A work-in-progress version of Sam Raimi's horror comeback Drag Me to Hell screened in the wee morning hours of Monday, January 16th at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. Save for some effects and the sound mix, the film seemed mostly complete. Drag Me to Hell features a rote E.C. Comics style plot that piles on old school horror cliches, including a gypsy curse, demon spirits, haunted houses, and a late night foray into a graveyard. Raimi shapes this overly familiar material into a slick horror film that seems to meets the demands of the current market while flaunting all the elements that originally made him one of the world's top horror directors.
Raimi's penchant for black humor, gory visual gags (achieved through both CG and practical effects), and frenetic camera work are on all on full display. The narrative unfolds in a leisurely fashion but the more aggressively paced scenes are frequent enough to keep the film from lagging too much. Alison Lohman's performance brings a combination of innocence and sincerity to a film that is often purposely over-the-top. In sum, Drag Me to Hell is a distillation of Raimi's best moves into a more accessible package. Universal should really cut a more representative trailer because the one in current rotation (check beneath the fold) does not do this film justice. Drag Me to Hell will not change the world but it certainly is a blast.