Terror in Drag

A friend who’s also looking forward to The Hangover believes that Sam Raimi‘s Drag Me to Hell (Universal, opening tomorrow) will be an even bigger sleeper hit. So far it’s got a Rotten Tomatoes creme de la creme rating of 75% positive with a 93% from the rank and file. “Raimi has made the most crazy, fun, and terrifying horror movie in years,” wrote EW‘s Owen Gleiberman. Too bad it’s not opening in Barcelona tomorrow. I missed it in Cannes but I’ll be back Saturday, etc.

43 thoughts on “Terror in Drag

  1. Hmmm…I am curious. Been awhile since Raimi has really shown us the goods. Spider-man 2, yea yea, but I mean a solid story with suspense that really grabs you by the balls, Simple Plan-style.

    Gleiberman’s review almost makes it out to sound like Evil Dead 2 25 years later. Isn’t this PG-13? I am skeptical.

    But I do love me some Lohman and have a free afternoon tomorrow. I think I hear a matinee calling.

  2. I originally had no interest — the trailer reminds me of The Believers, that awful Martin Sheen flick about Santeria from the ’80s — but the raves on Metacritic have me intrigued.

  3. Looks good.

    Yes, THE BELIEVERS is a piece of crap, but worth seeing for the bugs coming out of the sore on Helen Shaver’s face. And for the worst ending of any movie ever (except for maybe THE BONE COLLECTOR or GODFATHER III).

  4. And someone should definitely Drag Owen G. to hell for uttering the masterpiece Repulsion in his review for this flick…perhaps it is decent, but it sure as fuck can’t be in that league!

  5. Saw a sneak preview of this last night and had a blast.My expectations were low and it blew them out of the water.

    Raimi shows he’s an experienced horror director that spends the entire film toying with the genre’s conventions and consciously messing with the audience (especially during the seance scene). It’s a gleeful good time, and it gets better and better as it plays out.

  6. I know this isn’t the forte of many HE talkbackers here, but I know there are at least a few people here well-versed in horror cinema.

    This story — mainly the prospect of the re-emergence of Raimi as a serious horror filmmaker — just made me realize how few good American horror directors we have right now. I actually think now is actually a great time to be a horror fan, but that is largely due to the influx of talent from Japan, Mexico, Spain, and to a lesser extent, Scandinavia (and of course you always seem to have at least a few decent Canucks holding up the Cronenberg-terror banner).

    They are either making great horror films in their country (Let the Right One In, [Rec]), or coming over here and working pretty well within the confines of the studios (Mirrors, 28 Weeks Later). But where are the Yanks?

    I guess my question is, who would you consider the current modern-day horror maestro, if there even is one?

    I have my own answer to this question — it rhymes with Vealeye Moth — but I’m not entirely satisfied with that answer. It feels like I’m missing someone…somehow there really doesn’t even seem like there’s anyone else in the running?!

  7. I’m sorry, but with the amount of advertising money they are throwing at this film, it is laughable to call it a would be “sleeper.”

    A sleeper hit is a once in a blue moon thing, usually benefiting from both timing, word of mouth and connection to the zeitgeist of the moment. Think BLAIR WITCH and GREEK WEDDING. Usually, it surprises even it’s own distributor. Even bigger pictures that do way better than anyone could ever anticipate can be sleepers, as STAR WARS is the mother of all sleeper hits.

  8. The fact that it’s PG-13 is almost comforting to me, in a way. Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness probably should have been PG-13. The original Evil Dead is the only one that earns the R.

    It means that Raimi isn’t relying on gore to sell the scares. It looks almost like the antithesis of torture porn, in that respect.

    Plus, you have to love the title.

  9. i won’t see on moral grounds. I will no longer support Hollywood’s negative portrayal of curse-giving gypsies. With recent Oscar nods to Hustle & Flow and The Reader, the gypsy has surpassed both pimps and nazis as the leader in unsympathetic hollywood portrayals. Sure, West Virginians and albinos got beef too, but it’s been 10 GD years since Chocolat. Where’s our 40 acres and a mule?

  10. Hey, Mark, if the remake sticks with the plot of the original Wolf Man, you’ll get a gypsy who, while not exactly sympathetic, at least tries to help out. “Even a man who is pure at heart….”

