Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Drag Me To HELLO


I saw Drag Me To Hell last Friday afternoon. I can't say I really liked it that much. Mostly because I was expecting something different. Some time has passed since Raimi last did horror. And in that time he has become more sophisticated in his storytelling. A little less self-aware. A Simple Plan is a good example of this. And Spider-Man 2 was comic book fare, but it had a heart which felt like new ground for the genre. So I guess I was expecting Drag Me To Hell to feel a little more grown up. To me it only made sense. The evolution of his career suggested that this time around, things would be different.

It wasn't until I watched Drag Me To Hell a second time that it all made sense. This is exactly what the horror genre needs. To remind people how fun it can be to be scared. To jump. To scream. To yell at the screen. All of this has been lost in the past decade to one bad remake after another.

And while Drag Me To Hell is classic Raimi, there are some noticeable differences. The biggest one being Raimi's homage to Japanese horror. One can see this in his use of shadows that creep along the walls and crawl across floors. And in sound design that makes your insides feel like they are being pulled from your body. Sound is such an important element in horror and Raimi takes us to heights I didn't know existed.

The story is simple but brilliant. By making the main character Christine (Allison Lohman) cursed, Raimi has given himself a blank check to scare at any moment. There doesn't need to be a rhyme or a reason for it. And there doesn't need to be the traditional surroundings for it either. In broad daylight Christine can be attacked and suddenly we're back to the days of the original Halloween where no time or place is safe from the boogeyman.

At first I thought Allison Lohan was a strange choice to play the female version of Bruce Campbell. But her Middle-America sweetness is perfect and she plays it straight as an arrow. When she finally succumbs to the madness around her, you feel the change. And what's more, you welcome it. The charm of Raimi is that he never lets his main character play victim forever.

Drag Me To Hell makes no apologies. From the second it opens with the bold title to the second it closes with the same, Raimi uses every frame to tell you he's come to scare. And he delivers the goods time and time again. I expected something different from Raimi, but in doing that I was asking Raimi to stop being the cornball who has directed some of my favorite movies. And why the hell would I do that?

13 comments:

Kevin J. Olson said...

"The story is simple but brilliant. By making the main character Christine (Allison Lohman) cursed, Raimi has given himself a blank check to scare at any moment. There doesn't need to be a rhyme or a reason for it. And there doesn't need to be the traditional surroundings for it either. In broad daylight Christine can be attacked and suddenly we're back to the days of the original Halloween where no time or place is safe from the boogeyman."


Nicely stated. I am really looking forward to this. You're so right about how Raimi seems to be trying to go for a classical Val Lewton type horror film where you are actually having fun getting scared. I'm really tired of the nihilistic modern horror that doesn't know how to have fun. I've been drawn to the genre my entire life, I have an unabashed love for it, so your review gives me hope that this film is worth the time and money to go see it on the big screen.

Horror movies used to be so much fun; whether they were innovative takes on the slasher genre (Nightmare on Elm Street) or classically executed thrillers (Halloween), there was a certain amount of fun you were having while your knuckles turned white. Now...not so much. Directors just want to try and gross you out.

I was a little apprehensive about the PG-13 rating, but really, I'm so tired of directors who think gore equals scary.

Great review, here.

Burbanked said...

I've been trying to get out to see this all week. Got detoured by UP with the family so maybe this evening or next I'll get out to the multiplex.

Interesting typo (or WAS IT?): "Allison Lohan". Wasn't Lindsay Lohan thinking about being in this for a bit? I haven't seen it yet so it's hard to say, but I have to think that casting her would have lent the finished product a different kind of curse all of its own.

Moviezzz said...

"It wasn't until I watched Drag Me To Hell a second time that it all made sense."

Geez, I've yet to see it once and you are already on your second viewing?

Making me feel like a slacker here.

PIPER said...

Kevin,

I'm always apprehensive of a PG-13 rating when it comes to horror and I was not really excited that this got rated that way. But Raimi doesn't hold back anything. You don't feel like you're cheated.

Thanks for the kind words.

Burbanked,

I think this would have been a completely different film if Lindsay would have starred in it. But who knows?

Moviezzz,

Yeah I had to see it when it first opened and then a friend wanted to see it with me and I knew I needed to see it again to give it another shot. Glad I did.

You're no slacker, I'm just on a movie rampage right now. I've seen Terminator Salvation twice which is just moronic since I didn't like it the first time. But some friends wanted to see it and if I have the opportunity, I can't pass up the theater.

Burbanked said...

HOLY CRAP you gave your money to McG TWICE? What are you gonna do for Michael Bay, rent out the whole theater for a children's party?

I fully support you going koo-koo seeing a lot of movies but for God's sake don't inflate the box office take for storyless pablum like TS. You'll only encourage more of the same.

PIPER said...

Shit, did I actually write that? Damn. Yeah, I've officially become what I beheld. It's all due to child pressure. You have to believe me when I say that.

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

I really need to see this flick, but I've had zero luck convincing people to see it with me. Then, when I go see it by myself, somebody will either say that they wanted to see it or will mercilessly call me a loser for seeing the damn thing on my own.

The life of a film blogger...

PIPER said...

Paul, I saw Drag Me To Hell by myself on Friday. I think it's funny how people think it's funny that people see movies by themselves. It's not like it's a social event. You sit in front of a screen in a place where talking is not encouraged. It's nice to go at my own pace. But yeah the same thing happened to me. I saw it by myself because I figured no one would see it with me. Then after I saw it, my friend wanted to see it with me. Son of a...

Burbanked said...

I've got no problem seeing movies by myself. Usually by the time my wife gets through the "Hey why don't you go see a - " part of her sentence, there's already a Burbanked-shaped hole in the door and a "kapow" sound effect lingering in the air.

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

I got no problems either, but I have friends who I know would like this particular movie.

sigh

Garrett said...

Nice review. I enjoyed it quite a bit, probably partly because i wasnt really anticipating much.
I didnt realize it was PG13 until we walked into the theater and my wife dropped that on me (that made me even less excited). But, totally agree, they dont hold much back in this.

brian said...

I have to admit I haven't seen Raimi's work pre "A Simple Plan." I did see this - with Piper in fact.

It scared the shi@ out of me. The sound design is the best I've seen. Yes, I said see. Because you can't his sound makes the visuals ten times scarier.

If you get a chance to see this in a crowded theater, do it. It makes the experience much better.

MovieMan0283 said...

Another meme for you to enjoy:

I am making the rounds to remind everyone about the "Reading the Movies" exercise. I'm going to compile everyone's lists into one master list in a week or two, so jump in! The original post can be found here:

http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2009/05/reading-movies.html#links