Sam Raimi is no stranger to horror. In fact he invented some of the most fun conventions of the genre today, and it is with open arms he should be welcomed back into the fold after a twenty-two year absence. Raimi’s debut feature, Evil Dead, was about as straight and great low-budget horror as he could bring himself to muster, Army of Darkness remains a cult favorite of goofy gore and kitchy action, and though his super-fun thrill ride Drag Me to Hell falls somewhere in between, it also manages to be so much more.
Starting off a picture with a vintage studio logo is code for a knowing acceptance of your movie’s place in history, and Drag Me is no exception. Fraternal writers Sam and Ivan Raimi have crafted a simple, solid horror picture, which hearkens back to the Hammer films of the 1970s, but with a presently relevant set up. Taking a swing at the banking industry’s unapologetic tribulations as of late the sweetly ambitious Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) denies an old gypsy woman a loan, only to be cursed for her adherence to the company line. The screenplay is so self aware that it might be too clandestine, turning some off with its simplicity, but that is half of the movie’s charm.
The second half of the charm is Raimi’s whip smart direction. With the deft scares, signature Raimi blood, guts and spittle, and pounding sound design Drag Me has all the playfulness of a first timer lorded over by the assured hand of a veteran.
Heightening the excitement is Christopher Young’s textured score. Hitting all the right notes it punches up every big moment with such an ostentatious amusement you can almost see the composer’s grin through the notes.
In a brilliant choice Alison Lohman’s grants her character with a wide eyed, corn fed innocence that hits Middle America in the gut, blaming them for their complacency in the housing meltdown. Making her a formerly obese farm girl from the Heartland, she becomes a symbol for all of those buyers and sellers who saw the end coming, but turned a blind eye. In the Raimis’ eyes it wasn’t just the Masters of the Universe, we were all to blame.
After having directed some of the biggest budgeted, highest grossing films of all time it is wonderful to see Sam Raimi come back down to the place where started (low budget “Hell,” perhaps?). Drag Me to Hell isn’t just a fun movie, it isn’t just a condemnation of banking and real estate, it is proof that Hollywood doesn’t destroy the soul of everyone who succeeds.
El Luchador Rating: 4 out of 5 (4 out of 5)
Review By: Paul S. Myers (a.k.a. El Luchador)