May 2009 28

sam_raimi_drag_me_to_hell_posterI always like to let people know from the beginning if I am biased one way or another about a film. Everyone has some sort of bias, however as a critic you have to try and remove that and judge a film on it’s own merits. I’m not a huge fan of the horror genre, well at least in it’s current form. I love the old Sam Raimi horror flicks though. I love the campiness of the Evil Dead series and because of those movies I have a weird love for Bruce Campbell. So, of course I was excited to see Drag Me To Hell. After the onslaught of torture porn that we call horror films nowadays has ensued, I was ready for a more old school type horror flick. Instead of that all I received was disappointment.

So, why did it disappoint me? Well, one assumes that something labeled as a horror film should be scary correct? Well, then there is one strike against Drag Me To Hell. There was not a single time I was scared. I expected to jump out of my seat at least once from a slight fright. I was instead treated to some lame gags that are repeated almost endlessly throughout the entire film. How many times can we have a handkerchief fly in front of the camera to frighten an audience? Apparently, quite a lot. Freud would have a field day with Raimi’s endless fixation on oral gags. There were some moments in the film that I found amusing, but it seemed they were meant to be unsettling rather than cause laughter.

The main problem with the film is that it can’t decide what it wants to be. Raimi presents the gags with all the campiness of things he did in Evil Dead 2 with none of the campy dialog to accompany it. The film switches gears from a serious horror flick one second, to a gag filled homage to Raimi’s other films the next. The film’s story even lacks the humor that Raimi is trying to convey in his horror film. We follow a young loan officer, Christine Brown played by Allison Lohman, who desperately wants the recently vacated assistant manager position. In an effort to appear strong willed and not willing to bend to the wills of others, Christine turns down a loan extension offer to an old woman. Unlucky for her as this woman turns out to be an old Gypsy who puts a curse on her that lasts for three days. At the end of the three days the demon will come to collect the person with the accursed object and drag them to hell. Sounds like a pretty interesting premise right? I thought so too. I just can’t get past the inconsistent tone of the film.

It’s nothing to fault Lohman about. She does a fine job in the lead role. She is acting as though she is in a slightly darker toned film when the tricks played on us are from an entirely different film. I know some people might tell me that Raimi is being self-referential to his other films. Referencing the gags and tone of your other films does not make your film good if you bring nothing else to the table. It might be pleasing to a lot of fans, but people who don’t get the wink, wink, nudge, nudge won’t think anything other than, “That was kind of lame.”

The film was shot well. The light was ominous enough that I felt like maybe I might be frightened at one point. It’s all a bit generic except for a lot of the action occurs in daylight which isn’t very common in the horror genre. Who knows, maybe it would have worked a little better at night?

If you are a big Raimi fan, this movie might be a film you will enjoy. If you are big into the horror genre this also might be something for you. The rest of the general audience? Well, I’d say you’ll be a little disappointed by this offering. At least a lot of the stupid horror flicks out lately are at least unsettling even if they aren’t scary.

Rating: D

A Female Perspective, By Becca

Going into Drag me to Hell, I expected a true horror film. I had it planted in my head that I was going to be really scared. The title itself sounds like it would be one of the top horror films of recent. But I would have to say that it was actually more funny than it was scary. There were still scenes full of suspense, making it more enjoyable not knowing what was going to appear next. But within just about every scene, there was some comedy that appeared.

First of all, I think that the title of the movie was too good for the movie. It should have been saved for a true horror film. Even though the title fit the story’s plot, I don’t think that this movie deserved such a great title – since there was so much comedy within this movie. The movie was mainly advertised as a straight horror film; which it was not.

I do honestly think that Alison Lohman did an overall great job in this movie. I think she did better than what some critics give her credit for. If Ellen page was cast as the leading role for this movie, which was the original plan, it would have been a straight comedy. I’m glad that Page was not chosen for the role, as it would have made the movie completely different. In a BAD way. On a second thought, maybe it would have actually been funnier, which wouldn’t have been so bad. We will never know. But in the end, I was still scared in some parts, and I heard some screamers throughout the theater that were frightened as well.

I’ve read that reviewers thought there were a lot of really corny parts, but I thought that there were only a few parts that were completely ridiculous. There were definitely parts where I was completely surprised, and didn’t expect what had just happened. Not knowing what could happen next does make movies more entertaining. And there were parts that were definitely unpredictable. So I will give it that.

