Director Sam Raimi exhibited some signs of campy horror withdrawal in his Spider-Man series – if you remember the operation scene with Dr. Octopus’ tentacles you know what I mean – and with Drag Me To Hell he gets to do what he really loves again. I hope he has more in store ‘cuz I love it too.
His first horror/comedy since Army of Darkness, Drag Me To Hell plays a lot like that goofy flick. A terrible, often invisible evil – a gypsy curse – torments poor dopey Alison Lohman who takes as many slapstick hits as Bruce Campbell did in Army. Campbell ought to be proud of his successor as Lohman is quite the trooper. She puts up with a lot of gross shit and it’s a lot of fun to see the abuse Raimi puts her through, physically and psychologically. As the curse puts her through the paranormal ringer she has to make some decisions and the way they’re all handled are hilarious.
It’s classic storytelling that sets up all sorts of conventions, rules and gags that pay off in the end. Raimi shows what you can do with a simple idea (a gypsy curse) and how far you can take it. In today’s horror film atmosphere Hell is unique – there are no kids anywhere to be seen, no busty scream queens getting chopped to bits, no torture gadgets, it’s not boring, it doesn’t take itself seriously and it’s not a remake. It’s juuuust about a near-perfect horror movie… rated PG-13 no less.
There is one scene in particular that involves an anvil that goes so over-the-top it pulled me way out of the flick. It’s not even that necessary, it felt pretty throwaway. I guess that’s the one complaint I have with the movie. The other thing I was worried about, Justin Long as Lohman’s kind-hearted boyfriend, turned out to be nothing to worry over. I was lukewarm towards the guy before, but this is probably the best bit of acting he’s done. He manages to play the whole movie with a straight face. Not once does he crack a wry smile or wink at the camera – that’s for Sam to do.
So, yeah. If Raimi’s excellent work in the past, or the incredibly warm reception from critics doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will. I grinned and laughed the whole way through. It’s a scary, funny, gross, fun fucking time at the movies Go to a theater with GREAT sound and drag as many people as possible with you.