  11. Look, just because I con people for a living, my kids are pickpockets, and my mom hands our deathly curses like candy corn on Halloween, these represent only small aspects of everyday gypsy lives. Hollywood pretends like these things defines us as a people.

  12. Do you mean ’28 DAYS later’, Citizen? That was a fabulous (if not quite original) reinvention of a genre, but ’28 Weeks Later’ blew chunks. Also thought Zack Snyder did a decent job remaking Dawn of the Dead.

    ‘The Ruins’ generally sucked, but the penultimate scene with the girl digging with a knife in her leg and abdomen to get the worms or vines or whatever the hell they were out was quite well done.

  13. Saw a screening at the Arclight a couple nights ago and LOVED it. It’s about as good as a studio-produced, Bruce Campbell-free EVIL DEAD movie could be — and I mean that as high praise. The film never felt neutered by the PG-13 (which had been my big concern going in). @Rich S. — Raimi doesn’t use gore to sell the scares… but he definitely uses it to sell the laughs, of which there are many.

    The audience seemed to love it. Laughter, applause, etc. My friends and I had smiles plastered on our faces the whole time. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect — the ending, for example, is pretty clearly telegraphed very early — but it works like gangbusters and is a ton of fun. I hope it makes huge bank and Hollywood decides that horror movies don’t have to be dreary, self-serious remakes to make money.

  14. Nope…I meant 28WL, directed by the Spanish-born Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Being a horror sequel, I really fully expected it to “blow chunks,” but I walked away very satisfied. I don’t think it was as good as the original, but I definitely thought it was in the same league, and certainly didn’t think its very existence tainted the original concept (which is what I had initially feared).

    Then again, I really dug The Ruins, so what the hell do I know?

    Zack Snyder would have made a very interesting horror auteur, IMHO. Now he seemed locked into the whole superhero/graphic novel thing (are they really planning a sequel to 300?!), and I’m not sure any of us are better off for it.

    He kept wanting to widdle Watchmen down to its barest narrative parts — which can actually be an advantage in the horror genre — and seemed to miss some of the finer, more substantive intricacies of the graphic novel.

  15. Looks like I’ll be checking this out.

    Pretty high praise from YND and eoguy here. I’ll be holding you guys personally accountable if I feel it falls short of my (relatively low) expectations!

  16. I saw this almost 6 months back and for all intents and purposes it *is* another Evil Dead film. It’s all canted angles and KNB makeup (or whatever the company is calling itself these days) and extreme zooms and loud sound FX and gallons upon gallons of goo and viscusy bodily fluids. It’s a total blast. You can’t get hung up on the rating. It’s no less intense than the earlier Raimi films (save for the lack of tree rape in this one). It doesn’t take itself too seriously and serves no larger purpose than making you scream and giggle. If that’s enough for a film released in late May, I don’t know what to tell ya.

  17. “Then again, I really dug The Ruins, so what the hell do I know?”

    That is a rather damning thing to admit (I loved the book, couldn’t get into the movie), but, then again, I still maintain Eli Roth as having a lot of talent that got unfortunately diverted — so I won’t be the one who calls you out on it.

    I think your question was pretty much answered by the series “Masters of Horror”. The American “masters” were all either over the hill or up-and-coming. The best ones were foreign directors. But, of all the genres, it’s probably the one where the audience is most accepting of foreign films. I think you could argue that there have never been that many American horror maestros.

    I think the answer is Craven by default, isn’t it?

  18. You’re probably right, Gord.

    I guess when I was growing up, it just seemed like most of these guys were American (even if some, like Don Coscarelli, weren’t). I guess it’s a change for the better — more international market and whatnot — but still, back in the day you had Romero, Carpenter, Hooper, Dante, Craven, Raimi, Stuart Gordon…maybe even throw in a couple fringe guys like Larry Cohen, or Dan O’Bannon.

    Just seems a bit sparse today. There’s Rob Zombie, who hasn’t even quite mastered the pacing of a feature-length film, IMO, let alone made a good one. There’s Robert Rodriguez, who isn’t even really primarily a horror director. He does a little bit of every genre and lately has been doing it poorly. Then there’s my favorite paedophile filmmaker Victor Salva, who probably has better horror chops than 90% of the American filmmakers out there, which is kind of sad, actually.

