Raimiís Hell a Demon of a Ride
Sam Raimi has said heís wanted to return to the horror genre for quite some time now. Not just the gothic-style dramatic form he used so effectively in The Gift and A Simple Plan, but the hyper-kinetic over-the-top visually balletic version he virtually trademarked with his three Evil Dead pictures. Sidetracked by a little trio of films about a Marvel superhero who climbs walls you might have heard something about, it didnít look like this was ever going to happen, the directorís status as a Hollywood hit-maker curtailing his down and dirty aspirations to make a return to the cult subgenre in which he first made his name.
Alison Lohman gets down and dirty in Universal Pictures' Drag Me to Hell
Finally, after what seems like an eternity of speculation and talk, Raimi has brought forth the new adrenaline-fueled horror epic Drag Me to Hell, and to call it a return to form would be something of an understatement. This movie is a brazen shot of attitudinal viscera pumped directly into the audienceís vein as if it were heroin, the film as nasty a scare tactic as any likely to see domestic 2009 theatrical release.
For my part I think this is a little bit past due. After a seemingly endless series of remakes, sequels and Asian re-dos the genre has fallen directly into the crapper, and while the majority of the films havenít been completely terribly they have instead been almost entirely forgettable. At least when a movie is horrible, you remember it, and as dumb as Friday the 13th, Prom Night, The Uninvited or any of the Saw sequels have been thatís the one thing I canít seem to be able to do, thinking back not a single thing about any of them worth recalling with any clarity Ė good or bad Ė whatsoever.
That certainly isnít going to be the case here. Drag Me to Hell is a lot of things, some positive, some not so much, but the one thing the movie is not is forgettable. No matter what else I see this year Iím certain images and moments are going to be so stuck in my brainpan getting them out is going to border on the impossible, a superbly macabre sequence in an open grave arguably one of the best moments of pure filmmaking bravado as any in the filmmakerís entire career.
The story, written by Raimi along with his brother Ivan, is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo hooey. It follows seemingly sweet and innocent lawn officer Christine (Alison Lohman) after she makes the major mistake of trying to appease her boss Mr. Jacks (David Paymer) by making a fool out of the wrong client, a distraught elderly woman named Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver). Suddenly the young woman finds herself cursed, and if she and her cherub-faced boyfriend Clay (Justin Long) donít find a solution to her problems in three days a vicious cloven-hoofed demon is going to whisk her straight down to Hell and devour her soul.
I could have used maybe just a bit more story, the filmís progression from start to finish nowhere near the surprise it could have been. I also think the filmmaker doesnít do anything with a subplot involving Babel Oscar-nominee Adriana Barraza, her whole section feeling like nothing more than an excuse to stretch the film out to a theatrical length than it does anything else. It also seems to me that the ultimate solution Christine and a friendly soothsayer (nicely underplayed by actor Dileep Rao) should have been one they thought of right at the start, the fact it took so long to come to the pair a tiny bit annoying.
But this isnít a movie about plot. It is instead about the directorís visual and technical wizardry, an unhinged series of whooshing camera moves, jump cuts, audio cues and shadow play most other filmmakers would find unforgivable let alone showcase with such in-your-face abandon themselves. In Raimiís hands, however, these tricks are essential, and while his playbook hasnít changed all that much since his low budget days bringing The Evil Dead to life in 1981 the kinetic joy behind them has only seemed to exponentially grow.
For my part, as a visceral foray back to his horror roots Raimi has constructed a picture pretty hard to dislike. It goes straight for the jugular and never apologizes for doing so, the director obviously having a bit of blood-soaked fun hoping viewers will be happy to come along for the ride. I certainly did, and I imagine fans of his previous early works will, too, Drag Me to Hell a gloriously malicious rollercoaster ride Iíd be more than happy to hop on and enjoy again any day of the week.
Film Rating: ÍÍÍ (out of 4)