Drag Me to Hell has come out at the perfect moment for Sam Raimi. The generation of adolescent horror fanatics and movie buffs who grew up wearing out their video cassettes of the Evil Dead trilogy from overuse at sleepovers and who have been wondering through their twenties and thirties (and perhaps beyond) why they just don’t make ‘em like that anymore, are now in cultural tastemaking positions—as reviewers, bloggers, studio greenlighters even—to help bring about the narrative of Raimi’s prodigal return. Certainly for the hordes of fans who have felt twinges of disappointment by his big-studio shenanigans in the past decade or so (regardless of his continued slavishness to his comic-book demographic), the very possibility of Raimi going back to his roots is a cause for salivation.
Of course, those roots, lest we forget, were nasty, gnarled, and in the case of the over-estimated, under-budgeted first Evil Dead, the appendages of a possessed tree that literally committed rape on a female victim. Rather than debate the merits of that memorably dubious image, I will admit that it does represent something of a lost sensibility—a devil-may-care, anything-spurts approach to creepshowing—that can’t possibly be sustained in the latter-day retro fitting of Drag Me to Hell, which is both too calculated in its Raimi self-mythologizing and too eager-to-please in its zippy “something for the fans” nature to register as truly dangerous or inventive horror filmmaking. This doesn’t mean that Drag Me to Hell isn’t a consistently engaging, smartly conceived and executed fright-fest, but rather that it’s a ultimately a monster of a different color. With such buzz and good will surrounding it, it almost didn’t matter if it was good (the words “Sam Raimi” and “horror” have already done more for the film than any number of positive reviews ever could). The only genuinely shocking thing about Raimi’s new film is that, despite its generally safe audience courting and circumscribed playbook, it’s easily his best since Evil Dead 2, and maybe the best storytelling of his career.
Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky's review of Drag Me to Hell.