    I guess it’s not hard to see why Quentin latched onto Eli Roth. Among this crowd, it only takes a real personality, vague sense of humor, and some basic skills with a camera to stand out from the pack.

    I also wonder who is going to be the next big-time director to “lower” himself to directing horror? We’ve had Friedkin, Kubrick, Coppola, Scorsese (kind of)…

    Anyway, nice to see Raimi back doing this stuff. Can’t wait for P-Jax’s re-entry into the genre later this year.

  19. I caught an NYC screening last week. When it was over, my mouth hurt from grinning the entire time. There is a genuine JOY to Raimi’s filmmaking here. I read the script a couple months ago, and the movie still had me in its grip the entire time.

  20. “but still, back in the day you had Romero, Carpenter, Hooper, Dante, Craven, Raimi, Stuart Gordon…maybe even throw in a couple fringe guys like Larry Cohen, or Dan O’Bannon.”

    I guess I’m being a bit strict in my definitions; I figured Romero and Carpenter qualified as maestros, and then remembered Craven (like I say, by default, since the other two are more or less gone). I would put Raimi on the cusp, because the first two ‘Evil Dead’ movies are great, but he seemed less interested in horror (even by the middle of the second one).

    I love ‘Chainsaw’ and ‘Re-Animator’ to pieces, but I don’t hold either Hooper or Gordon up as maestros. Based on the entire rest of Hooper’s career, I personally regard ‘Chainsaw’ as a fluke. A brilliant fluke, but a fluke. [He has made other movies I enjoy watching, but largely in a MST3k way; note that I give credit for 'Poltergeist' entirely to Spielberg, because, to my eye, it was.] And Gordon’s an odd duck — I enjoy his movies, but even the few horror movies aren’t scary.

    All that said, I would definitely agree that, nowadays, we don’t even have somebody at the Joe Dante level of budding maestro, let alone enough people that you could compose a list that long. Even allowing for a very liberal definition of maestro, we’re coming up short.

    “There’s Rob Zombie, who hasn’t even quite mastered the pacing of a feature-length film, IMO, let alone made a good one.”

    There’s something fairly difficult he does that nobody else working today gets close to; I just wish he could handle the basic stuff too.

    Good point, re: Salva. I remember ‘Jeepers Creepers’ being completely riveting until the wings came out. But the more I know about him, the more uncomfortable I get at stuff like the random teenage boys running around in their underwear.

  21. For those that care (yes, it’s a great throwback to the pop-corn flying fun of the mid-1980s).

    http://scottalanmendelson.blogspot.com/2009/05/review-drag-me-to-hell-2009.html

    As for Wes Craven, I’m a big Craven fan, but my wife and I saw a test screening of his latest 25/8 a few months ago. It was shockingly bland and utterly flat/lifeless/dull (and not in a way that can be retooled or saved via editing). A heartbreaking failure from an occasional master of the genre.

  22. David Lynch has made some pretty fucking scary movies. Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks were scarier than most “horror” today, even by the so called “maestros”.

  23. Maybe I was too hard on 28 Weeks Later. Just remember the dude from Senior Trip and Dahmer pretty much ruining it for me. A pretty obvious plot, although effectively carried out….nothing special, but “blew chunks” was harsh. You got me.

    I was just going to mention Lynch. Forget Twin Peaks or Mulholland Drive. Eraserhead? Shower-inducing.

  24. Guillermo del Toro is the best horror filmmaker working today. The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth will be remembered as classics 50 years from now.

    David Slade’s 30 Days of Night is also a genuinely freaky horror film, despite the cheeseball ending. Really enjoyed it.

    My only fear for Drag Me to Hell is the PG-13 rating. There is no such thing as a good PG-13 horror film; an R rating is a prerequisite. If Raimi pulls it off, it’ll be a first.

  25. In my opinion, the scariest thing Tobe Hooper ever made wasn’t the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And it wasn’t even in theaters.

    Danny Glick hovering outside that window remains one of the most indelible images in horror history.

