Sam Raimi returns to the horror genre with Drag Me to Hell, a demonic scare-fest with gags, spooks, and old school monsters. This marks the first time the director, now a household name through his Spider-Man films, has stepped back into the genre since making the cult classic favorite Evil Dead films. Dread Central was invited to attend a rather exclusive set visit to witness some of the filming of the big climactic scene, and I considered myself lucky to have been able to attend!
The film is a fairly simple cautionary tale about a young woman who makes an unfortunately poor moral decision and pays one hell of a price. Alison Lohman, playing the lead character, explained it to us, “I play Christine Brown; she’s a loan officer, and she has to make this very fateful decision at her bank. This old elderly woman comes in who wants an extension on her loan. Her house is foreclosing on her. In any normal situation I would have given her the extension, but I wanted to get this promotion from my manager, and I choose not to give it her. So, she puts a curse on me.”
Those involved were a little mum about the exact nature of the gags and spooks that occur as part of this curse, except that the whole thing reaches a climax in a grand séance scene. This is what we were allowed to step into and partially observe. The showdown is set in the Doheny Mansion of Pasadena and uses the historic building for exterior shots. The room we visited was on a lot miles away from the landmark, a beautiful illusion created on a gigantic concrete soundstage. To call this structure simply a “room” does it a great disservice as it truly was a remarkable bit of set design that was gorgeous to behold. “They actually did the whole set from zero to fully dressed in nine weeks,” production designer Steve Saklad explained to us. “At its most active, we had a crew of seventy-five carpenters, painters, and riggers all working at the same time. We had planned this set from the very beginning of the movie.”
The mansion is owned in the film by the medium Shaun San Dena (played by the charismatic Adriana Barraza), a woman who also has some experience with the demon haunting the young Alison Lohman and tries to help fight the curse. Steve went on to describe some of the room, and its architectural influences, by also describing some of Shaun San Dena’s past. “Her husband, who was from Cordova, Spain, gave us a way to bring the Moorish marriage of Eastern and Western architectures into one room. There are Moorish designs in the window glass; on the floor there is a giant Moorish star. There are some scenes from high overhead that look down at the floor, and we see this grand sort of sunburst, a Moorish design. We’ve also mixed in French influences and Turkish influences to be this bridge across cultures. This one room is supposed to be built over the intersection of all of these supernatural forces.”
He follows this up by describing the scene itself. “This is the room in which our seer has led this séance, where this sort of grand finale scene of the movie takes place. We’ve seen the exterior of this house, which is a real location, the Doheny Mansion down by UFC. That’s the exterior, and we shot some shots in that interior. The story involves the Shaun San Dena character 40 years ago, having had a trauma happen in this room. She’s closed the room off and has never gone into it again for 40 years. Now she’s coming to grips with her last chance to vanquish the evil demon in the movie. She raises the spirit of the demon, and she tries to vanquish it again. Terrible things happen, though I won’t go into what they are!”
Check out our latest images from the film below.
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