Sam Raimi's return to horror - it's about time (not that I haven't loved the Spider-Man flicks, or superb films like A Simple Plan). The Evil Dead is one of my favourite all-time movies, and is one of my enduring inspirations for my own filmmaking, so I was cautiously optimistic about Drag Me To Hell.
I have to say I was a bit "dude, lame..." when I heard it was going to be a PG-13 in America, but fortunately that equated to a softer 15 here in the UK ... but I needn't have worried, because in this particular case, the film worked outside of the rating. Actually, it felt a bit hardcore for a PG-13 ... it felt ideal at a 15 I though.
As it was my birthday weekend, I managed to convince my usual troupe of cinema goers to join me in seeing this movie (one of the group is an avowed anti-horror fan - he just doesn't like it). Two of the other lads were a bit in-between about it going in, and one (plus myself) was all up-for-it.
By the time we came out, everybody had had a bloody good time - heck, the entire audience had had an absolute blast (and there was quite a number in the cinema too). Everybody jumped in unison, or went "oooh, ewwww, urrgghh!" at the right moment, and there were even a few hushes shrieks of sustained terror from some of the ladies in the audience (clearly there on a date with their boyfriends).
I've seen many horror movies in my time, and few have really left me on the edge of my seat - or necessitated me to try and soften the blow of the horror jolt by tentatively trying to anticipate the scare (like the entire audience was doing). I've also been to a lot of movies at the cinema, and until Drag Me To Hell, I've never seen an audience so worked up, so unified by their shared terror, and having so much fun before - illustrated perfectly by the trembled laughter that would jangle from the audience's bones after they'd been tricked by Raimi's skilled hands into a bloody good scare.
I've heard many filmmakers talking about how they like to scare the audience, and how they sometimes sneak into a screening and watch the audience's reaction - and finally, thanks to Drag Me To Hell, I was able to witness thost very reactions first hand - sat amongst it, and performing those reactions myself.
There's a couple of moments where I was a good leap ahead of the characters, and indeed one plot angle is a bit of a tricky sell, but I quickly got over the couple of mild script wobbles simply because the film was so charmingly entertaining (in a scary-arse way). It really is like one of those theme park horror house rides, that's exactly what it feels like.
Considering what happened to the leading lady on screen, it's no wonder that Ellen Paige sodded off after Juno caught Oscar fever ... she does what she does well, but she does come off in interviews like she's above being gummed on the chin by a slimey-gobbed witch ... yes, I am having a bit of a joke, but Paige does come off, in all seriousness, a bit egotistical. Back on track & topic though, the official line was "scheduling conflicts" - which it may very well be ... but you do wonder (and I'm not the only one to think it certainly), was there an element of "I don't have to get witch-gummed anymore"? Hmmm...anyway...
Regardless ... her sodding off felt a bit like a slap in the face ... but on the other hand Alison Lohman more than fills Paige's vacated wardrobe. She is continually impressive throughout - and she really gets dragged through the mincer throughout, making her turn even more impressive - it is a surprisingly gross-out horror movie for a PG-13.
All I need now is the film getting the proper double-disc special edition, feature-packed treatment on DVD - it deserves it. I want to see how the flick was made, I want to see the gleefully icky set pieces coming together, I want to see Raimi pratting around having fun behind the camera, and I want to enjoy the Evil Dead nods again and again.
As for Evil Dead nods, with my horror nerd cap on, the main ones were referencing 'going to a cabin in the woods', Raimi's own "classic" Oldsmobile car (looking menacingly creepy here), the 'dancing' and airborne possessed people, and the bit with the goat all provided me with plenty of fanboy love. In terms of Raimi's horror filmmaking, this feels like that scene in Spider-Man 2 (where Doc Oc's tentacles go to town on the doctors & nurses) mixed with Army of Darkness. He's got the money to make his horror stylings slick now (but in a good way), and you know what Drag Me To Hell really made me salivating for (as did My Name Is Bruce)?
Yep - Evil Dead 4 - I don't want an Evil Dead remake, no way, no how - I want Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi together again ASAP giving us a slice of awesome cake in Evil Dead 4. If DMTH is anything to go by, it would make for one hell of a wild ride (and a gory one - providing it would retain the necessary "R" rating).