Drag Me to Hell DVD: Review By Brian Gallagher

With just the right amount of camp and old-school scares, this is a throwback to the days of horror movies that were not only actually scary, but actually tons of fun as well and Drag Me to Hell delivers both the scares and laughs in spades.
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
Raimi. Horror. Excellence.
Some more special features would've been cool, I guess.
To be perfectly honest, I was a little surprised that I was hearing so many raves about Sam Raimi's return to horror, Drag Me to Hell. Sure, it looked like a decent horror film, but there's no way I could've anticipated just how god-damn awesome this film really is. See, I've never been a big horror person. I'm a fan when the genre is handled properly, yes, but a die-hard, blood-thirsty horror freak I am not. Still, I do have a soft spot for those 80s classics that both scared and delighted me as a child and it's this precise style that director Sam Raimi has brought back to the horror fandom with Drag Me to Hell. For one, it's a fairly simple story, but one also laced with complexities, like most good horror films are.

Essentially, this film is about a girl who is trying to rid herself of a curse, but there's much much more to this film than just that. This film centers on Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), a seemingly average girl with a decent job as a loan officer at an L.A. bank and a loving boyfriend Clay (Justin Long). But Christine doesn't want to be a loan officer her entire life and she's been jonesing for this promotion to assistant manager at the bank, but she discovers she has some competition in Stu (Reggie Lee) an incredibly ambitious worker even though he's only been employed there for a short time. Christine keeps trying to persuade her boss, Mr. Jacks (the wonderful David Paymer) that she is right for the job, but it all comes down to making the tough decisions. When Christine is faced with a tough decision - whether or not to grant an elderly woman Mrs. Ganush (the fantastic Lorna Raver) an extension on her home loan - she decides to deny the extension, essentially putting the old woman out on the street. This particular tough decision comes with a consequence though, when the mysterious Ganush attacks her in the parking garage and after the struggle, takes a button from her coat, says some mysterious foreign words and disappears. Not long after, Christine starts hearing and seeing things and discovers she's been cursed by the old lady and, with the help of her boyfriend Clay and a "seer" named Rahm Jas (Dileep Rao), tries to rid herself of this curse before it's too late.

We've been busy this past decade showering heaps of praise on Sam Raimi for those friendly neighborhood Spider-Man films (well, definitely not the third one... but still) that it almost comes as a surprise that this sort of film was how he made a name for himself with the Evil Dead trilogy and, God damn it's great to see him make a return to these sort of films, particularly since no one else seems to want to make them. While Sam has been busy shepherding Spidey through this first trilogy (I'm still saddened that they're just rebooting the whole damn franchise), horror has taken a turn for the worse, with the age of this torture porn crap and moody, increasingly dark horror films that forgot the genre can be fun too. To say that Drag Me to Hell is a throwback is almost an understatement of the word, with Raimi hammering the point home right from the get-go, using the 80s-style Universal Pictures logo instead of the modern logo. From the second you see that logo, it tells you that the horror sensibility of that era is back in this film and he surely doesn't disappoint.

To be quite honest, there isn't a single thing I didn't like about this film. We are treated to many unique performances from Alison Lohman, who one might not expect to excel in a horror film like this, but surely does, to Justin Long, who's able to deliver enough of his trademark wit while still playing this more docile character, newcomer Dileep Rao (who also appears in Avatar and Christopher Nolan's Inception despite this being his feature film debut) and a simply fascinating performance by Lorna Raver as the mystical Sylvia Ganush. There are also fantastic smaller turns from the highly versatile David Paymer as Christine's boss Mr. Jacks, Reggie Lee as the brownnoser Stu and another fantastic turn from Adriana Barraza as the medium Shaun San Dena. The cast really fires on all cylinders here, folks.

Then there's the real star of this show, Sam Raimi, who co-wrote this film with his brother Ivan Raimi, their first writing collaboration since a little film called Army of Darkness. While Sam Raimi isn't particularly noted for his writing, it seems that whenever he writes with Ivan, a classic is born, and this is certainly a classic if I've ever seen one. The Raimi's not only deliver a terrific story that throws us back to the 80s horror heyday and quite simply reminds us how fun horror movies used to be and still can be. While the campy factor isn't nearly as exaggerated as the Raimi Brothers' previous films, there's just enough in there to be noteworthy and they throw in all sorts of crazy smash cuts, zany zoom shots and fantastic jump scares that constantly keep you on your toes... and might just have you leave your seat at times as well. And, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the ending of the film might just be one of the best film endings I've seen in quite some time, both from a story standpoint and from a visual standpoint. Absolutely astonishing work, folks.