The ending of the film was a complete surprise for me. I expected one thing, as it made you think it would happen, and then it was completely different. You will be surprised. I thought that the ending really was well done, and made you think.

The acting was better than I thought. Like I had mentioned before, there were only a couple parts that were really corny. I was scared throughout the movie, BUT not nearly as scared as I thought I would be as I was going into the theater. There were many unpredictable moments, and the ending was a surprise for me. So overall this was not a horrible movie. It just caught me by surprise because there were so many comedic parts, which made the movie a little weird for me. One minute I’m scared and covering my eyes, and the next I’m laughing. I either want to see a true horror film or a really funny movie. I just don’t like it when they combine.

Overall, I give this movie a C+

Zac’s Take

Sam Raimi’s return to the “horror” genre is a neither scary, nor humorous, and has zero entertainment value what so ever and is easily one of the worst films I have ever seen.

Christine is a young bank employee looking to move up her station in life. She has a boyfriend who loves her, but his family isn’t all too sure at the same time of her simple background. The assistant manager’s job is open at her bank and she is in hot competition with a conniving kiss ass that is trying to sweep in underneath her for the position. So when an elderly woman comes to have a third extension on her loan, Christine feels the pressure from her boss to, “make the tough decisions,” and denies the woman an extension. When the woman begs Christine, she gets embarrassed and can’t handle the situation as the woman grabs and claws after her before being escorted out by security because she feels she has been shamed. Later that night, when heading home from work, Christine is confronted by the woman in her car and a struggle ensues ending with the old woman cursing Christine which leads to an evil spirit harassing her for the next three days before the prophesized taking of Christine by the haunting demon to hell.

Now to the film, it is being sold as a straight forward horror film in the media right now, and that is wholly and entirely not true. It is attempting to be a gross out comedy as much as it is trying to be frightener and fails miserably at both. I was not scared once the entire film. I never felt tense or weary of the setting at all and that partially had to do with the fact the film was so silly most of the time, and not good silly. The film’s intent to be a gross out horror/comedy is noted, and after the first scene of eye rolling grossness, I was like, “oh this is what it is going for”. Except that what they are trying to do doesn’t work at all, its just plain stupid. How many times can we make a gross out joke involving an old lady’s teeth, eyes, and bodily fluids being mutilated, etc., etc. Now, I might have been more receptive to the gross outs and gore of it all if the film set itself up like it was ok for that to be happening in it’s world, but it doesn’t. The film takes it self seriously in between the cartoonish scenes of vileness and it all feels out of place and just head shakingly awful. It’s not until the last few minutes of the film does the film itself kind of give you a wink to the camera like, we know this is silly and we are going to have fun, for the rest of the picture it couldn’t make up it’s mind; and also was not fun or entertaining to boot.

Add to this that the horror aspect of the film doesn’t work at all either, and is resorted to simple “gotcha” moments with crescendoing blares of the score is a bit pathetic on top of that. Raimi creates some atmosphere on a couple of occasions, but usually ruins it with a cheap pop out scare or stupid gross out. If this sounds entertaining to you, go right ahead and see the film, as there were many enjoying it in the theater, but I found the film utterly pointless, unengaging, nor entertaining and even had me almost running to the door it was so horrible. The only things that I liked in the film were some interesting shots Raimi snuck in there, the standout being one with a fly and it landing on the camera, and the ending was pretty much just right and the only thing in the film that felt fresh or somewhat original.

The actors in the film aren’t as bad as the setup around them. Alison Lohman plays Christine and she does a fine enough job in the part. She has a couple of wooden deliveries and eye rolling moments, but I think that can be more credit to Raimi than her. She definitely deserves props though for taking the endless shit they throw into her face/mouth, which takes skill for sure. Justin Long is solid as the boyfriend, providing decent humor and actual comedy to the picture from time to time. Outside that, no one is really worth mentioning. Dileep Rao is alright as a psychic that helps out Lohman’s character throughout, and Adriana Barazza is decent as a powerful demon killer type in the finale but nothing to really write home about.

In the end, Drag Me To Hell has a solid ending that would have been ten million times better if I cared about anything before it. The main character doesn’t deserve the torture she deserves and the attempts at gross humor fail miserably and the horror isn’t scary either. Props to Raimi for a couple cool shots, creating horror scenes in broad daylight, and mixing a pretty impressive soundtrack for the picture, but beyond that I was not entertained one bit through this picture and hope to never have to see this thing again.

F, but the poster is cool


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