  26. Yeah, I could go with Lynch. “horror” isn’t the first word I’d think of, but that’s part of there greatness.

  27. Yeah, “haunting” may be a more appropriate adjective for DL’s work, but that’s a good call, nonetheless — certainly no more questionable than my borderline inclusion of Hooper or O’Bannon as “maestros.”. His most recent work (Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire) certainly has waking nightmare qualities that put 99% of suspense/horror filmmakers to shame.

  28. Regarding Guillermo del Toro, it is certainly not intended as a slight against him to leave him off a list of American horror maestros.

  29. Got to see this one (Drag Me to Hell). I haven’t been this excited about a Raimi movie since watching Evil Dead as a kid.

  30. Rich S, good call about Hooper’s Salem’s Lot tv movie. I watch my dvd of that fairly frequently. More honestly creepy than most horror movies.

    As for US horror directors, it’s basically Eli Roth and Rob Zombie in the current crop, unfortunately. I think both are extremely limited.

    I had hopes for Lucky McGee but that hasn’t really worked out.

  31. at first i thought ‘drag me to hell’ was that rupaul show on logo…..

    but i enjoyed the movie immensly…raimi is about the best at funny/scary….

    and, re: del toro….i’m champing at the bit for tuesday’s release of ‘the strain’…..the on-line ads look great…..

  32. DeeZee, you beat me to it about Evil Dead 2. PG-13 today? No, fucking way. Maybe R – but that fucker was NC-17 when it was released. I doubt DRAG ME TO HELL has one comparable scene of gore (or even black humor). Raimi just keeps selling out his hardcore horror roots. Starting with all the Spider-Man sequels and now PG-13 horror.

  33. Both Evil Deads came out years before the NC-17 rating existed. I can’t find a rating on either of the posters so it is likely they went out unrated but that might have simply been because New Line and DEG weren’t included in the MPAA at the time.

  34. I, too, don’t have the original ad work in front of me, but I saw the original Evil Dead on first run at a theater that was part of a chain I’m fairly certain didn’t show unrated films. Same thing with Evil Dead 2, which isn’t nearly as gory.

    Not saying it isn’t true: just saying it’s unlikely.

    I was channel surfing the other night and caught part of Harper’s Island on CBS (network television prime time). One of the characters was killed when part of a chandelier, which looked kind of like a spear, hit him in the face and split it open. They showed his split face, repeatedly.

    There’s nothing in Evil Dead 2 that’s any worse than that, even Ash cutting off his own hand with a chainsaw. I still think, with an appeal, Evil Dead 2 could get a PG-13 today.

  35. Are you kidding? Evil Dead 2 getting a PG-13 today. No fucking way. And I distinctly remember the poster at my local theater reading NO ONE UNDER 17 ADMITTED. Maybe it was unrated or X at the time. But it was definitely adults only and this was in Costa Mesa, California. An eyeball getting squeezed out of someone’s head and shooting into some chick’s mouth… Maybe hard R today – I forget how much language there was, but PG-13 still only buys you two non-sexual “Fucks.”

  36. “I can’t find a rating on either of the posters so it is likely they went out unrated but that might have simply been because New Line and DEG weren’t included in the MPAA at the time.”

    Raimi has always said that the MPAA hated that those movies went out unrated — but the alternative was an X rating. (Not just ‘Evil Dead’, but many of the ’80′s horror movies sparked by ‘Evil Dead’, such as ‘Re-Animator’; it probably pre-dates ‘Evil Dead’ as well, though Raimi speaks largely for himself.) I’ve heard that he says that ‘Army of Darkness’ didn’t earn an R-rating either, but the MPAA flat out told him they’d never give him a PG-13.

    That said, I think that the two ‘Evil Dead’s could get an R-rating today… if they were released by a studio.

  37. I knew someone was going to bring up the eyeball scene. Guess you haven’t watched Evil Dead 2 in awhile. That eyeball looked plastic and fake even back in the day, and I think that was partly the point. Not exactly squishy and realistic as in Blade Runner or Kill Bill.

  38. By the way, lawnorder, you should check out Drag Me to Hell. Kind of pokes holes in your theory that the eyeball scene in Evil Dead 2 couldn’t get a PG-13 today.

    (Drag Me to Hell probably should not have gotten a PG-13. But I guess that’s what happens when you go from being a no-name indie director to one that directs a billion-dollar film franchise.)

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