Drag Me to Hell (2009) Review

Sam Raimi is considered a master of horror, but he’s done relatively little to contribute to that title in the past decade. He’s been busy with the Spider-man trilogy and that Oz movie, but he did return to his roots in 2009’s Drag Me to Hell. A odd mix of both modern and classic Raimi, this film stands as a unique and unusual specimen that demands to be examined.

After denying an old gypsy woman an extension on her mortgage, Christine finds herself cursed to have her soul taken to Hell after 3 days. Now in a desperate race against time, Christine must overcome the supernatural forces that are playing with her before their final deed, all the while fighting to keep the things she values most in life, being her job and her boyfriend.

Sam Raimi is most well known for the Evil Dead trilogy, where he mixed over-the-top horror with campy comedy to varying degrees and results. Now the one to really examine in contrast to this film is The Evil Dead, which managed to be over-the-top while still being creepy and a little scary. Drag Me to Hell tries to hit this same balance and while it does to an extent achieve it, there’s just something off about it. As I was watching it I tried to figure out what wasn’t working for me, and I think it’s that Drag Me to Hell is lacking charm. It doesn’t have that kind of charm that the Evil Dead trilogy has or that his other works have. Even Spider-man has a charm to the first two films, but this one, while it has a little, is just missing that. It seems too self-aware that it’s campy and silly, almost like it just got done watching the Evil Dead films. That may just be speculation on my part and not matter to anyone else, but I thought I’d try to explain why this film didn’t work particularly well for me.

Alright enough of that flitting around, lets get to the actual meat and maggots of this movie. Sam Raimi has for all intents and purposes created one of the most unique horror movies of the 2000s. His blend of horror, comedy and even just good writing was sorely lacking last decade and even nowadays. He somehow manages to take cliches that we’ve seen and present them flat-out and then shortly thereafter show something you’ve never seen before. It’s an awkward blend that will turn some people off, but will excite most horror fans.

The acting is fine in this movie, not anything to write home about, but it’s a step up from the wooden performances of many a horror production. The score is some weird blend of horror and the soundtrack to Spider-man, but it’s ultimately quite good. The effects are really good… when they’re practical. The CGI in this movie is godawful, even for it’s time. It’s probably a good thing that this is such a cheesy movie, or those scenes would be incredibly distracting.

Drag Me to Hell doesn’t strike me as mandatory watching in any way, or something even worth buying. However, it is definitely a unique watch and will serve as quite refreshing for those weighed down by the found-footage dredge. If there’s one thing I can say about Drag Me to Hell it’s that it’s fun and really that’s all that matters. It’s a reassurance that Raimi can still do horror, granting that he’s given a low enough budget. Also to anyone interested in lighting, this serves as a great pallet of very basic, but effective lighting techniques. Drag Me to Hell is available to buy/rent from iTunes, Amazon Instant, and Google Play.

Advertisements

Evil Dead 2 (1987) Review

There is nary a film saga in the horror genre more fun then the Evil Dead trilogy. With the first one being a benchmark of independent filmmaking and pretty good blend of camp and genuine horror, Evil Dead 2 had a lot to live up to. It does in every way though, and in the process of making this film Raimi created a classic for decades to come. As I just mentioned camp, right off the bat don’t expect this movie to be serious. It’s a horror COMEDY, but a little more subtle about it the Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead.

Evil Dead 2 “picks up” where the first left off, but not after retelling the first movie (this time with just Ash and his girlfriend) in the first 10 minutes. For those who don’t know, Ash and his girlfriend drive up to a cabin in the woods for a fun weekend together. While there, they find a recording that when they play back summons an evil spirit. This evil spirit possesses the girl and As has to kill her. Holed up in this cabin with no way to escape, Ash fights to survive and keep his insanity until two couples show up to invite more trouble.

Sam Raimi is a brilliant director, not necessarily because he’s great with actors (although to be fair he helped mold Bruce Campbell into a fairly decent one), but because of his brilliant camera and effects work. This movie looks really quite good, with camera angles that make me practically orgasm I love them so much. Raimi is the master of perpetuating mood, if that mood is right and Evil Dead 2 never looses that feeling of bat-shit insanity that Raimi intended. The lighting works extremely well too, with the woods being spooky and the film in general having that undeniably VHS era feel to it.

The effects are phenomenal, even when they suck. It makes me nostalgic for the era of practical effects (even if I was never there) because with the same budget, the cgi would have looked worse. Raimi uses stop motion at several points in the movie and stop motion at it’s worse still has a creepy vibe because of how disjointed it is. CGI when it’s low budget looks like shit, so even if stop-motion looks bad it’s still better. The blood, makeup and various body part movements look amazing, much better then the original. There are a few effects that don’t work that well and actually could have used some CG but there never going to pull you out of the movie.

Evil Dead 2 is a funny ass movie, but it still manages to pull off scares. You’ll be laughing at Ash one second, cheering him on the next and fearing for him the next. It’s really a roller coaster, but it does require you to understand what it’s trying to do. The story is generic, the acting is mediocre, and the inconsistent tone on top of that is what’s going to turn people off. However, if you go into Evil Dead expecting to not take it too seriously then the comedy will be all the funnier and the scares will be all the more unexpected.

Evil Dead 2 hits all the right marks for me. It pokes at horror tropes, exaggerates to the extreme, has beautiful cinematography and features a protagonist that I will forever root for. Ash is one of the world’s greatest badasses and the shit that he goes through in this night makes for some of the most unique viewing you will ever experience. If you’re looking for a fun Halloween movie to watch with your friends or without, then grab the popcorn and pop in Evil Dead 2! Evil Dead 2 is available on Netflix instant and Amazon Instant or your local video store (remember those?).