Drag Me to Hell: Collector’s Edition

| February 11, 2018

When Sam Raimi was announced as the director of 2002’s Spider-Man, those among us who had grown up on the Evil Dead franchise and Darkman (1990) suddenly knew that that movie was going to be real good. And, say what you will about the film nowadays in light of all the superhero films that followed, it was mighty good indeed. After the universally reviled Spider-Man 3 (2007), however, it was time for Raimi to move on and the best-case-scenario occurred: the man who brought us Evil Dead and, in turn, helped make Bruce Campbell an icon, returned to horror! On top of that, the film he was making had a legit horror movie title in Drag Me to Hell, which would hit theaters in May 2009.

*GASP*, though, Drag Me to Hell was rated PG-13, used some CG to supplement its practical effects and it even had jump scares in it—all of which the film’s detractors saw as unforgiveable, cardinal sins! And these complaints I heard levied against Drag Me to Hell upon its initial release more times than I could count. Before anyone even saw it, there were many (at least among the supposed horror fans I knew at the time), who wrote it off for being accessible to teenagers and employing then-popular and cutting-edge filmmaking techniques. Never mind the fact that many of us who grew up loving Sam Raimi’s work discovered the similarly jump scare-filled Evil Dead when we were round about 13 years old or that Raimi had just wrapped up one of the most technically impressive modern film franchises of its time. This film was a natural fit for Raimi’s style no matter what anyone said to the contrary!

Moreover, Drag Me to Hell was actually quite great! The film explores the soul-crushing pressures of capitalist class systems, systems that promote apathy and the pursuit of social and career successes over adherence to humanistic motives. The Hells facing the film’s protagonist Kristine (Alison Lohman) are both metaphorical and literal in this way. In an effort to earn a major promotion to bank assistant manager and perhaps impress her boyfriend’s (Justin Long) socialite parents, Kristine denies a payment extension to as elderly Gypsy woman (Lorna Raver). In the process, Kristine denies her fundamental humanist impulses… for money!

Before Kristine can fully sell her soul to the devil in this quest herself though, the Gypsy woman puts a curse on Kristine that ensures her a place in Hell. The curse: in three days’ time, a demon known as the Lamia will come for Kristine and her soul will thereafter burn in Hell for all eternity. That is, unless Kristine can find a way to break the curse even as the Lamia’s torments increase in frequency.

I’ve always found Drag Me to Hell to be a smart and deeply upsetting film about the inevitability of apathy for those deeply entrenched in our social structures, who buy into the idea that rightness and wealth are inextricably linked. But it’s also a film that never becomes oppressively fatalistic as it’s tempered with a great deal of Raimi’s slapstick horror humor. It’s a tale filled with buckets of blood, barf, bugs and all sorts of horrible, slimy bodily omissions, and it even has an anvil fall on an apparition’s head if you doubt that this isn’t Raimi at his cartoonish best. So its approach to the material is firmly tongue-in-cheek.

Raimi may have gone “corporate and populist” with and after Spider-Man, if you think him not wanting to make movies in miserably remote cabins all his life is somehow selling out. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a filmmaker crafting smart horror for the masses. This is especially true of cautionary horror that critiques the very systems that turn those masses against each other as they all fight for bigger slices of the proverbial pie than their neighbors. It’s therefore a great testament to Raimi’s ambition and skill that he made a film so biting and smart that audiences as young as 13 could go out to theater and see!

Drag Me to Hell is a film that deserves far more love than it gets. Hopefully, the legitimacy that a Scream Factory Collector’s Edition brings with it will give those who denounced it on principal cause to revisit and reappraise it. After all, in light of the horrible things we see people do for money on a daily basis or that we see perpetrators get away with simply because they have money, Drag Me to Hell’s humanist warnings make it every bit as prescient a work today as it was when it was released in 2009.

Scream Factory’s 2-disc Blu-ray Collector’s Edition release of Drag Me to Hell, available February 13, 2018, includes the theatrical cut of the film on one disc and the unrated cut on the other. Both versions have been newly mastered in HD from the 2K digital intermediates. New special features in this Collector’s Edition include interviews with stars Alison Lohman (who Raimi apparently put through Hell during the making of the film) and Lorna Raver, as well as an interview with composer Christopher Young. The Collector’s Edition also includes the production video diaries included on the previous release as well as the theatrical trailer.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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