Drag Me To Hell

June 14, 2009

Drag Me to Hell is Brilliant. Capital intended. I may have spoiled my chances of you reading the rest of the review by saying so, but I want to be perfectly clear about how I feel. After spending most of his recent career bringing us Spider Man movies (about which my feelings are mixed) Sam Raimi is back doing what he does best, making the scariest films you’ll see on the big screen.

Raimi mostly gets his scares by suspending the audience expectations and stringing them out across the whole film. There is no setting in which something horrific can’t happen, there’s barely any downtime and it is in the most mundane of social exchanges that the uncanny is sure to erupt. Or not. That’s what makes Drag Me to Hell so effective. You will jump, but you won’t know when to expect it. And it’s not like they’re cheap scares either, as you may see them coming but that will heighten rather than detract from their impact.

It’s also a horror film in which we only sympathise with the leading lady because we are forced to go through the three stages of torment with her. We want the pursuing demon to drag her off screen so we can take a break. Alison Lohman’s Christine has been forced to make a difficult moral decision between getting a promotion and depriving an old woman of her home, but the decision she must take in the film’s closing act is even more fraught with dilemma. This means that unless you’ve had a high powered, morally ambiguous job you may not connect with her plight that much. One of the main problems with this approach is that other characters loose their impact as a result. However, when you consider that horror films in general and Raimi’s previous works in particular are filled with types rather than unique creations, it’s not really a problem. We’ve come in to see some blood and guts and we want to jump and that’s about it. Justin Long is in auto-pilot as the professor boyfriend of Lohman (though his last appearance onscreen is impressive and moving and redeems him to a certain extent) and Lohman is suitable for the timid opening but lacks the attitude as the action shifts up a gear. Apparently Juno‘s Ellen Paige was first choice for the Christine role, and I can’t help thinking that she would have added a stronger dimension to the character’s transformation as she realises the hellish fate that awaits her.

If you want to find out what qualities make Raimi such a good horror director, check out this interview for an explanation in his own words. I found myself laughing out loud at frightening points of the film, partly because horror is fundamentally funny but also in an attempt to mask my jumpiness. It didn’t really work. Some people may not like the obvious way in which Raimi attempts to get laughs with certain horrific aspect, but it’s impossible not to be frightened by some of his creations. However, anyone who enjoyed the Evil Dead trilogy will find a lot to like here, and if anything the interim years have improved Raimi’s technique rather than dulling it. Whilst there’s no Bruce Campbell in the cast and the couple of Ash-esque lines that Lohman is given fall flat you won’t miss the chisel-jawed macho hero too much.

So yes, go see Drag Me to Hell. It’s better than most of the recent horror remakes or even the original efforts, and in presentation feels both modern and classic thanks to the old-school opening intertitle, emotive musical score and plenty of anamatronics and fake bodily fluids to go with the CGI.


One Response to “Drag Me To Hell”

  1. […] the room dies rather than being alowed a drawn out death. Like Sam Raimi’s shock tactics in Drag Me To Hell, the violence in Inglorious Basterds is most effective when it comes from out of nowhere, and with […]

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