Movie Review by Dr. Kuma
Starring: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, David Paymer, Dileep Rao
Director: Sam Raimi
For those of you who remember the furore surrounding movies like THE EVIL DEAD, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS and the frightened excitement of actually hiring these films on VHS, the news that the fan boy director of the first of these “nasties” Sam Raimi was returning to these roots with DRAG ME TO HELL seemed to good to be true. Was it? Well, yes and no.
The fact that I didn’t really like any of the three films mentioned when I first saw them didn’t help although I loved everything Raimi has touched since, especially EVIL DEAD 2. Although seen as classics now, they just seemed unpleasant at the time. Of course the images from these films such as the infamous “tree scene” in the EVIL DEAD, Leatherface and the eye on the splinter/Zombie eating the shark of the latter burnt themselves into the memory so they obviously had an impact. Even if they were unpleasant to my young eyes, compared to some of the torture porn at cinemas now, you can even get nostalgic for some (not all) of these memorable scenes.
This type of old school horror film is what I was hoping to see after first viewing of the trailer for Raimi’s latest opus. It had that look of great exploitation (e.g. intrinsic rather than blatant) and seemed as though it wouldn’t have looked out of place on the billboard of the local Canon cinema in the early to mid 80’s. With the 80’s flavour of the month again, surely this couldn’t go wrong could it?
We’ll the good news is no, it doesn’t and it’s a fun filled, if shocking rollercoaster ride, full of the Raimi trademarks of swirling camera, sick yet inventive set pieces and a humour darker than a tar pit. The ever-faithful Chevy makes an appearance and has a key role, even if Bruce Campbell sadly doesn’t.
The story, based on an idea that Raimi has sat on for some time, revolves around a loan officer (Alison Lohman) who’s job situation leads to her evicting an old gypsy woman (Mrs.Ganush) from her home. She then finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse, which turns her life into a living hell. Desperate, she turns to a seer to try and save her soul, while evil forces work to push her to a breaking point while she has only three days to save herself before being dragged into hell.
Although the twist ending can be seen a mile off, the reworking of genre classics such as NIGHT OF THE DEMON (itself based on the great Priestly short story Casting Of The Ruins) is well done and fans of the genre will have fun picking up all the references to and from the directors favourite sources. The players are great; Lohman replaced Juno’s Ellen Page late in the day, but it’s hard to see anyone doing as good a job as she does. Lorna Raver (apt name) is great as Ganush and Dileep Rao really breathes life into the role of the medium/seer Rham Jas. Justin Long is also excellent as the boyfriend, although his part is turned on its head from its 80’s counterparts as the roles would have been switched back than; Now it’s the female character who kicks ass while the other half worries and is sceptical.
All in all this is old school Raimi and all the better for it but I can imagine those who only know of Raimi through his work on the SPIDERMAN franchise will loath it.
Those who still have a soft spot for DARKMAN and ARMY OF DARKNESS however will love it.
Dr. Kuma’s verdict: Right on the button (see the movie to see why I chose that reference).