Film Review: Drag Me to Hell

Give This Gypsy Whatever She Wants

Give This Gypsy Whatever She Wants. Damn.

Lazy film reviews utilize, among other things, direct comparison to not only a director’s previous works, but those of other directors in the genre which the film in question exists. These short-cuts seek to give the reviewer an easy out and to provide easy answers for the readers; to deliver a stop-gap outline of film and to hand-feed the readers exactly what to expect and what to think of a certain film. In a case like the film in question, Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell, I have absolutely no reservations of operating under the “lazy reviewer” banner.

To begin with, I’ll make no apologies. I am a Sam Raimi fan. I celebrate the guy’s entire catalog (well, Spider-Man 3 notwithstanding, I guess.) The moment I saw The Evil Dead on VHS was life-changing as far as cinema for me. One summer, I’d been on a run of watching “the classics” for the first time (Texas Chainsaw, Last House, Dawn of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes, Zombie, Suspiria on and on) and remember the day I caught a little double feature in my parents living room: The Evil Dead and a new-to-VHS horror flick called A Nightmare on Elm St.  I digress, but you can see how this back-to-back double feature would shape my palette. Raimi has since delivered a run of what I consider to be classics and ‘almost there’s: Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness, Darkman, Spider-Man 1&2, A Simple Plan, and yes, I even really like The Quick and The Dead. Imagine my Pavlov-like anticipation upon hearing that the man who produced 3 of my favorite ‘horror’ films was returning, like the prodigal son, to the gross-outs and gags that made him. Sam Raimi was headed home.

Drag Me to Hell was coming to a theater near me.

The results? Not bad. Not bad at all. Surprisingly, this film has been getting raves pretty much across the board. Most reviews I’d read before seeing the film used the adjective “fun” – not a phrase I usually associate with horror but then again, this is Raimi. He hasn’t made a pure horror film since Evil Dead (and some may argue successfully that even then, there was tongue placed firmly in cheek.) Well guess what? It’s definitely not fair (and way off the mark) to call Drag Me To Hell ‘horror’ or ‘scary’ as well. It is pure Raimi continuation. It’s like an eggroll; it’s horror contents wrapped firmly in comedy. And it’s the comedy you taste the most. No apologies, no quarter asked, and none given. It is also PG-13, and though other reviewers suggest boundaries have been pushed, everything in this movie is Bugs Bunny violent versus anything bordering realism or torture porn. And as much as that didn’t present a problem, it still made the film feel a bit…..Raimi-lite?

Combining comedy with horror does not mean having to water down; Evil Dead 2 started Raimi off down the “more slapstick than horror” path, but as you may or may not recall, that film was released unrated, due to having received an NC-17 for gore when submitted to the MPAA. The MPAA, as usual, were completely oblivious to what they were seeing, but still. Evil Dead 2 brought the grue. Big time. Drag Me to Hell? Not so much, but I’d argue, under the pretenses of this film, it works better than say, the lack of bite in Army of Darkness.

Drag Me to Hell has a plot that is pretty familiar to anyone who has watched horror. Sweet girl pisses off gypsy.(Why, God, WHY would one EVER piss off a gypsy?) Gypsy curses sweet girl. Shit hits the fan. Variations of this story have existed forever, but plot is not why one would see this movie. From the first appearance of said gypsy (and the three day curse that it said to culminate in being, yes, drug to hell by a demon called the Lamia) Sam starts the sight gags, and returns to that circus-like cinematic style of continual abuse heaped on our heroine (Allison Lohamn is near exactly a female Ash.)

There are some tense moments, and I really enjoyed the return of the crazy, off-the-wall audio effects, and cartoon like screams and wails, to force tension, and create artificial unease. Well done, as one would expect. Justin Long has always annoyed me, and he is no exception here, except to say that his presence didn’t detract much from my enjoyment of the film.

So, as lazy film reviewing goes, it doesn’t get much lazier than this: Drag Me To Hell is Evil Dead 2 Lite meets an episode of Tales from the Darkside, and it is…….fun. It’s not earth-shattering, but Raimi has proven that he has not lost his ability to take on the genre that made him what he is today. And he doesn’t disrespect it, which is paramount.

If you are a fan, you’ll no doubt see it, so this review was wholly unnecessary. If you are not a fan, this is probably best avoided. If you’re somewhere in between, you can pony up and have a good time at the movies on a Saturday afternoon, or wait a few months for the director’s cut on DVD. I’ll likely buy it.


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