Drag Me to Hell is the real f&^*ing deal, folks. This is not only demonstrative of what horror movies used to be, but of how they still should be and I can only hope that we can see more of this tremendous horror style from Raimi in years to come.
Sadly this DVD only offers one special feature, some Production Video Diaries, but it's a damn good one. We get 14 separate diary entries total here and we get started off with an Intro with Justin Long setting these diary entries in his normally humorous fashion and he introduces all of other diaries as well. The first one deals with Alison Lohman's awesome spurting bloody nose and we see how makeup effects guru Gregory Nicotero talking about the process they went through which is pretty damn funny. The next one takes us into The Psychic's World and Dileep Rao's character Rham Jas, and it was rather interesting to see how Rao himself collaborated with the set designers and Raimi himself on Rham Jas' setting and his character also. Most of this stuff isn't stuff that we see a whole lot in the actual movie, but it really adds depth to his character that comes off on screen. The next one deals with Makeup Effects which deals with Lorna Raver's fantastic character Mrs. Ganush and it's not really about the effects but just a nice part with Raver herself talking about the character. Alison in Mud is next and this deals with, um, the scene with Alison in the mud at the end of the film. Apparently they saved this part for the very end of the film and it's pretty cool to see what they went through for this sequence. It was interesting that Lohman actually has sensitive skin and broke out in hives from the fake mud and they ended up using the kind of mud they use in mudbaths at a spa. The Nightmare is next and we see some of the puppet work they used for this nightmare scene where Christine wakes up the dead Mrs. Ganush and how they achieved the vomiting scene as well. Alison's Wirework goes into one of the scenes where Alison is being tossed around by the demon and all the wire work she went through. You could tell that it really was Lohman doing this work in the film and great bit shows a part of how they did that. Justin Long Profile is next, which is of course, introduced by Long himself, and he talks about how he is essentially the "chick" in this story, being the doting boyfriend who tries to support the girl, instead of the girl always supporting the guy. We also hear from the producers and Raimi about Long and it's another great diary. The Parking Lot Fight is next and we dig into the amazing fight in the parking garage between Alison Lohman and Lorna Raver and we see how physical the scene really was. The next one deals with the goat in the séance scene and this one is a little dumb, talking with the animal trainer, but it gets better because they talk about how the goat was just too charming and disruptive, licking people's hands, etc. Set Tour: The Great Room is next where we take a look at this room that the séance scene and we hear from the production designer talking about how they designed this room. It's a little dull, actually, because, well, it's about production design, but still it's pretty interesting how much detail they go into even in this aspect. Puzzle Car is next and this is actually really interesting how they had this car with all these different components that could just be removed if they needed a certain angle in the parking garage fight scene. Movie magic, folks. Dragging Her to Hell is next and it talks about the outstanding finale, one of the best finales I've seen in some time. I actually wish we got more with this diary, because it's so damn awesome, but it's nice to see the visual effects that go into it. Sound Mixing is next and this is fairly snoozy, even though the sound design is rather great here. That's the last one and we get a little summary by Long at the end to boot. They altogether run 35 minutes long, and while this is the only special feature we get, it's pretty damn comprehensive and a lot of fun to watch.
The film is presented in the anamorphic widescreen format, in the ultra-wide 2:40:1 aspect ratio.
The sound is handled through either the Dolby Digital 5.1 format or the Dolby Digital 2.0 format.
Nothing overly flashy here, but certainly effective. The front cover is essentially a version of the film's spectacular one-sheet poster, with the title card up top and the shot of Lohman, you know, being dragged to hell. The also have to point out that Sam Raimi, the director of Spider-Man and the Evil Dead trilogy directed the film and it also notes that there are both the unrated and the theatrical version here... even though on the back it says that the theatrical and the unrated director's cut both have the same runtime. Weird... The back also has a critic quote, a nice synopsis, some creepy pics from the flick and the billing block and tech specs.
Drag Me to Hell is the horror movie I've been waiting decades for. With just the right amount of camp and old-school scares, this is a throwback to the days of horror movies that were not only actually scary, but actually tons of fun as well and Drag Me to Hell delivers both the scares and laughs in spades.

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