Review: Drag Me To Hell (2009)

Just how much hair can a twenty something woman lose over a period of three days?

Written By: Ivan & Sam Raimi
Directed By: Sam Raimi

Sam Raimi likes to scare, that much should be evident by a look at his early filmography. He is also a very unique director with a rapid fire style that is always infused with visceral sensibilities. Yet after such films as The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II and Darkman he moved on to more common fare, just as good as his earlier work in some instances, but a different breed of film nonetheless. Drag Me To Hell was billed as Raimi’s return to his roots, and while that label is somewhat true, it falls short of what Raimi does here. Drag Me To Hell isn’t a return to form for Raimi, it is a synergetic effort to bring together his old sensibilities with the new tricks he has learned in mainstream Hollywood.

Looking at Drag Me To Hell in such a way actually helped me to get over some of the misgivings I was developing while watching the film. Raimi goes for his usual gore, and while he does it in his usual great style I found myself questioning whether or not such campy gore really belonged alongside the high production levels and polished look found in Drag Me To Hell. If the viewer doesn’t see this melding of past and present that Raimi is going for then I do think his old tricks stick out like a sore thumb. But, once I picked up on the blending I have spoke of, the old tricks fit nicely, contrasting the newer Raimi touches in a complimentary fashion and adding a bit of extra flavor to an already fun film.

The set-up of Drag Me To Hell is simple, but that’s all it needs to be. Young girl is pushed into doing something she doesn’t want to do, and she is cursed because of it. Raimi, and brother Ivan, do add a few nice wrinkles by making our heroine into not so much of a heroine. As the movie rolls along she becomes more and more openly vapid and a small part of us begins to root against her. We don’t want to see harm come to her per se, but we do want to see her get her due. It’s an interesting quandary the Raimi’s develop, what started out as such a simple tale becomes a smidgen complex thanks to a few minor movements in the character of Christine.

Outside of that aspect Drag Me To Hell does remain incredibly simple, with a very easy to decipher plot, character motives that never stray from the beaten path and turns in the story that are tried and true. None of this is a bad thing mind you, because Drag Me To Hell is very much an old school horror film. It isn’t about what will happen in the story or what we are able to figure out as the audience. No, Drag Me To Hell is about the tension of each and every moment, the escalation in consequences and the ultimate release we seek from that tension in the deciding moments of Christine Brown’s life.

I am going to go on a very lonely island all by myself and let you know that I enjoyed Drag Me To Hell a lot more than I did either The Evil Dead or Evil Dead II, and it is a far better film that Raimi’s dreadful Army Of Darkness. I know those are revered movies among horror buffs, but I am one horror buff who never viewed the first two as anything more than good horror films, not the all-time classics most make them out to be. Drag Me To Hell isn’t an instant classic either, but is a well made film that has the same type of kinetic energy found in Raimi’s earlier work suffused with a better touch of a more seasoned director behind the camera. In a day and sage where Saw and Hostel are what people think of as good horror you need to give Drag Me To Hell a spin and be reminded that the studio system can produce real, honest to goodness horror when they allow a quality craftsman to do his thing. Or you can stick with torture porn, but trust me, not seeing Drag Me To Hell will be your loss.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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7 responses to “Review: Drag Me To Hell (2009)

  1. I actually had a quandary last night between watching this on Sky TV or stick The Blues Brothers in the DVD player. Suffice to say, I watched The Blues Brothers but I’ll be seeing Drag Me To Hell tonight after reading your review Bill.

    I hope Raimi can return to his roots and produce some quality because I feel he has lost the plot recently. The Spiderman films were terrible – all of them, especially no. 3. I did enjoy The Gift and A Simple Plan is arguably his best work but it’s been a long time since I came away from a Sam Raimi film and thought this is the work of the skillful director that made the Evil Dead films.

  2. Glad to hear my review is driving you to see Drag Me To Hell. We will never agree on the Spider-Man films though, Mr. Dan, 1 & 3 are good, but 2 is fantastic, possibly the best super hero tale ever crafted.

  3. Paragraph Film Reviews

    Good to see someone else really getting in to this film. For me the gore was comedic and the real frights were the tension & build up. Ghosts, wind, leaves, banging…. that’s where it’s at. Not torture porn!

    I guess the budget detracts somewhat from a genuine B-movie/Horror Movie feel but surely it’s every director’s dream to make a film as good as you can, and where money isn’t an issue.

    http://paragraphfilmreviews.com/2010/05/30/drag-me-to-hell/

  4. I would agree that the 2nd Spidey film is the best of the bunch!

    …got around to watching Drag Me To Hell and I liked it. I would say it’s great to see Raimi produce such a fun yet dark film after the debacle that was Spiderman but I know you’re a fan of those films Bill so I won’t… ;)

    I totally agree about Raimi utilising the tricks he’s picked up and the ability to use them with a comparably unlimited budget. It was a good story told with style. The old hag is definitely a creepy old gal! The car park sequence is genuinely unsettling and features some great special-effects.

    The ending was a bit predictable (and not wholly satisfying) but overall I thought it was a really good campy horror movie.

  5. Tremendous movie. Totally a throwback horror flick done up with gobs of popcorn gore and slick wit. It also plays as a sort of cautionary/morality tale, giving it another dimension beyond the norm. Good times.

  6. Pingback: Postulating & Pontificating: Horror Bonanza! | Bill's Movie Emporium

  7. Paragraph – I actually enjoy the look the more I think about the film, it adds instead of detracting in my mind.

    Dan – It’s a good horror flick, and I think that’s all it’s ever trying to be.

    Jordan – That cautionary tale is definitely there, but I focus so much on the fun elements taht I barely pay it any attention.

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