For some reason my computer logged me in as Cowzilla so this Monday Review is coming at you from the angry banana once again.
Getting dragged to hell ain't so bad
A little while ago someone asked me what recent horror movie I had actually been scared at and I was hard pressed to give an answer. Everything I could think of was just a muddle of bad remakes and PG-13 teen targeted films. Sure I had had fun at the likes of My Bloody Valentine 3D, but it wasn't horror like horror should be done. Now, thanks to Drag Me to Hell, I have my answer for at least the next two years as Hollywood is going to be hard pressed to deliver another movie in the horror genre that does everything so well.
I must admit I had my serious doubts when I heard Sam Raimi's return to horror was going to be PG-13 and trailers made it appear like more of the same teenie-bopper horror that plagues the genre these days. Spider-Man 3 was only so-so, maybe Raimi had lost his touch. How could I have doubted? Drag Me to Hell is Raimi at his slapstick, gory, over-the-top best and if we aren't going to get an Evil Dead 4 than at least we'll get the next best thing.
It's hard to know where to start with what the film does right, since almost everything in the movie is horrortastic. So let us start with something most people might not even notice: sound design. Raimi is a master of sound. If Drag Me to Hell doesn't convince you, just watch the Evil Dead films and see what he did with a 16mm camera and no budget at all. He and composer Christopher Young have created one of the best horror scores in ages, perfectly accenting every jump and scare and jarring you into scares or laughter (depending on what Raimi is going for) with each and every sound effect. It's a lost art in most horror films who settle for piercing violins at the wrong moment and don't realize how truly creepy sound editing can be.
Moving away from film nerdiness, Drag Me to Hell really does have everything. It's scary, funny, gross, tense and only rated PG-13. I would have never expected the man who literally coated the screen in blood for three movies straight to be the one to show everyone how horror can be done and done well with no more blood than a heavy (and I mean heavy) nose bleed. But the movie doesn't stop at just being good at scaring you, it's classic Raimi who has always been heavily influenced by horror films, yes, but also by slapstick comedy like The Three Stooges. He has literally made an art form out of mixing the too, and while Alison Lohman is nowhere near as fun to watch on screen getting covered in every color of slim imaginable as Bruce Campbell is, she delivers solidly on the B-Grade experience.
In fact that might be one of the best parts about the film. Lohman, and the rest of the cast get it. They're not on screen trying to act overly serious about the evil gypsy woman who has put a curse on Christine Brown (Lohman); they're there to have fun and make sure you do to. It sounds strange to applaud B-Grade acting, but that's exactly what works so well in the film and a unique characteristic that Raimi seems to be able to pull out of all of the actors he works with -- when he wants it of course.
I could literally gush on for pages about the slanted angles, dead pan gags and jump out of your seat moments that hit every 15 minutes or so. It's easy to ask why so many horror movies are so bad. Ponder why no one seems to really make good scares anymore. But Drag Me to Hell is the answer to that question too: it's damn hard and it takes a ton of talent. Thankfully Raimi hasn't lost any of it as Drag Me to Hell is sure to go down into the annals of horror movie history where it will be routinely watched by college students, horror geeks and anyone who wants to understand how great horror (or even comedy) is made.
Easter Egg: See if you can spot the plethora of tributes to the Evil Dead series throughout the film. Some a pretty darn subtle, others not so much.