These terrible things quite likely involve the creative mind of Greg Nicotero, a monster maker of daunting credits who also worked with Raimi in the second and third Evil Dead films. “This is back to basics for Sam,” Greg told us. “We’ve got possessed characters, we’ve got some rotting corpses.”
Asked for more details, he went on to say, “We’ve both matured in the 22 years since we worked together on Evil Dead 2. But we still have the same sensibilities. We still love the cheesy scares. This is back to traditional stuff. He wants to use animatronics, puppets, and dummy heads. In the first meeting I said, ‘You know we could potentially do a CGI implementation here,’ and he’s like, “Ahhhh! That CG stuff! Get that crazy crap out of here. We’re doing the practical stuff.’ So we’re designing rotting corpses, and we’re designing demon make-ups and possession make-ups. Sam is really receptive every single step of the way. It really raised my interest level and excitement about it because this is the guy who redefined the horror landscape.”
The precise design of the hellish terrors was kept under wraps, though Greg was open to describing the influences involved. “There’s a recurring theme that we utilize when we’re designing the characters. There are a lot of animalistic qualities to them. The Evil Dead movies were a lot more outrageous. We were going with demonic skulls and creepier things like that, especially in Army of Darkness. With this film, we went more with an animalistic approach in terms of sharpened teeth, animal eyes, and that sort of stuff.”
While the story itself may sound simple, it is bound to be all Sam Raimi. “You read the script and there’s a séance scene, and you’re like, oh yeah, there’s a bunch of people and floating candelabras and spooky wind blowing,” Greg laughs, “but then you watch the way he shoots it. He’ll clip the camera on one person and then travel the camera all around that person, and then zoom in, and then go to the next person and go all the way around again, and then the way he cuts it together, it’s just completely Sam.”
Raimi himself stopped to talk with us in between takes and gave us some insight on what to expect with this film in comparison to his classic favorites. “This is a PG-13 picture. So it’s a little less assaulting than the Evil Dead movies, which were unrated films. I’m really just out for the same thing. I’m just trying to make a horror movie that people go to, that they laugh at, that they think is suspenseful, they get excited about the action or exciting monster sequences, they get scared, they go ‘oh gross!’, and have those kind of funhouse reactions. So it’s the lower brow that I really enjoy working in. For me, it’s a great weight off of my shoulders.”
The nature of the curse haunting the young Christine Brown is no trivial affair, for this is the much feared, though little known, curse of the Lamia, a strange beast of mythological origins that had bad child-eating habits, hermaphroditic qualities, and removable eyes (which, on a side note of interest, makes the Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth another arguable appearance of the Lamia in modern film). The original tale, which involves a Libyan queen named Lamia who fooled around with Zeus and so contracted a rather grotesque curse from the eternally jealous Hera, goes well beyond the Greek. “There are other cultures that reference the Lamia as a demon,” Sam told us. “Sometimes it’s a female and a baby eater. There are a lot of different stories in different cultures about a spirit, or demon, or god known as Lamia. We read about them, and we were interested and excited and thought how interesting that this is a different creature in many different cultures that all know that name. We thought let’s call our creature the Lamia and take a little bit of all the different ideas that are presented in these reference books to these demons. Maybe they all have a piece of the truth, and maybe our story would be what it really was. We’re not really basing it on any specific culture’s version of that demon or god; we just took a little bit here or there and just pretended that they all got it wrong, and we got it right!”
We’re guessing you did, Sam, especially given our positive early review. Drag Me to Hell is scheduled to hit theaters on May 29, 2009. I can’t wait to see that title on a marquee. Good times.
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