Deliciously pulpy return to horror for Raimi
29 May 2009
"Drag Me to Hell" might be the victim of unfair expectations, or just plain incorrect assumptions. This might partially be down to the advertising campaign, which could lead audiences to believing this is purely serious horror, when in fact it is pulp silliness in the vein of the old EC comics, and fully aware of it. Sam Raimi, for whom the childhood experience of reading those pulp tales served as an inspiration for his now-legendary "Evil Dead" movies, and hence gave him his career, has made his most fun and entertaining film since "Army of Darkness", and probably his best since then as well (although I do need to see "A Simple Plan" again) in "Drag Me to Hell", which feels like it could be an adaptation of one of those horror tales.

Hopefully audiences will be expecting something along the lines of "Evil Dead" mixed with its sequels when they go in, or they could leave disappointed. Unless you're scared by old women and supernatural mumbo jumbo, unless you're a superstitious person, "Drag Me to Hell" probably won't be giving you any nightmares. Then again, I'm not scared by anything really. Still, one can't help but feel that this sort of thing (if done seriously) doesn't belong in today's age of rationality and would work only in the 50's, or maybe even then would be too late to really pack a punch.

That's why this is, like the "Evil Dead" movies, a cartoon. It is one cartoony horror set-piece after the other, more often than not with an overt comedic edge, and always, always with its tongue firmly in cheek. The characters are well-realized enough for the movie to be endurable, and well-played too (Justin Long is perfect for the role regardless of how limited his range is and I can't imagine anyone but Lohman playing this particular role), but Raimi doesn't really care about them. He cares more about piling on the pulp gross-outs, resorting here to all sorts of unsavory things (including embalming fluid gushing out of a corpse into Lohman's mouth, one of a multitude of things Raimi takes pleasure in introducing to that particular orifice of Lohman's body), but not much blood at all. It isn't needed either, the PG-13 rating may sound like a limitation but it's hard to imagine this movie with much more gore, although there are a few things that happen off-screen that I would have LOVED to see on-screen, but that might be because I'm a horribly sick person.

Utilizing an active, expressive camera akin to the sort of thing we saw in the "Evil Dead" movies, Raimi stages these ridiculous scenes with gusto and passion. This is not going to terrify many people, but it is absolutely terrific at being what it sets out to be- a live action EC comic. As long as you go in expecting that, you'll probably leave satisfied. I'd like to leave you with the wise words of AV Club critic Scott Tobias: "He wants viewers to jump out of their chairs, to laugh and scream and cheer, and to nudge each other over the transcendent ridiculousness of what they're witnessing. This is junk film-making at its finest."
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