Sunday, October 18

The Big Admission: I Didn't Care for Drag Me to Hell

I almost feel ashamed saying this, but I didn't care for Drag Me to Hell after watching the Blu-ray edition last night. Others have touted this as a return to the "true" horror Raimi traded in way back when with the likes of Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. This film really doesn't tap into that spirit and feels more akin to a shaky bridge between the director cutting his teeth then and procuring his millions now. I was actually reluctant to see this film before it was even released due to my quasi-feelings towards Raimi's output for nearly the last two decades.

Raimi's fantasy films post-Darkman lack that renegade bite of the first two Evil Deads. Army of Darkness falls into this later era category but is greatly enlivened by the eminent jawline of Bruce Campbell and the director's cut saving the film from being totally neutered. I'm not really lambasting his Hollywood work, but something unique went away in the transition or perhaps the first two Evil Dead films are so influential that fast-and-loose "Raimi-style" of yore was copied so much by others it ultimately feels old hat nowadays.

Either way, I was left cold after being dragged to hell. There's little sense of escalation in Christine's plight with Satan after the curse has taken hold. Almost as if it's a formality to get out of the way at the beginning so Raimi can stage annoying and uneven chair jumpers with CG gore, CG blood, CG embalming fluid vomit, CG talking animals, and CG shadowplay. Sure, this is crowd pleasing theatrical experience stuff, but a return to form? No, not really, just another modern horror flick with little atmosphere (unless you count the film's ugly desaturated appearance) and much more off-the-cuff slapstick than usual.

Christine's boyfriend and medium don't seem to care much either way about her imminent one way trip to the divine barbecue. At first, you believe there's going to be major tension between Christine and Clay in regards to their relationship as she descends into screaming at walls, but no, Clay strolls in when needed and quickly becomes unimportant. Dileep, Christine's medium, seems to realize the grave danger she's in yet delays the vital rituals that are the only hope for her salvation. Also Shaun San Dena, the "good" medium that calls upon the demon in an elaborate seance that's way bigger than the grave diggin' climax (there's your red herring of Christine's fate), is set up to be a character with huge impact from a prologue that infers her vengeance upon the demon will be quenched one day. Nope, Shaun turns out to be no Tangina with a spiritual mission to save the Freelings.

Raimi's film does some things with no shame that have been lacking in the mainstream state of the genre; like destroying a (chokingly) wholesome soul, playing up ethic stereotypes, and softly portraying cruel animal violence. Though with such fleeting minor characters and seemingly randomized phantom gypsy attacks; it's not like these things are capitalized upon for real terror aside from jolting the popcorn from your fingertips. It also doesn't help the scenes of "normalcy" are so painfully boring that I nearly shut the film off twice. Once when Christine and boyfriend archetype arrive at his parents and the other while Christine is at the diner with the envelope.

I know Raimi was shooting for a slapdash campfest with plenty of holy shit moments, but it comes dangerously close to fucking up the basics of its story at all times. The only things I smirked at were the appearance of the tan 'olds and the audio reference to Evil Dead 2 as Christine screams from the CG eyeball gore hitting her face. We're left with an aimless horror rollercoaster that's never really as great as it should have been seen through a director whose thoroughly lost touch with the horror genre. After experiencing Drag Me to Hell, I'm unsure Evil Dead 4 even if made would be such a sure thing and Raimi himself might quietly realize this as well.


Pax Romano said...

I enjoyed this movie for what it was: over-the-top entertainment, put the brain on cruise control and just enjoy (and the button envelope bit was beyond predictable).

I think that the major weakness in this film, was the lead. Alison Lohman is pretty bad (at least in this film). I believe that if you are going to be playing against a lot of SFX, you need a strong lead (Bruce Campbell); a better actress would have made this movie incredible.

That said, I did find the plot rather intriguing, was it just a coincidence that Drag Me To Hell shows up when thousands of people are loosing their homes because they can't make the mortgage.

J. Astro said...

I agree with much of what you got to say here, pal. The various attacks and gross-outs are fun, and the action in the big seance that you mentioned is frantic and eye-catching, and I even enjoyed the graveyard finale. But the time in between them feels interminable; it's a boring movie, to be honest... the twist ending is super-predictable and the story lacks any nuance other than "girl getting smacked around & covered in various gross shit". Good horror will manage to suck you into the proceedings even when the monster and/or the gore isn't onscreen. "DRAG ME TO HELL" doesn't even come close, in my opinion, to the authenticity of ED I & II, much less is it any great "horror homecoming" for Raimi. I don't think it's terrible, but having seen it, I don't feel the need to re-watch it ever again, either.

Drunketh said...

I gave it a rather so-so review myself. I wasn't in awe at all, and to me it's just another film in his discography... though, I do really like the black vomit and serious grossness of it all. I took a look at some of the stillshots, and the CGI is really over the top. Oh, and the girl in this film is really, really cute. (For a former fatty. Tehe.)

Unknown said...

I can't say I was let down, because based on the trailer I thought it looked crappy--it wasn't until everyone I knew said it was great that I finally gave it a chance. I guess I was entertained, but ultimatley it's forgetable and the over use of CGI was just lazy. I agree w/J that the ending was totally predictable as well. Hate to sound like the jaded horror fan that ins't pleased with any new horror, but I just wasn't impressed.

Unknown said...

i didn't see it, when the trailer came out... i felt it was gonna be like "thinner", but not... i am going to watch it sometime, no big rush... i agree it is not a rush to see...

Anthony1138 said...

When I first heard about the film, I was skeptical. When I saw the trailer, I was even more skeptical. After seeing it, I wasn't blown away but happily surprised. The gross-out gags and scares were a lot of fun and great to see in a Hollywood film. However, the story was silly, the plot twists were predictable and the use of CGI was a bummer. It doesn't hold a candle to the Evil Dead films, but was a welcome change (return?) from the Spider-Man series.

While I was skeptical about Drag Me to Hell, I'm downright dreading Raimi's Evil Dead remake. A remake at this point in his career... really?

Anonymous said...

I saw this in the theater and it was like a roller coaster ride. There were like 5 people in the theater and I was literally cowering in my seat throughout the entire first half. I was a little disappointed by the second half only because I guessed the ending, but overall I liked it. Not sure about watching it on DVD. It definitely seemed like one for the big screen.

Franco Macabro said...

Hey man, cant believe Im not alone in not liking Drag Me to Hell.

I pretty much bashed the film as well in my review for it, check it out if your interested on my blog:

Heres another thing that didnt make much sense to me. Her seer buddy, the guy is indian, and he is talking to hell about going to a christian hell...all the while she was cursed by a gypsy woman!

To what religion does this movie exactly adhere its rules by? Its a big jumbled mess of a film is what it is!!

I felt cheated when the credits rolled...but I guess I had some fun with it, picking up the inside jokes (like that yellow car from all of Raimis movies) or the voice from the tape recorder in the first two Evil Dead films.

I just wish Raimi would go back to making a small horror film that would allow him to do whatever the fuck he wants...and not this pussy version of Raimi.

Nick Sayers said...

I can see your points... but I enjoyed it in a dumb passive watcher way... Like watching a music video or something.

CRwM said...

I'm with you on this one. Why Raimi and Drag played like it was the second coming when it came out is beyond me. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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