Summer was coming to a close in 1985 and in the fall I would be starting kindergarten. I was five years-old when my parents took my brother and me to the drive-in one Saturday night to see Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. On the screen behind us, they were showing the vampire flick Fright Night in an otherworldly silent glory against the backdrop of a moody moonlit sky. I can vividly remember sitting in the folded down backseat of my mom’s hatchback car and stealing every single shot of Fright Night I could between nervous chomps of pretzel sticks and sips from juice boxes before the folks caught on. There was something magical and exciting about getting a peak at those gloriously fiendish and gory scenes from Fright Night completely disembodied from any plot or dialogue while Pee Wee Herman did his bit in the background much to our annoyance. By far, those scenes in that context were the scariest things I had ever laid eyes on. It’s a memory the movie-lover in me will never forget.
Flash forward almost twenty-five years later, and here comes Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell, which just might be the most fun I’ve had at the movies since that night at the drive-in lying under the covers in the hatchback dreaming of the days when I would be old enough to watch movies like Fright Night whenever I wanted. In Raimi’s much hyped-return to horror, he taps into the current economic climate with a cautionary tale of a loan officer who gets cursed by an old gypsy woman after failing to give her an extension on a mortgage payment. In the lead role of Christine Brown, a drop-dead gorgeous and feisty Alison Lohman reads her lines and dives into the physical scenes with all the aplomb of a talented starlet pretending to be a half-witted ingenue.
Just how much fun is Drag Me to Hell?
Exorcist-style nose bleeds? Check.
Eyeballs flying out of their sockets? Just you wait and see.
Embalming fluids flowing out of cadavers? Uh-huh!
Kids and kitties in jeopardy? Raimi’s got those.
A horned demon wreaking havoc in a whirlwind of cheesy effects? You betcha!
What the film also offers is a director digging deep into his Evil Dead roots and giving the studio the middle finger for forcing him into a PG-13 rating. Raimi may have abided, but that didn’t stop him from breaking every horror movie rule imaginable (hint: the kid and they kitty don’t stay in jeopardy for long) including leaving no room for a sequel. He also puts Alison Lohman through the ringer, and as our plucky and unlucky heroine, she gives the most entertaining performance of its type since the first half of Naomi Watts’ duel role in Mulholland Drive.
Oh yeah, and did I mention the talking goat scene? Need I say more?
Raimi has cleverly delivered a film that exists beyond traditional review. You’re either going to love it or loathe it. For me, it does for the horror films I grew up watching what the original Raiders of the Lost Ark did for 1930’s serial adventures. I can’t imagine being more entertained sitting in the dark.
Written by David H. Schleicher