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.