Happy Halloween everyone! I know for me my Halloween won’t be as fun as some people’s – there won’t be any parties for me, but I will be enjoying my night by watching some of my scary movies. I hope everyone has a safe and fun night, and I hope you’ve enjoyed my Halloween themed reviews for this month!
Before I begin talking about the film, I just wanted to mention yet again that I will most likely mention something that spoils part of the film – so if you don’t want to have the movie spoiled, I wouldn’t recommend reading this review. Also, I rented this film, and I watched the “unrated director’s cut” version, so some things I talk about in this review may not hold true to all versions available.
In trying to figure out how to start this review, I just want to say if you aren’t a fan of Sam Raimi’s films, especially his horror films, then you’re not going to like this film. Being a fan myself, I loved it, and it was very evident that this was his film. What makes a Sam Raimi horror film? Copious amounts of gore that is both disgusting, and very fake looking – just the perfect amount for someone like me with a mild tolerance to gore. There are also lots of tongue-in-cheek moments, and all of his films have some element of humour. The only thing really missing I found was Bruce Campbell, which was sad, but the film was awesome enough without him. Also, a bit later I explain what I call the “Raimi” formula – which is present in almost all of his horror films (at least the ones I’ve seen).
I want to apologize in advance in case anyone finds the quality of this review to be less than equivalent to my other reviews – I spent quite a bit of time destroying my room trying to find the notes I took while I watched this film, but alas, they have vanished. Perhaps they’ve been…dragged to hell? Sorry, I couldn’t resist a terrible pun, and not a very good one at that.
Drag Me to Hell centers around our protagonist Christine, a young, ambitious girl who wants to get a promotion at the bank where she currently works. In an attempt to impress her boss, she denies an old lady, named Sylvia Ganush, another extension on her loan, and inadvertently shames Mrs. Ganush. Sylvia Ganush is Hungarian, and being Hungarian myself, I know that we can all curse people (it’s in our blood). So after attacking Christine in her car, she rips off a button on her sweater, and curses the owner of the button. With that, it’s pretty easy to figure out what will ensue for poor Christine – she has a few days to rid herself of the curse or she will be taken to hell by a demon. That’s a pretty standard curse, what Hungarian hasn’t cursed someone’s button?
The basic attempts to “thwart” (if you will) the curse is pretty predictable I have to say, but that doesn’t really deter from the overall film experience. I find most horror films generally predictable anyways, so maybe that’s why I wasn’t really super surprised by the film’s plot. My love of the genre allows me to not get bored by similar plots, as long as films find other ways to be creative and entertaining. Drag Me to Hell follows a very familiar “Raimi” horror film formula – which is:
a) Meet and get to know the characters
b) Meet the problem/antagonist/evil-fucked-thing-that-will-mess-with-the-protagonist
c) Evil thing causes scary, funny, and gory shit to happen
d) Find way to vanquish the evil aka Plan A
e) Something gets fucked up with Plan A, must find alternative and somewhat simpler way to vanquish evil (why you didn’t do this in the first place is beyond me)
f) Vanquish evil and think everything is a-ok
g) Uh-oh, you actually didn’t vanquish the evil and you’re screwed because of it.
I really don’t have a problem with this formula; and a lot of modern horror films nowadays follow this formula. Sure it may not actually be considered the “Raimi” formula, but meh, that’s what I call it. Most film genre’s have their own formula anyways, and horror films are probably the second most predictable (the first being chick flicks). And while this film follows the standard formula, it still manages to keep it fresh and interesting. I suppose the very dark humoured moments really allow me to not become bored, and the very Raimi like “twists” that occur keep me entertained.
There were a few startling moments that I really enjoyed in this film. One of the things that happen to her while she is cursed is she starts having this epic nosebleed at work, and it starts spraying everywhere, and it even gets all over her boss. Plus it starts coming out of her mouth, and it is just absolutely disgusting. And it was awesome. It was really just classic Raimi right there, it was funny and really gross, and it was gory but also really cheesy. A perfect symbiosis of scary and hilarious – and I approve. Another moment that was really startling was when she tries to make an offering to the demon by sacrificing her kitten. As mentioned, I watched the director’s cut version which after researching this scene, is actually quite different from the theatrical release. The theatrical release appears to be a bit more humorous about it, where she is just looking for her cat calling “here kitty, kitty, kitty”, and then cuts straight to her burying the cat. The scene I saw was where you actually see her stabbing the kitten – well you don’t actually see her stabbing a cat, but you see her stabbing something off camera and lots of blood is sprayed on her – so implied kitty stabbing. While I don’t like seeing this sort of thing at all, it was effective in setting a really chilling mood for the film, and it really showed how desperate Christine had become after this curse had begun taking serious tolls on her life. And I know that no real cats were harmed during the filming of Drag Me to Hell, so I suppose I can let it go.
Overall what I think really made me enjoy this film was the characterization of Christine. I remember the first few minutes we get introduced to Christine really well; there was no dialogue, it was just watching her on her way to work. We see her stop for a moment in front of a bakery, looking hungrily at a cupcake or baked good of sorts – a sort of sad desire that she pushes away and keeps moving along. We see her at work, longing at the empty desk for the assistant manager position at the bank – and just the yearning in her eyes tells us enough how much she wants it. I think it was just these few minutes that made me really like this character; the little expressions on her face, the small actions she takes can say more than just mere verbal exposition. And though there are some other great characters, she is the one that carries the film, and just a few moments like these develop her character so much that the audience actually cares what happens to her and worries about her safety.
On that note, the movie had very little exposition via dialogue to tell us, and in just a few simple moments it explains who the people are and what is going on. I suppose I’m a sucker for a film that can explain something without treating the audience like an idiot. The beauty with film is that it’s a visual way of story telling, there shouldn’t have to be so much dialogue to convey a message – and I think that this film really does a great job in explaining what it’s trying to say without spelling it out for the audience. I find that a lot of films nowadays treat the audience like they’re stupid, making every piece of dialogue contrived and unrealistic just because the writers and filmmakers are either too lazy to find a creative visual way to tell us the same information, or because they’re too stupid to know how to do it. I think what I love about this film, and other Sam Raimi horror films is that he knows how to work the medium to his advantage, and understands how and when to use dialogue and when it’s appropriate not to.
I suppose I could have talked more about this film’s plot, but I’ve been avoiding a lot of details because to be honest, I want people to watch this film. Sure, it’s definitely not for everyone, but if you enjoy horror films, it’s really a good one to watch. And definitely if you like Sam Raimi’s other films, you’ll at the very least be entertained by this film. The acting is well done, the writing is great, and it’s really an interesting film to watch. I suppose I feel that I don’t need to explain this film, because this movie speaks for itself.
ScareMeter: 3/5 “You’ll wonder if you should be cringing from the gore, shaking from fear, or laughing at the cheesiness – the combination will be a mini-orgasm”
Overall Movie Rating: 4.5/5