I don’t know what it is about movie geekdom but it comes with the strangest idiosyncrasies. When the lights went down for the start of Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell and we were greeted by an 80′s-era Universal logo, Quaid and I looked at each other and just about had a full-on two-man nerdgasm. Powerful stuff.
While it’s certainly fun to have that manic-geek mentality, especially in a horror movie, it’s really not necessary for the full enjoyment of Drag Me to Hell, and that is at the heart of what is so damn great about it. This movie is so epically committed to over-the-top insane entertainment from start to finish that anyone who knowingly bought a ticket to a film with such a title is bound to get more than their money’s worth.
If the audience that I’m speaking of–the, for all intents and purposes, totally suspecting ticket-buyers–is inherently geek-exclusive, then I apologize for assuming otherwise. But really, who doesn’t love a good horror flick every once in a while? And Drag Me to Hell is the best that I have seen in years. I do not say that lightly.
If you need the nutshell, here it is: Alison Lohman plays Christine Brown, a loan officer who, in an effort to prove her ability to make “tough decisions,” turns down a mortgage payment extension to the wrong damn lady, the creepy gypsy-woman Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver). In a sequence that must be seen to be gleefully basked in, the old woman hits up Christine on her way out of the office and places a curse upon her. Christine spends the rest of the movie trying to rid herself of said curse.
The film has two modes: insane and brooding, and both are orchestrated with raw talent for authentic horror and with a tongue firmly clenched in cheek. The brooding is amped up to levels that will make you beg for the insanity to hit already, and the insanity is so insane that you’ll wish you hadn’t. Sometimes the insanity interrupts the brooding mid-thought. And I think I’m totally okay with that.
I will say nothing more, though. This is a movie where each fun, wild moment is a gift of deranged macabre that must be experienced. Merely telling any more about anything would only be bastardizing its awesomeness.
But, for those wondering–in case I hadn’t made it clear–the movie is good. Very good. Absolutely terrific, in fact. Sam Raimi’s return to horror after making one good Spider-Man movie, one great Spider-Man movie, and one abomination is one of the most welcome returns-to-form of any director ever. Folks, the spirit of The Evil Dead is all over this thing, so if that’s the Raimi you’re looking for, then hurry out and catch this one immediately. The first Evil Dead has always been one of my very favorite horror films of all time (top five, easily) and it is with pulsating excitement that I say that Drag Me to Hell is every bit as good.
Am I rambling? I am, aren’t I? You can probably tell that I’ve just seen this movie and I’m insanely high on it at the moment. Well, to that I say see the movie and you’ll understand. Everything you’ve heard leading up to this movie is 100% accurate. It’s a one-of-a-kind original: old-school style horror done with an over-the-top attitude and blistering kind of creativity that I’ve never really seen before. Not like this, anyway.
But aside from all this gushing and incoherent rambling, I believe I do actually have something of value to say about this movie that isn’t simply a paraphrase of “It was fucking awesome!!!!” and that is this: Occult horror doesn’t really scare me. I enjoy it, but it never really gets under my skin and rattles my cage. Well, really, horror movies in general don’t scare me and, on the whole, Drag Me to Hell is no exception. However, I would be lying to your face if I said there weren’t a few genuinely creepy moments throughout this one–things that got me a bit unsettled for a second or two. And more still, there were other things after the movie was over and I had a chance to think about it all for a bit, that crept up on me and curdled my blood in that gloriously sinister way that we all love so much.
However, taking my “occult horror” semi-biases out of the picture for a minute, allow me to sum up the scariness of the movie like this (because you have to be wondering, right?): If you thought the trailer looked like it might be kinda scary–or even (especially?) really scary–then this movie will keep you awake for a week. I’ve seen many a horror movie and this screening was the first time that I have ever seen someone get up and leave because it was too scary for them.
And yet it’s all hysterically funny, and that’s the key to what makes this movie so damn spectacular. Drag Me to Hell is extremely well-versed at being both terrifying and hilarious–at the same time and for the exact same reasons. Some of the tricks that it pulls out from its boundless sleeves are so outlandishly absurd that you’ll laugh aloud at their deranged audacity. And yet it’s that audacity that gives the film its savage power to scare the everloving shit out of you.
So many douchey movie reviewers just dying to be quoted will throw around the phrase “rollercoaster ride” for any random action/horror/adventure/whatever movie that happens to be big that week, but, that’s exactly what Drag Me to Hell is. Fear and fun are entirely synonymous in this movie. This is exactly what anyone in their right mind is looking for when they want to watch a scary movie. It makes me ashamed of myself for letting all the “gritty, realistic” shock-horror movies work on me in the past. (Please let me be clear that I am not referring to the Hostel or Saw franchises, though! Don’t confuse me for a guy who liked those movies!)
Mark my words, this movie will be huge among horror fans and anyone looking for a good scare. It will revolutionize the genre and create countless imitators that won’t have a prayer of being nearly-as-good.
To tell you the truth, I feel like I saw this movie coming for a long time. I always kind of thought that whatever horror movie came along that really, truly achieved something of unprecedented genre greatness would be rated PG-13. And lo and behold–the power of bold creativity in place of gore and boobs, drugs and profanity. Of course that’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of grisly and gross tomfoolery to wet your beak on here–if you don’t gag at least once, then kudos on the strong stomach! In fact, it’s kind of surprising what they got away with here without getting an R-rating. (But I suppose slime in place of blood goes a long way with the MPAA, and it works wonders within the tone of this film.) Although, had this film been made with an R-rating in mind, it might very well have gone a route it didn’t need to go and ended up not being as good or creative.
Frankly, this movie and the story that it tells has no need for an R-rating, and it’s a breath of fresh air that they didn’t force one out. Up until now, PG-13 horror had been such a barren wasteland of awful movies designed to be marketed to teenagers who don’t give a shit about movies and made by people who don’t give a shit about movies (and for more of my cynical rantings on this subject, I invite you to check out my review of March’s exquisitely shitty The Haunting in Connecticut). Drag Me to Hell is what happens when a real horror movie gets a PG-13. And it’s fantastic!
I would say I never knew that horror could be this blissful, but I’ve been watching Evil Dead for years now and I suppose I knew damn well. But these movies are few and far between. Why, oh why, can’t more horror movies be like this? (I guess if they were, it wouldn’t be as incredible when a film like this came along.) Raimi remembers what the genre is from the start, and he knows how to do it better than just about anyone! Drag Me to Hell is fun, whacky, creative, enthralling, scary, insane, bizarre, and I’m sure it’ll remain the best damn movie of the summer. Sure, I loved me some Star Trek, but this thing blew my doors clean off in a typhoon of slime and vomit. (Yes, that’s a good thing.) This is what going to the movies is all about and you don’t need to be a shameless nerd like myself to have a great time here. Drag Me to Hell is so cool I can’t fucking stand it!