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
The talking goat was, by far, my favorite.
Absolutely…a classic movie moment that will likely be referenced for years to come. –DHS
Indeed David indeed. This is one hum-dinger of a horror yarn, and it had my five kids ages 13,12,10,8 and 7 scared out of their wits. They were constantly shielding their face, and one left for the bathroom and came back much later to purposely miss as much as possible. But for me it was the scariest horror film since the Australian THE ASCENT several years back, and it had a number of striking set pieces, including that ghoulish graveyard sequence at the climax. Ms. Lohman delives an excellent performance here, and the humor and self-parody is present, though rightly eclipsed with the wonderfully orchestrated horror, including some well-timed jolts. Never cross a gypsy indeed.
I love the way you structured your review here.
Thanks, Sam. I never saw the Australian film you mention, but I’ll have to check that out now. I loved ever little detail about Drag Me to Hell including the opening credits, the pulse-pounding score, all those great set-pieces you mention and even that “Hang in There” Kitten poster on Christine Brown’s bedroom wall. –DHS
Can I mention, that no one seems to realise that Drag Me to Hell is a remake of “Night of the Demon” (“Curse of the Demon” in the United States).
This clasic stands up well today, and much to Mr Raimi’s credit his film does it justice, with the odd twist and dash of the Haunting thrown in. This is a movie that was filmed in 1957 and has never been sourced for any other flick except for one instance in the late seventies for a one off tv drama on Scottish television
It seems unfair to refrence Drag Me to the Evil Dead franchise (despite Sams fascination for eye balls!) as the truly scarey parts are those he directs straight. What he does with shadows is ultimately far more frightening than any of the puss and ooze on screen.
One can definately say Sam the horror director is back with all knowlege of how to handle a big budget from the Spiderman flicks, in what is typicaly a low budget genre and all his know how in giving us those gore moments we love. But from my glimpses into the shadows he created here, I think we are still to see his best, one that will all have us looking over our shoulders and pulling the bed sheets a little tighter at night. Heres to Sams next horror movie.
Robert, I was not aware this was directly inspired by an older film–though obviously it borrowed liberally from many films in the past. I loved the shadows Raimi created as well, but man, all the gore was tres magnifique and so much fun. And unlike recent “torture-porn” horror films, it didn’t make you feel sick to be watching it. –DHS
Absolutley true, his style goes a long way in comparrison to other horror films of late. I think it comes with a depth of understanding of what terror is and the older the director the better it gets.
For yourself its those sneaky looks at fright night, one of the few genuinely scarey and funny horrors in my oppinion, and for myself going to see Jaws when I was seven. My mother turned to me and asked “Are you enjoying the film?” which looking back now was parental concern. I replyed “Yes, but my legs want to go home!” I was absolutely petrified, yet had to see what happened.
Horror films ask just one thing of the viewer, let me in your head. Suspension o disbelief. Its up to us then to get it out when we leave the cinema. Some times it doesnt. Thats true horror and you learn more about yourself in those moments than any action flick.
Robert, well said. I hope this is a harbinger of a return to that brand of horror where filmmakers can be funny without being snippy and can scare people without being sadistic. –DHS
Well its been nice chatting DHS, but ill finish on a couple of other points,
Firstly on Drag me, a quick mention one other master of Horror, Christopher Young on his score for the film. As usual, his scoring adds weight depth and class to the film and gives that big budget feel that some other flicks just stick a rock score onto (not that I have anything against rock).
And second, if yourself or any other reader wants to check out the original, bare in mind there are several versions of it and that the European version is the definitive version eg it has the scene where the hero goes to Stonehenge to check the runes on the paper/button and a few others, that at the time were removed for the US release.
Now Im off to enjoy the sunnny weather in Scotland the now while it lasts and take the Alfa over to Fife and up the coast. Ill keep an eye on your blog
Take care “It’sss Frrright Night!!”
Robert, thanks for the informative discussion…yes, Chris Young’s score was masterful. I will have to keep my eyes peeled for the “original”. –DHS
Raimi is great. I will definitely have to see this one, a mix of horror and comedy, awesome.
Ana, I do believe you’ll love it! –DHS
Dave – I gave up horror flicks when I decided that, as an adult, it’s utterly ridiculous to look beneath my bed before going to sleep. So, I began to seek thriller and romance — the stuff you actually WANT beneath your bed, LOL.
Anyway — since there is just a horned demon involved and no horny demon, I’m gonna pass. But I appreciate your, eh, picturesque review.
Oh, and btw … what’s up with that “I was 5 years old … now, 25 years later …” – crap? Isn’t there a rule; if you tell so must we? Don’t think so, bro!
Rebecca, ha ha ha. –DHS
Great Review & Thanks for the kind words, i saw it again last night and it holds up really well. Here’s to having fun at the movies.
Amen to that. –DHS