With Drag Me to Hell, Sam Raimi decides to dance with the genre that made him, and he's ready to rumba with all sorts of devils, demons and things that go "boom" in the night. The film has most of the critic class foaming over with rabid praise, but is this really much ado about an old dog performing a few new tricks? Is Raimi a thoroughbred or a sick puppy? Will Jeff Meyers agree with me that Drag Me to Hell is the greatest thing in horror since sliced teenagers? Or is it just more Spam in the can?
Corey Hall: To me this feels like a reinvention of the horror movie, with all the hokey old elements, the psychics, gypsies, mediums and unseen monsters, but cranked up to a modern level of intensity that feels really vital and new. Am I crazy?
Jeff Meyers: You're sorta crazy. Reinvention might be too strong a word. Raimi is focusing his Evil Dead sensibilities through a more disciplined filmmaking lens. Don't get me wrong, it's fun and I like how he's trying to merge his bombastic style with the classic bump-in-the-night approach of Robert Wise's The Haunting. I'm not quite ready to suck down the Kool-Aid that this is the greatest horror film since sliced teens. Yeah, the gooptacular premise works and the ending is exactly right, but Raimi still doesn't know how to build a scare effectively. It's like ADD. He's all about the assault and misses the slow building creep-out factor that gets under your skin and sticks with you days later. Drag Me To Hell is cotton candy horror — yummy but forgettable. Plus, setting his supernatural tale in sunny L.A. doesn't quite work. L.A. can be scary, but for different reasons.
Hall: I love L.A., but the 405 at rush hour is like a Hieronymus Bosch painting. There's been a fuss made about the rating, but this has to be about the hardest PG-13 movie ever, with gallons of blood, embalming fluid and demonic drool splattering all over the place. Not to mention the stabbing, biting and animal sacrifice …
Meyers: The melting Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark only merited a PG, so I can see how this lands in PG-13 territory. I still wouldn't bring any kid under 15 to it. Only in America can you repeatedly throw up in a girl's mouth and staple an old lady's eye shut yet earn a PG-13. But show one tit and you're headed for R country.
Hall: This thing is comic book-y, but I mean that in the best sense. It's a living example of a classic EC horror comic — the dangerous kind of gross, nasty ones that got the public in an uproar, and got publisher Bill Gaines hauled before Congress. To me it feels like a tribute, with gore, sex, macabre spiritualism, everything the comics code was meant to stop.
Meyers: Minus the sex. This movie is very chaste. The EC Comics example is a good one. There's a moralistic Jack Chick garishness that's being channeled here that I dig. But it misses that EC sense of dread and eeriness.
Hall: Yeah, but its impact is all-visceral! This is the loudest movie in forever, with sustained ear-bleed volume levels that threaten to shatter the theater's Dolby speakers.
Meyers: I saw it at Ypsi's Showcase Cinemas and it sucked for sound. In true Dolby Surround Sound, the mix will undoubtedly screw with your sense of safety.
Hall: What about the politics? Do all foreclose-happy loan officers deserve to be castigated to the eternal flames of Hades?
Meyers: They're the low-hanging fruit. If eternal damnation is reserved for mortgage and bank managers there's gotta be something really special for upper management.
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