Okay, I think that I’m going to have to officially call “bullshit” on the possibility of there ever being another film in the cult favorite Evil Dead series. For years, the excuse has been that director Sam Raimi is too busy with the Spider-Man franchise to make a modestly-budgeted horror film. And yet, here is Drag Me to Hell.
Not that I’m complainin’. It’s great to see Sam Raimi back to his roots, and even if it doesn’t quite match the manic glee of Evil Dead 2, I can’t recall the last time I had so much fun being scared.
Drag Me to Hell is an old-fashioned tale with a bit of modern relevance. A young bank officer played by Alison Lohman, seeking to show a bit of spunk in hopes of winning a promotion, turns down a loan extension for an old woman behind on her rent due to medical expenses. Except that Granny Deadbeat is a gypsy, and she places a horrible, demonic curse on Lohman’s character. The loan officer has three days to dispel the evil before being, well, dragged to Hell.
What ensues owes more than a little to 1958′s Night of the Demon (aka Curse of the Demon). Both films rely heavily on suggestions of monstrous forces at work in the form of sinister winds and strange shadows. In fact, unlike the earlier film, Drag Me to Hell never actually shows its devil.
That’s not to say that Hell is always subtle in its scares. This is a Sam Raimi film, and like Evil Dead 2, it is painted in buckets of ichor. (Amazingly, it won a PG-13 rating. I guess as long as you don’t show boobies, you’re golden.) And if I do have one criticism, it’s that it goes for the “boo!” moment a little too often.
Still, it’s also like Evil Dead 2 in that it’s all so over-the-top that it’s hard to get too grossed out. Raimi’s love of the Three Stooges makes its presence known from time to time, most notably in the shape of a falling anvil.
Oh, and then there’s the bit with the goat. You’ll know it when you see it.
One thing that impressed me was that so many of its scares take place in broad daylight. It’s one thing to frighten someone alone in the dark with only an unreliable flashlight, another to manage it on a nice, sunny day.
The other way in which Drag Me to Hell resembles Night of the Demon is that it deals with a curse which can be physically passed from person to person. Lohman’s character, ever more desperate, begins to seriously consider whom she might herself consign to Hell. And there are several strong contenders.
What I found most interesting about Drag Me to Hell is my own reaction to Lohman’s moral choices. She starts off such an appealing character that I was initially inclined to forgive her tossing an old woman out of her home. A moral lapse to be sure, but an understandable one given the circumstances. And besides, the old gypsy is so loathsome, vicious and relentlessly cruel in her retribution that it’s hard to give her much sympathy.
Yet, Lohman continues to make questionable choices. (You’ll know that when you see it as well.) And she never accepts responsibility for her actions until it’s far, far too late. Maybe these weren’t worth a one-way ticket to Hades, I pondered, but I began to think that perhaps the old lady had a point.
Drag Me to Hell is a fun night of terror. With Raimi’s trademark camera tricks, a wonderful musical score by Christopher Young, and one truly angry goat, it left me hoping that this won’t be the last word in horror from our old friend Sam.