In the spirit that defined him during his earlier years, Drag Me to Hell serves as a return to form for Sam Raimi to what he was known for when he was at the peak of his career. Reveling in the glory of the camp that defined the Evil Dead films, what Sam Raimi does with Drag Me to Hell is create something that exposes himself at his fullest to a new audience – to extremely satisfying results. There is no denying that Drag Me to Hell certainly is ridiculous with how events unfold, but there’s a reason such ridiculousness adds up to greater effect. Drag Me to Hell embraces such a factor and exploits it to its core, but at the same time what it presents is so morbid and in turn it creates this wonderful blend of comedy and horror – resulting in one of the best films to blend such in recent years.
Just as one would have expected from Sam Raimi during his Evil Dead years, what he offers in Drag Me to Hell is indeed ridiculous, but in a really self-aware sense that also adds a twisted sense of humour that makes everything more enjoyable. All throughout Drag Me to Hell, Raimi establishes a world so rooted in how morbid it is, but something about the intensity of the product becomes almost feels comical. Noticeably, there is a camp factor that keeps Drag Me to Hell as entertaining as it is, but with all of this ridiculousness coming into play it also feels so clever when one considers the quality of mainstream horror that had been released at the time. If a terrible horror film can move along with how ridiculously it is executed without being able to acknowledge any of it, then right there is where Drag Me to Hell turns everything all around.
With the ridiculousness that runs with how the plot moves, where a high level of effectiveness arises is in how Sam Raimi is executing the horror. At a PG-13 rating, it would almost seem as if the product would sound as if it is doomed because of how much would be required to cut down in order to maintain said classification, but Drag Me to Hell is never hindered by any of it. Whether it be from how Sam Raimi is placing the morbid imagery into the scenes or just how perfectly well he establishes the atmosphere for such a film, it is astonishing just to see how Drag Me to Hell actually terrifies when it intends to. Knowing the quality of many mainstream horror films, it is sad to see that Drag Me to Hell is much scarier especially when you go back to consider how it is not completely made to be a horror film, but a comedy-horror.
Raimi’s tendency never to take Drag Me to Hell as overtly seriously as another filmmaker probably may end up doing so is where grand admiration arises because the ride which is created only becomes all the more entertaining. It would be clear already from how Raimi is setting up his characters and the chain of events that are set to come for them, such as Alison Lohman’s Christine Brown, a woman who is established as a nervous figure all throughout suddenly gaining confidence out of nowhere and then we have an encounter with the demon inside the form of a goat. With how much Raimi is setting up to be terrifying, he kicks away a bad tendency that is found in many other mainstream horror films in order to form the glory that arises from Drag Me to Hell: it is so campy but at the same time, it also serves as a perfect deconstruction of where the horror genre has been dying at the time.
Yet it’s also fascinating to see how Drag Me to Hell is also allegorical for a stomach disease. If it weren’t obvious already, Raimi’s approach makes itself clear from the ridiculous amount of objects that come out of or enter Christine’s mouth. Food has a role in adding up to this allegory too, as most of the time it is shown on the screen it is depicted in bad condition together with the numerous mentions of Christine’s past. One can say that the moment in which she has been cursed is where the disease has only fully built up, and as the film moves on, the consequences only get much worse for her. It is all a part of the cleverness that arises from the script which Sam and Ivan Raimi have put together, and it adds more to what makes Drag Me to Hell as terrifying as it is morbidly hilarious.
I’m aware that Drag Me to Hell is not a perfect film as certain elements are noticeably clunky (one can note Justin Long’s performance or the occasionally jarring editing as specific detriments) but all throughout, it’s a ride that is as hilarious as it is also frightening. Raimi exploits ridiculousness in the best way possible, whether it be from the plot movement or the actions of specific characters, in the sense that it is aware how ridiculous it is and it is laughing at itself. Add that together with the wonderful visuals and perhaps Alison Lohman’s best onscreen performance and then what one will get is Drag Me to Hell. This truly is about as close as Sam Raimi can get to directing another Evil Dead feature film without being directly related to the franchise, and it only gets better upon revisits.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Universal.
Directed by Sam Raimi
Screenplay by Ivan Raimi, Sam Raimi
Produced by Grant Curtis, Robert Tapert
Starring Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, David Paymer, Adriana Barraza
Release Year: 2009
Running Time: 99 minutes