Sam Raimi, where have you been?
It has technically been 16 years since the legendary director has got behind the camera for a horror film. After ARMY OF DARKNESS failed to perform at the box office, the creator of THE EVIL DEAD franchise moved away from horror and into the mainstream fold. Now, after directing three SPIDER-MAN films and becoming one of the biggest names in the industry, Raimi has returned to the genre he started in.
While Raimi returned to horror with Universal Pictures’ DRAG ME TO HELL, I can’t say I was waiting with open arms. I felt wounded and insulted that we still haven’t received our EVIL DEAD 4 and didn’t understand why he’d do DRAG instead of another adventure of Ashley J. Williams. Therefore, my expectations were extremely low and I was convinced I’d be disappointed with his big return to horror. I was wrong.
Last night my curiosity got the best of me as I snuck into a test screening of DRAG ME TO HELL in Burbank, CA. To be clear, what I saw was a very early workprint of the film, which featured a temp score, unfinished effects, and was projected on a Digit Beta (yet to be color corrected). To put it simply, it’s far from completed. Still, even through all of the rough edges, Raimi proved that he is still a master filmmaker.
DRAG ME TO HELL was quite simply the most PERFECT horror film I’ve seen in a long, long while. Raimi stirs a delicious witches brew that blends gore, scares and fun into a perfect blend. The flavor of Raimi’s directing ability is brought out by masterful editing by Bob Murowski (Army of Darkness) as every scare is perfectly timed, every gag is delivered with a punch and all of the payoffs are perfectly executed.
HELL is like a comic book come to life that is full of color characters, crazy imagery and cheap gags that work every single time. Raimi plays around with the audience by using the gross-out factor to the max. For example, in one scene Alison Lohman starts bleeding from her mouth, and when she goes to cover it, blood shoots from her nose all over the place. Another great gag is the gypsy is constantly is losing her dentures and pushing her disgusting old mouth on things (like Alison’s face). Raimi fills the movie with these gross-out moments that keep the momentum burning from start to finish.
And for every bloody, gooey and disgusting scene, Raimi gives us an equally good scare. It has been a long, long time since I’ve experienced an authentic jump in a movie. Typically a director will have a cat jump on screen or have a character slam a door shut – something cheap to get you to jolt. Raimi hits us with a barrage of punches as I jumped ten feet out of my seat on two separate occasions. He proves that he is a master of horror and suspense and I recommend that any horror filmmaker wannabe (pretty much every horror director out there) watch this work to learn how to do it right.
Quite simply put, DRAG ME TO HELL was a blast and moved quickly from start to finish. Whether or not the acting is top notch, or if the story even makes sense is inconsequential so long as I’m gasping, jumping, laughing and cringing every step of the way. From what I saw, DRAG ME TO HELL is well on its way to becoming an immediate classic (considering they don’t f*ck up the finished version). The only question I was left with was, “Why isn’t this EVIL DEAD 4?”