When I was 14 years old, my older brother and his friend invited me to join them at the local four-screen drive-in theater for Hero and the Terror, one of the worst Chuck Norris films ever made. Tucked in the back seat with a short teenage attention span, I found myself completely distracted from Norris’s antics in front of me by a film playing on the screen directly behind us. Even without hearing the soundtrack, I was entranced by the lightning-fast pacing, the quirky imagery, but most of all, the buckets of blood pouring (literally, in a few scenes) onto the screen.
I would soon discover that this movie was Sam Raimi’s brilliant Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn. As an avid horror fan at the time, I immediately experienced the film firsthand for myself. And, like most fans of the film, I have watched it countless times over the years, my enthusiasm reinvigorated every time by its style, creativity and wacky sense of humor.
Watching Drag Me to Hell last night brought back that giddy feeling I got when I first saw the films of the Evil Dead trilogy. A perfect blend of humor, fright, and jump-out-of-your-seat scares, Drag Me to Hell is Raimi through and through – short on plot but bursting with thrills. It almost made me forget that this once prince of horror is now the mastermind behind the highest-grossing franchise in movie history.
One can only imagine how much fun Raimi had putting this one together, taking a step back in time to his earlier years but finally with a budget consisting of more than five zeroes. Alison Lohman’s acting certainly won’t win her any Oscars, and the bad dialogue isn’t too far off from Ash’s cheesy one-liners from yesteryear, but let’s be honest – these things aren’t the reasons we go to see Raimi’s horror films. But the reasons we do go are all here – an ugly gypsy woman, levitating possessed people, and popping eyeballs, to name a few. Trust me on this – there is more blood, crud, and all-around stomach-churning scenes in this one than in any other PG-13 film I’ve seen since Dreamscape back in the 80s.
Is this the greatest horror film of the last five years? Absolutely not – unfortunately, countries across both ponds know how to frighten and entertain us with horror a lot more than our American brethren. But, when it comes to plenty of scares, a few gut-busting laughs, and lots of head-turning gross-outs, Raimi delivers almost as much here as in his horror heyday. Definitely worth a trip to the multiplex.