By Lisa Bosco
I find the title of this movie to be appropriate because directly after watching it, I felt like the two hours I’d wasted had caused me to have been “Dragged to Hell” and repeatedly prodded with a pitchfork by a grinning Sam Raimi with a pair of plastic Party City devil horns.
“Drag Me To Hell” is a throwback to Raimi’s earlier work dabbling in the “Comedy-Horror” genre (Evil Dead, 1981) (Army of Darkness, 1993) though it seems to be greatly lacking something that the previous Raimi endeavors had, and that crucial ingredient is intelligent satire.
The film centers around an attractive young loan officer named, transparently enough, Christine (Alison Lohman) who, in order to impress her boss and get ahead of her coworker in the race for a promotion, denies an old gypsy woman an extension on her loan. In retaliation for being so “shamed” by Christine, Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) curses her with a demon that will, after torturing her for three days, drag her into the fires of eternal damnation. The remainder of the film follows Christine’s attempts to undo the curse and save herself from the fires of Hell. Throughout the course of the film, two things became very apparent to me and they were 1) this was a gore-fanatic’s sweetest dream and 2) the movie had absolutely nothing else to offer in the way of plot or folkloric accuracy.
The over-done and blatantly generic formula that this movie followed was something that really hindered any sort of enjoyment I may have gotten out of it to begin with. The helpless heroine is cursed by an almost racist depiction of a decrepit, Eastern European old woman. The clueless boyfriend of the heroine thinks she’s insane throughout most of the movie and then finally decides to take her seriously during the last 20 minutes. The demon that plagues the heroine is kept unseen most of the time then only shown in obnoxious, over-loud flashes that are meant to scare audience members because of the sheer shock value. The ending is predictable, the array of bland characters are dull and unimaginative, and the monster is really more of a Halloween mask gifted with the power of screech by some bitter god with a cruel sense of humor.
The scare factor of this movie relied entirely on the element of surprise and the sheer amount of gore present in seven out of ten scenes. In fact, the shocking flashes of imagery are the only thing that were even remotely frightening and even they were placed at such likely places in the film that I could predict when every single “surprise” would occur. The gore was a joke (a bad joke that you’ve heard too often, might I add); it looked as if it were done by an amateur with some sort of sick mouth fixation. There is no “playing on your fears” angle to this movie nor is there really any sense of suspense. It’s all about trying to surprise you with loud noises and flashy images. Simply put, this is not the sort of movie that would keep you up during the night, afraid to look around your darkened room because as far as I’m concerned, there is nothing remotely terrifying about demonically possessed livestock.
For a director who is so intent on using real-life mythological references in order to add an element of realism to his storyline, it seemed to me that Raimi forgot to do his homework on a few crucial accounts. The goat-demon he chose to have stalk his protagonist was called the Lamia, but according to Greek mythology, the Lamia is a combination of a snake and a woman that eats children. I suppose Sam Raimi saw the creature’s name and decided it would be more frightening to audiences if there were a demonic “Lamb Chop” biding for their immortal souls rather than a demon snake woman sent to eat their little sisters. Accuracy is an important part of making a legitimate film and anyone with half-decent knowledge of Greek mythology would immediately discredit Raimi’s careless disregard for established myth. If you’re going to steal a monster from classic Greek mythology, at least get its genus and species right.
After talking with John M., a third semester Psychology major; however, I found a distinctively different spin on the true intentions of the film. “It was a movie that wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously. It was a satire on the classic horror genre; I thought that was pretty expected since it’s from Sam Raimi,” John M. said. I can take a good satire; in fact I tend to really enjoy them. This movie, however, was advertised as “suspense/horror” so I went into it expecting to be scared. Mr. Raimi, if you’re going to make a comedic-gore film, at least give the audience some fore-warning so they aren’t expecting what’s not going to be delivered. Some may argue that the intended genre was implied simply because of Raimi’s previous horror endeavors. Call blasphemy if you must, but there are in fact a number of people who haven’t seen Army of Darkness or Evil Dead and may not know that Raimi-horror isn’t meant to be taken seriously. I don’t believe that they should have to “do their homework” in order to enjoy a movie. I spoke with Jean Williams, a 22-year-old recent horror fan, as she exited the theater. “I thought it was going to be scary and I was really looking forward to it. I feel like I wasted $10 just to be grossed out and bored,” Williams said. I then asked her if she’s ever seen Evil Dead and she said she hadn’t. She was wrongly sold on a movie that she thought would be scary, but was meant to be funny. I equate this to seeing a billboard advertising Titanic as an epic thriller and then being stuck in a theater full of crying preteens as Leonardo Dicaprio breathes his last icy breath. All I ask is that what is meant to be satire, be labeled as such so that there is less confusion and disappointment for those wanting a real horror movie.
This movie took everything that horror movies were made for and ground them into the dirt with its heel. What Sam Raimi did was make a mockery of intelligently-made horror movies in order to bolster his sub-par attempt at horror-satire. “It was trash”, noted a former student, “I wasn’t half-decently scared throughout the entire movie. I was really disappointed in it as a whole.” All in all, I think this movie doesn’t deserve even a quarter of the praise it has been given by die-hard Raimi fans. It may serve as a bit of deliverance from the nightmare that was Spiderman 3, but I think that Sam Raimi will still have a fair amount of penance to serve for bringing this eyesore of a film into the world.