Watching Drag Me To Hell is like running into an old friend you thought had died and then going out and painting the town red. It’s shocking at first to see such a balls out insane old school piece of Sam Raimi filmmaking, but as the shock wears off you realize something.
Namely that the movie is awesome.
Raimi aping his old style wouldn’t have been enough, it’s just as easy to see Drag Me To Hell going very wrong, proving that Raimi doesn’t have the chops for this kind of giddy insanity anymore. That’s OK Raimi couldn’t have kept making Evil Dead 2 over and over again or he’d end up like Don Coscarelli, Tobe Hooper or Stuart Gordon or all the other 80’s horror wunderkids who never where able to grow up. Drag Me To Hell could have been a sad attempt to recapture something that as much as I love didn’t really need to be recaptured. Instead, it was the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater all year, and I expect it to still be holding that title come next January.
I’m a Sam Raimi super freak have been since Jr. High. I’m the kind of Raimi fan who owns For Love Of The Game and The Quick And The Dead. It would not be hyperbole for good or ill to say that Raimi has been one of the primary influences on my life. Raimi’s movies demystified the filmmaking process in the way Jim Jaramusch and Kevin Smith did for others. Movies where no longer made via alchemy somewhere in Hollywood but by real people with ideas, and a crazy kind of vision. While I knew about directors via John Carpenter, Tim Burton, Oliver Stone (I was obsessed with JFK at twelve, long story) and Stanley Kubrick (and Dr. Strangelove) Raimi was the first one I could relate to.
When Spiderman hit it was a mixed bag for me. On one hand I loved the movie and was psyched to see Raimi get that kind of success. On the other hand it definitely felt like I was losing my favorite filmmaker. Yeah part of it was “I liked it before it was cool.” Geek snobbery but it was also a very real sadness that I’d probably never see the type of film I’d fallen in love with again (That said I enjoy all three Spiderman movies. No that’s not a typo).
Until today. Drag Me To Hell is as giddy and anarchic as any slice of prime Raimi with a command of character better then any he’s quite had before. The theater I saw it in rocked between laughter, screams, and profanity laden tirades of disbelief. To spoil any of the shocks and scares Raimi has in store would make me the worst kind of Curmudgeon. All I’ll say is I can’t believe it’s PG-13.
Truth in criticism I was lucky enough to be on the set for Drag Me To Hell twice, once when I was lucky enough to see them shoot a few effects shots in the Fox Lot, and again when they came to CSU Northridge. At Northridge I actually got the chance to meet Raimi. They tell you to never meet your heroes I guess I’m lucky that one of mine is such a class act. And can still surprise me after all these years.