an epic battle in the front and back seats of a sedan. From there out, we realize that this fat-farm girl-turned-hot-loan officer won’t take any more of this crap, and she doesn’t. Justin Long plays a fine part of the reluctant boyfriend, but this movie is clearly a vehicle for Lohman, as she carries the film from watchable to outright awe-inspiring.
As said earlier, there is very little gore in this film, but that’s not to say there isn’t more gross-out moments that you could shake a stick at. Raimi does more things with puke than I think have been done in modern cinema in years, let alone a PG-13 film. With that said, they are some of the funniest moments in the film. Who would’ve thought a fight between a 90 year old gypsy and a 20-something blonde girl would be so satisfying and hilarious?
The ending certainly doesn’t come out of nowhere, and is actually pretty predictable about 20 minutes before it happens. If Army of Darkness and it’s mulitple endings taught us anything, it’s that the film was all about the journey and the 90 minutes it took to get to the ending, rather than that last punchline. With that said, I wouldn’t doubt there being multiple endings of this film on the DVD when it hits.
To say this film isn’t at least an homage to Evil Dead would be ridiculous. There are clear moments where the makeup and even actions of some of the characters are almost identical, and there are no comlpaints here. Sadly, there’s no Bruce Campbell cameo (he’s off doing kung-fu in Miami somewhere) but we definitely get a cameo from Sam’s omnipresent brother Ted, but it’s a bit hidden. See if you can pick him out.
I find it hard to believe that this script wasn’t something Sam Raimi and his brother Ivan that has been sitting on a shelf for 20 years. If this was written after all of Raimi’s experiences with the Spider-Man trilogy, then directors and writers across the world need to drop to their knees and learn from this writer/director. This is exactly the same way that something like Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull should have been handled–with respect to both the film’s universe and the fans who made it a classic. This film is highly entertaining, funny, and even scary. A true send-up to some of the horror greats that are long forgotten. Now if we can only get him to erase Spider-Man 3 from our memories…
Final Verdict: A