In 1981, a young director named Sam Raimi set out to give audiences a new vision of the horror genre with his now cult classic film The Evil Dead. Twenty-eight years later (and one Spider-Man trilogy behind him), Raimi is looking to do the very same with his latest project, Drag Me to Hell.
Raimi explained, “I was trying to do an original piece with this feature and to do something very different than what’s out there now. Drag Me to Hell was my way of telling a different story than I ever have before but using a lot of familiar elements that, as a fan, I love to see when I am watching horror.”
“When writing the story, I had to make sure I stayed true to the characters and still built suspenseful sequences in ways that I hadn’t done before. I feel like my job as a director is to entertain and give the audience something they haven’t experienced before,” Raimi added.
Drag Me to Hell centers around Christine (played by Allison Lohman), a young woman who works at a bank. Desperate to earn the respect of her boss and a promotion, she makes the mistake of denying the elderly Mrs. Ganusch (Lorna Raver) an extension on her defaulted mortgage which drives the old woman to curse Christine as her punishment. The curse states that within three days, poor Christine will be carried off to the bowels of hell and it’s up to her to figure out a way to spare her own life before the demons come for her.
Although Lohman’s character is the main subject in Drag Me to Hell, Raimi is quick to point out she isn’t your typical horror film protagonist.
“Christine starts out with the idea that she is a good person but by the end of the film, she really is a despicable character to watch,” said Raimi. “I think the audience can identify with her in the beginning because she seems generous, but when push comes to shove and she has to get this job promotion, she sins with greed and forces this old lady out of her home hiding behind the rules of the bank.”
To bring Christine along on this horrific journey wasn’t enough for Raimi. He felt it was important as a storyteller to make the audience just as accountable as the main character they were watching.
Raimi said, “I wanted the audience to make this choice with her. We know that we are all nice people but the truth is, we are sinners too. Here you have this old woman who is unpleasant looking and the audience, like Christine, just wants to do anything to not have to look at her and get her out of the way. So, when the effects of the curse start to happen, you as a viewer know that this thing is coming not only for Christine, but for you because you are sinners, too.”
“There are all sorts of reasons for any of us to be greedy or cruel,” Raimi added. “People try to hide behind logic or institutional rules, like Christine does in the film. But it doesn’t make a difference. In the end, everyone is responsible for the choices that they make. Christine is no exception to that rule and neither are any of us, despite what we may think about ourselves.”
Even though Raimi sees Christine as the villain in Drag Me to Hell, he knew that he had a tricky task with finding someone who was able to balance being the nice girl next door as well as someone who could also representing the sinner in all of us.
“What makes the audience compelled to follow Christine as she fights to stay out of hell has to do with the casting of Allison Lohman,” explained Raimi. “She has a positive charm about her which helps the audience stay with her despite all the horrible things she does. She goes against her own values, lies, asks people to risk their lives, tries to blame her boss when confronted by the demon, and selfishly tries to give the curse away to save her self.”
“She was a good person on the outside but when you see what she’s willing to do, she’s just not a good person at all. She deserves what she gets. Although, maybe she’s just a little overpunished for her sins,” Raimi joked.
Raimi is aware of the initial reaction of the horror community had when they found out Drag Me to Hell was going to be PG-13 and wants to assure fans that a rating isn’t the driving force behind whether or not a movie will be entertaining.
Raimi said, “We always knew that we were aiming for a PG-13 rating for Drag Me to Hell. We (his brother Ivan helped Raimi co-write the movie’s script) didn’t want to rely on outrageous violence or blood and gore like we did with the Evil Dead movies. I thought it would be interesting as a director to go in a slightly different direction and try not to have a lot of that this time around.”
“Of course, there is still some violence and blood because it is a horror movie but we make up for it by using different techniques in the film so that it’s still entertaining and suspenseful,” added Raimi.
Something that recently surprised the long-time director was the fact that Drag Me to Hell was picked to screen at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France.
“Universal approached me with the idea that we should show the movie to Cannes Viewing Committee,” said Raimi. “I honestly didn’t think it was a good idea at all but decided to not say anything to the studio about my reservations. So, you can imagine how surprised I was to find out it got picked.”
Raimi joked, “I think it actually says a lot about the depravity of our society.”
Now with Drag Me to Hell set to hit theaters this weekend, Raimi is getting ready to return to the world of Peter Parker and his alter-ego Spider-Man in the coming months.
Raimi said, “Spider-Man 4 is still in the script development stage so I have no idea what we’re going to be doing this time. I think we’ve learned our lessons on Spider-Man 3 and I am really looking forward to exploring Peter’s character further with Tobey (Maguire).”
“I feel like the last two years have been a vacation with working on a horror film,” Raimi added. “What I love about these movies is the fact that the audiences are truly the greatest audiences to entertain for. They have so much appreciation for these projects that it makes my job as a director that much more worthwhile.”
Drag Me to Hell opens in theatres this Friday!
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