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Drag Me to Hell(2009)
Christine Brown is on her way to having it all: a devoted boyfriend, a hard-earned job promotion, and a bright future. But when she’s forced to make a tough decision that evicts an elderly woman from her house, Christine becomes the victim of an evil curse. Now she has only three days to dissuade a dark spirit from stealing her soul before she is dragged to hell for an eternity of unthinkable torment.
For more about Drag Me to Hell and the Drag Me to Hell Blu-ray release, see Drag Me to Hell Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 2, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Sam Raimi
Writers: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi
Starring: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, David Paymer, Chelcie Ross
» See full cast & crew
Drag Me to Hell Blu-ray Review
Welcome back, your dreams were your ticket out. Welcome back...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 2, 2009
Sam Raimi's long-awaited, triumphant return to horror has come at last. Despite its teen-friendly rating and restrained gore, Drag Me to Hell is a fierce, nasty, ugly slice of Raimi's twisted talent; a ballsy throwback to '80s frightfest filmmaking that draws upon the same brazen madness and guttural ferocity that have made Evil Dead and its ilk such infectious genre staples. Its reluctant heroine doesn't exude the madcap hilarity of Ash and, while there are touches of skewered humor sprinkled throughout, the darkness that hunts her soul is more of a malevolent menace than a demented Deadite, but Drag Me to Hell is undeniably Raimi. From its stomach-churning obsession with vomit to the crazed rampage of a sacrificial goat to its larynx-crushing climax, it's the return to form fans have been clamoring for.
Drag Me to Hell (an aptly conceived, unexpectedly literal title if there ever was one) resurrects one of the genre's most overlooked classic villains: the vengeful gypsy. Parading as a sweet old woman (played with the utmost conviction by Lorna Raver), the gypsy in question turns out to be a spittle-spewing, otherworldly sorceress who sics a dark demigod on a demure loan officer named Christine (Alison Lohman). Christine's sin? Refusing to give the woman a third extension on her mortgage. Now, the young upstart has just three days to find a way to lift her curse before the deadly Lamia nipping at her heels... wait for it... drags her to hell. Christine turns to her boyfriend (Justin Long), but his well-intentioned skepticism isn't much help. Next, she looks to a spiritual advisor (Dileep Rao), but he's terrified of what he sees when he looks into her future. Before long, she finds a potential ally in a mystic (Babel's Adriana Barraza) who unsuccessfully crossed paths with the Lamia once before. It all comes to a head in an unpredictable, multi-tiered third-act stunner that ends with a scream.
Let me get this out of the way up front: Raimi's reunion with horror isn't perfect. For a film that frequently pays wry homage to the Evil Dead series (Christine's shed anyone?), humor is often a second-class citizen; so much so that its sudden surges seem a bit out of place. Lohman delivers such a straight-laced, down-to-earth performance that her peril is quite believable. But the increasingly absurd manifestations of her gypsy tormentor leave her matter-of-fact reactions feeling a tad inadequate. If a corpse vomited green bile in my mouth, I wouldn't wipe away the gunk and timidly engage in a conversation. I'd revisit my lunch, my breakfast, and whatever I had for dinner ten years ago. Likewise, while I adore practical effects, late-game elements (like an admittedly amusing dose of puppetry) are distractions, especially when they come in the middle of the film's penultimate showdown. The influx of CG is an occasional eyesore as well. More subtle uses look fantastic; more obvious uses look as if they've been yanked from the direct-to-video playbook. It doesn't help that some of the supporting characters -- namely, David Paymer's bank manager and Reggie Lee's competitive loan officer -- are little more than one-note characters. Both would have worked had Raimi regular Bruce Campbell and brother Ted Raimi filled their shoes (such sideline characters are perfect for audience-winking cameos), but Campbell was apparently unavailable while dutiful Ted was handed the throwaway role of a physician.
But does any of it really matter? Honestly, not much. Raimi unleashes such a devilishly delightful parade of beasties and omens that any disruption in tone becomes a fairly negligible casualty of war. I jumped, gasped, gagged, and yelped more often than I care to admit; I laughed, grinned, and applauded the director's genre-fusing boldness more often than I can possibly convey. Drag Me to Hell is an unequivocal joy to watch. Raimi builds exceedingly palpable tension, snaps it, and then uses whatever shattered fragments remain to eviscerate his audience's expectations. Even the film's ending, which I initially thought I had figured out, turned on me like a rabid dog, sunk its teeth into my throat, and reminded me why Raimi is the fearsome filmmaker that he is. There are no Spider-Man 3 missteps to be found. Hell's story is effective, its pacing impeccable, and its characters sharp and consistent. Moreover, older-brother Ivan helps Raimi churn out a fine script, one rife with delicious dialogue and surprising barbs. Christine and her boyfriend are sympathetic and endearing; the spiritual forces that come knocking at their door are creepy, powerful, and unforgiving. Christine's clashes with a shadowed Lamia even give The Exorcist a welcome run for its money, leaving little doubt that invisible supernatural threats can be just as terrifying today as they were thirty-five years ago.
