Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Drag Me to Hell

   I realize I'm already about four days late into the October horror movie fest that the universe is currently in the throes of, but fear not, I'll catch up soon enough. And, what better way to start than with a Sam Raimi flick? Granted, it's a PG-13, post-Evil Dead trilogy, horror flick made in 2009 but still. Raimi and Co. go for broke with this movie, making it as gross and as spooky as possible. Moreover, the story's unwavering (and obvious) commitment to it's initial promise is respectable. Drag Me to Hell isn't a great movie, but it's a fun one. It has enough over the top shlock and classic jump scares to warrant a look if you haven't by now.

  I found it funny reading reviews on IMDb from back in 2009 by teenagers who had no idea who Sam Raimi is. They cite all the exaggerated gory bits as being ridiculous and absurd, as IF that's an insult when it comes to Raimi's genre efforts. Plenty of people who've never seen Evil Dead or Evil Dead II threw Drag Me to Hell under the bus for being hokey and silly, when... that was precisely the point. I don't know if everyone knows this, but every sound you hear in a movie is controlled by the filmmakers and most of the time it's mixed in in post production. So when the main character presses her forehead against a glass window, and it comically squeaks? That was intentional. It's okay. You can laugh.

   Raimi blends horror with comedy by making it super absurd. So many people want a strictly and narrowly defined experience, refusing to accept the two genres can blend. There's a lot of humor in horror if played right, and vice versa. I've seen fans of Ghostbusters try to argue that it's a serious horror movie in vein of The Exorcist "but with funny bits mixed in". In that case, they're just wrong. But, there's scenes in Ghostbusters that are firmly scary. Like, for example, when Dana is taken by Zuul, while sitting in her chair. Drag Me to Hell leans towards the horror side of the mix, but is definitely trying to get a few chuckles out of you as well. If Ghostbusters is a spooky comedy, then Drag Me to Hell is an absurdist horror flick.

   There is a scene where Christine has to cut a rope to drop an anvil on the head of a gypsy ghost who currently has an arm down her throat. What part about that is not completely Looney Tunes? So while yes, it is gruesome, gross, and creepy- it's also ridiculous and kinda funny. There's also a running gag about hair getting pulled out, and bodily fluids in peoples mouths. Again, out of context I could be describing a new American Pie flick. In this movie though, the blood flows freely, as does green goo which I'd rather not describe here. So, it's not fair to criticize the movie for being too hokey, because it's specifically trying to be.

   The filmmakers weren't just clueless idiots who don't know how to generate authentic scares. They just prefer ridiculous ones. It's easier to lump Drag Me to Hell in with Dead Alive, Cabin in the Woods, or An American Werewolf in London than it is to try and liken it to The Descent, The Exorcist or The Conjuring. The latter three are unfair comparisons, and to assume there aren't dozens of sub-genres under the 'horror' umbrella is ignorant. Drag Me to Hell is a perfectly serviceable genre flick that tries to gross you out as hard as it tries to make you jump. I enjoyed it. It wasn't amazing, but it was fun. The cinematic equivalent of a big creepy haunted house. You know it's all ridiculous, but it's enjoyable all the same.

   It has an excellent score that's used to great effect, a decent cast, and plenty of ickiness to keep you wide-eyed or cringing. Drag Me to Hell is uncomplicated fare, and by no means essential viewing, but if you're like me, you've seen Evil Dead II a dozen times and could use something new to watch. If you didn't get around to this little flick back in 2009, you could do far, far worse than to watch this now to break in the Halloween season of overly sweet candy, garish costumes, and spooky movie marathons.

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