Drag Me to Hell was a film I was really looking forward to. Ever since I first learned of the production, back when Ellen Page was set to star, this was a movie that was high on my radar. Why? Well, it marked director Sam Raimi's return to the horror genre. Fans have been waiting for this ever since 1992's Army of Darkness, which was the last film Raimi made that was even close to horror.
In the 1980s Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson were masters of the horror genre, each of them having a number of cult hits under his belt. Then their fates shifted, Hollywood noticed their talents, and they both became heavy hitters on the blockbuster market with their work on the Spider-man and Lord of the Rings films, respectively. As big as they got, we all waited for their return to the horror genre.
Then the commercials and trailers began to play as the theatrical release date drew near. Controversy cropped up as soon as the PG-13 rating appeared. I admit, I was disappointed. Raimi's old stuff was very R-rated — had he lost it having worked in the PG-13 realm for so long? My hopes did fall a bit in the face of this news. Still, I was certainly interested in seeing it.
I did see the film opening weekend and absolutely loved it. Sure, it did not have many elements that would push it into R-rated territory, but it still delivered an intense experience. Drag Me to Hell successfully captures the feel of his older Evil Dead outings, while also reflecting his growth as a filmmaker. Is it better than those early films? I would have to say no, but that does not change how enjoyable it is.
The big question heading into this revisit was whether or not it would live up to my initial theatrical love. It sort of does. Watching now, I am a bit more level-headed than I was during that first viewing. My initial anticipation had already been satiated — all that was left was me and the movie. There was nowhere to hide.
I found that my unabashed love no longer existed. I did not enjoy it quite as much as I did the first time around, but I still really like it and find it to be a movie I can watch multiple times without getting bored. There is a lot to like.
The plot is relatively simple and comes off as rather similar to Stephen King's Thinner. Alison Lohman plays Christine, a bank loan officer who is up for a promotion. In an effort to get the promotion and "make the tough decisions," Christine denies an extension to an elderly woman who has already had a few extensions. The woman then rips a button from Christine's jacket and places a curse on the young woman.
From the moment of this curse, things begin to get strange for Christine, not that they weren't already. Shadows begin to creep around the house, wind blows through the house, pots rattle, doors creak, and unseen forces grab our heroine, flinging her around like a rag doll. Will she be able to find the source of the curse and stop it before the unthinkable happens? You better watch and find out!
The performances are all quite good. Alison Lohman delivers a fine portrayal of the embattled Christine. She is generally sympathetic and she does a great job of screaming. Justin Long is all right as the doting, disbelieving boyfriend. He does not have a lot of depth, but Long makes it work. A lot of credit must be given to Lorna Raver who gives us a funny, gross, and frightening performance as Mrs. Ganush.
Sam Raimi went back to the old school ways of filmmaking with Drag Me to Hell. While the film has a distinctive Hollywood sheen and makes use of CG effects, there is plenty of practical work. Prosthetics, masks, tubes spewing blood, fake goat heads — it makes the old school fan in me jump with glee.
Audio/Video. The video is presented in its original 2.4:1 aspect ratio and looks fantastic. There is nary a blemish to be found. There is a lot of color work throughout the film and each scene is perfectly rendered here. Good examples would be the bloody nose incident and the way it pops out against the drab bank office colors; another would be the dark and ominous nightmare sequence followed by the bright, colorful room in the sunlight that immediately follows. It looks really good.
The audio is also rock solid. Sam Raimi does a lot with sound, creaking gates, squealing car wheels, the sounds of demons swirling around. At times you are surrounded by sound, such as during the seance scene. I also like the sounds during the car fight, there is a distinct line between sounds inside and outside the car, in addition to the plentiful screams. The last thing I have to mention is the fabulous score from Christopher Young, it is just perfect. It stands out as an original work and is rendered beautifully on this disk.
Extras. If there is any one area where this release suffers, it is in the extras department. No featurettes, no bloopers, no behind the scenes clips, no commentary. We get production diaries, which were online leading up to the film's release. A series of short clips on effects and sequences, nothing special. They are still worth watching, but they do not go into much depth. There is a second disk containing a copy to use on your computer and portable device. I like these, although I have read that many don't.
Lastly, this release has both the theatrical cut and an unrated version. The difference between the two is a matter of seconds, and if you have seen the theatrical version, I am sure you can guess where the edit was made. I actually prefer the theatrical cut.
Bottom line. This movie is a lot of fun. It proves that Raimi can do more than Spider-man. This movie brings some fun back to the horror genre, simultaneously showing that PG-13 horror can be good and that your movie does not have to be a remake or a sequel.