Arguably one of Raimi's finest films, Drag Me to Hell is a must-see genre pic that -- love it, like it, or loathe it -- will drag you to the edge of your seat. With nods to the Evil Dead series, Peter Jackson's nauseatingly perverse Braindead, and plenty of other full-throttle horror classics, Raimi has as much fun behind the camera as I had watching it all unfold. It isn't perfect, it isn't the masterclass in filmmaking some have declared it to be, it isn't even the R-rated mad-dash many were hoping for, but it is a vile, vicious, visceral experience that's sure to leave genre junkies giggling with glee. Give this neck-snapping ride a chance... you won't regret it.
Please note the Blu-ray edition includes both the theatrical and unrated versions of the film. While both cuts are essentially the same length, the unrated version injects more blood into the proceedings and enhances some of the film's grosser gags. Alas, the results are a mixed bag. Some scenes have been improved (Christine's nosebleed and her fight with the old woman among them) but others are worse for the wear (a falling anvil produces a more cartoonish death, an animal sacrifice nets some over-the-top spatter, and a few CG effects are less effective). Personally, I find myself leaning toward the theatrical cut, but it's a toss-up.
Drag Me to Hell Blu-ray, Video Quality
Drag Me to Hell boasts a sharp and striking 1080p/VC-1 transfer from Universal; one that grabs hold of every minute detail and drags it kicking and screaming into your home theater. Peter Deming's somewhat subdued palette may be bleak and dreary at times, but reds ooze off the screen, hell-flames are startlingly bold, blacks are deep and foreboding, and skintones are simply gorgeous. Take note of every close-up, at the oh-so-fine facial textures that grace the image, at the individual hairs that cascade down a wonderfully-rendered shoulder, at the natural beauty of it all. Long-distance shots are just as extraordinary, rendering every object edge and background element with stunning clarity. You won't find any intrusive edge enhancement here. No noise reduction, artifacting, aliasing, or digital anomalies. You won't even encounter a hint of crush in the darkest, most dismal shadows that obscure Christine's path. Delineation is revealing, contrast is spot on and, aside from the brief appearance of some all-too-obvious CG, the exceedingly proficient picture perfectly embraces Raimi's every shot and scene. Casual viewers, militant videophiles, and discerning horror junkies alike will be thoroughly satisfied with the results.
Drag Me to Hell Blu-ray, Audio Quality
If you thought Drag Me to Hell's video transfer was impressive, just wait till you hear its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Christine's encounters with her seemingly unstoppable Lamian foe are bolstered by thunderous LFE support, immersive directionality, and engrossing rear speaker aggression. Wind whips around the soundfield, pots and pans clatter across the floor, and splintering wood makes it sound as if a ravenous demon is tearing apart your kitchen rather than Christine's. When a failed ceremony devolves into chaos, flicking flames, screaming humans, and smashing furniture are given the same attention as a goat's shuffling hooves. Through it all, dialogue remains crisp, intelligible, and wonderfully prioritized. I can't recall a single scene where I struggled to understand what was being said, even when all hell was breaking loose. Likewise, Christopher Young's unexpectedly classy score is effortlessly blended into the madness, capturing the croon of his strings as easily as the faint buzz of a meddling fly. Be it the slightest creak or the loudest crash, everything is brought to terrifying life in Universal's meticulously crafted lossless mix. Prepare yourself for a truly magnificent AV presentation.
Drag Me to Hell Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Drag Me to Hell's only legitimate behind-the-scenes special feature -- a series of entertaining and informative "Production Video Diaries" (HD, 35 minutes) -- is a solid addition to the release, if for no other reason than it reveals Raimi's humble approach to filmmaking and the enthusiasm and creativity that dominates his sets. However, an audio commentary is sorely missing, as is a more extensive documentary. Universal hasn't been giving its new releases the same supplemental love as other studios, and fans are suffering the consequences. Considering the studio's releases are pricier than others, it's a shame the discs themselves don't offer more value. A digital copy of the unrated cut of the film, BD-Live functionality, D-BOX support, a bookmarking feature, and a news ticker are all well and good, but they're hardly the meat fans are hungry for.
Drag Me to Hell Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
A much-anticipated return to form, a rollicking genre treat, a frightfully fun horror gem, Drag Me to Hell will please Raimi fans and newcomers alike. Thankfully, Universal has blessed its Blu-ray release with a heavenly video transfer and a blazing DTS-HD Master Audio track. Granted, the studio drops the supplemental ball, but the film and its AV presentation are well worth the price of admission. Enjoy, dear readers... enjoy.
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Drag Me to Hell Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - October 13th - October 13, 2009
When the time came to transition the fictional town of South Park, Colorado to the big screen, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone decided that a musical would be the perfect format for conveying the shows theme. A true testament to their talents, the film ...
• Blu-ray Release for Drag Me to Hell - August 18, 2009
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring Sam Raimi's 'Drag Me to Hell' to Blu-ray on October 13th, day-and-date with the DVD release. Video will be presented in 1080p AVC accompanied by a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. A digital ...
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