Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Drag Me to Horror Heaven

There is no time to be fancy with this one. Sam Raimi has made his return to the horror genre in the grandest way. Drag Me to Hell is the type of film that allows this master of horror to keep the title he earned so long ago.

Raimi made a name for himself with his Evil Dead trilogy, the same trilogy that pushed Bruce Campbell to the forefront of the cult film circuit. Raimi wrote the script for Drag Me to Hell with his brother Ivan shortly after finishing the third film the acclaimed trilogy, Army of Darkness. The script sat in a sedentary state while Raimi pursued other genres with films such as Darkman and the Spider-Man trilogy.

This latest offering from Raimi is a return to form for the director that proves to be a bright spot for a genre struggling so hard in this country to get its footings back. The horror market as of late has been plagued by cheap remakes and quick corporate created films intended to bring in the bucks. Hardly anything released to the mainstream public has been made with such heart and such spirit as Drag Me to Hell was.

Raimi centered his film about bank employee Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), who after denying an old woman (Lorna Raver) an extension on her loan becomes tortured by a curse, on a strong use of sound effects and visual imagery, never relying on sheer unsuspecting jump scenes alone to create its thrills. Fans of Raimi’s early horror films will feel the classic devices used so well in the Evil Dead films. Objects in the room begin to act on their own, pots and pans smash from gusts of winds, shapeshifting shadows creep along the wall and demons float in the air screaming high pitched frequencies at the top of their lungs.

Drag Me to Hell is an invigorating experience. I was on the edge of my seat and had chills being sent down my spine, but not because I was scared, but because it all felt so right and perfect. Perhaps the reason as to why the modern horror film suffers is that there aren’t enough true artists handling the projects that understand what it takes to create something truly worthy of an experience like Raimi can. Not to be overly praising of him, but he certainly gets what makes a good horror film.

Horror films have always been more entertaining than scary for me, but this is only my own personal agenda. Drag Me to Hell has enough terror to scare the pants off the average moviegoer, but that’s not all Raimi is packing. It wouldn’t be an exceptional experience without all the ridiculous and absurdly campy moments and humor Raimi seemingly channels from his early B-movie days. I found myself grinning from ear to ear with a slight chuckle far more often than being aghast or frightened.

This creates what I found to be a perfect and sublime mixture of what makes a horror film enjoyable. See, Drag Me to Hell is more about Christine Brown being tortured, frightened and freaked out than the audience being scared to death. I can’t speak for Raimi, but I’m sure he certainly wanted his audience to enjoy the films the same way they enjoyed his horror comedy mashups of the Evil Dead series. And if this was his mission, he succeeded a thousand times over.

Raimi’s story is both tight and simple, providing the audience with clear descriptions of the Lamia curse the film uses as an excellent backdrop for the real meat of the film, the auditory and visual frighteners. Lohman’s performance picks up steam as the film carries on, resulting in what I found to be one of the best female lead performances in a horror film in quite some time. She’s so very convincing of her character’s mental state that it was nearly frightening in of itself.

The real star of the film is off screen, the man behind the camera. Raimi’s energy, vision and spirit is something few directors in the genre share. I think everyone can agree with me when I say that I’d love to see him stop with the Spider-Man films and focus on horror full time, for the ability he has is enough to help regenerate the entire genre.

Raimi has transcended the stigma of the PG-13 rating by creating a truly disturbing, frenetic and crowd-pleasing horror film that will go down as one of the greatest horror films of the last few decades. The most wonderful thing about it all is that Raimi didn’t have to exploit an overuse of blood and guts to do so. He made his film and the MPAA rated it.

Torture gore porn this is not. Supernatural based, psychological freak out horror film intended to assault your visceral senses it is.

No comments: