(2009) dir. Sam Raimi
viewed: 05/29/09 at AMC Loews Metreon 16, SF, CA
I have to say that when I saw trailers for Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell, I was thinking, Jesus it looks bad. Sam Raimi, the man who made his legend in the cult classic Evil Dead II (1987) and debateably with a couple of other films, Sam Raimi, who is much more known these days for the Spider-Man (2002) films and their sequels. Sam Raimi, who also made The Quick and the Dead (1995), A Simple Plan (1998), and For the Love of the Game (1999). Sam Raimi, for whatever you give him credit for, certainly has a lot more bad movies to his name than good. The Evil Dead trilogy aside, it’s a speckled list at best. But lucky for him, Evil Dead II does in fact remain one of the best films ever made.
So, anyways, millions of dollars later, lots of bad big movies later, he decides to return to his roots, a horror film. A horror film about a gypsy curse. And all in the package of a PG-13 film.
The gypsy thing seemed particularly silly.
But I think what I had forgotten is that Raimi is the one who made horror films silly. Silly in a good way, occasionally a great way.
The movie is perhaps better seen as a comedy than a horror film, though indeed it’s both, in that strange, clever, entertaining way that films so rarely are capable of achieving. Not that many even try. The film is actually a hell of a lot more entertaining and enjoyable than many might give it credit for. And take it from a downright Raimi cynic, it’s good, goofy fun.
Raimi knows his stuff. A B-picture. PG-13. Okay, let’s see how much grossness and shock value we can pack into this package without decapitations or spurting blood. So that leaves us lots of vomiting stuff into people’s mouths. Let’s just squeeze the most from it. And let’s take a ridiculous premise and play it to the bone.
The gypsy curses Alison Lohman, a cute loan officer at a small bank, looking to better her situation and impress her boss who forecloses on the old hag. The curse starts with a hilarious attack in Lohman’s car, full-on with toothless face-sucking, and an ass-kicking that will do credits to aged gypsies everywhere. Lohman survives but comes out cursed with the worst of demonic curses available.
I don’t want to give away the best gags, but the film utilizes shock value and animal sacrifice in clever and titilating ways. Lohman is game for the film and gets the best key lines and moments, all while managing to be the cute girl-next-door now doomed to hell. The film also utlizes ironic Twilight Zone-style twists that work for (again) humor and shock value.
The whole thing was just a lot more fun than you might expect. You could certainly nit-pick aspects of it, as a Raimi purist. But the bottom line is that it’s good fun. It’s probably a better film than Raimi’s made in fifteen years, though I liked Spider-Man 2 (2004). It’s no Evil Dead II. But then again, nothing really is.