Combining the words "Sam Raimi" and "horror" is one of those mixtures that evokes bliss -- wild laughs, wonderful chills, and the best hero the big screen has ever seen. Just thinking of Ash was enough to send me into an INeedToSeeDragMetoHellNOW frenzy, positive that Raimi had created a character to rival Bruce Campbell's Ash. Add to that two weeks of tweets about how darned good Raimi's return to horror was, and I was just about foaming at the mouth as I tried to find a way to slip it into my busy weekend schedule.
Preemptively, I began to muse about how great the film would be for this column. So many were saying that Raimi has still got it that I was sure Alison Lohman's Christine would bring some horror-fighting magic. I slipped into a matinee seat, and prepared to be amazed. 99 minutes later, I left in shock. My praising spin was lost in a sea of disappointment.
Drag Me to Hell was bereft of Raimi's best horror asset: the magic and charm that made two films of the bloody same thing, plus a wacky sequel, all worthy of repeated viewings -- the strong, determined, and irresistibly engaging lead. Although more polished than the horror of the past, the rest of classic Raimi was present in Hell -- the drudgery of real life making way for the excitement of horror, the possessed inanimate objects, and even a cackling and creepy dance scene. But there was no creation of a force to be reckoned with, one who could banter with the best of them and seem cool, even in the face of a never ending torrent of gross goo (that Lohman faces repeatedly) and horror.
Christine Brown could have been our new scary movie heroine, one that we'd be quoting for years to come. Instead, she is merely an amalgam of oft-used stereotypical characteristics. Christine is a sweet farm girl who has skinnied herself up, picked up a score of cute sundresses, got a good job, and nabbed a rich and caring boyfriend. But she's just too sweet to make the advancements she yearns for, and the minute she gets a little cutthroat at the expense of a struggling gypsy about to lose her home, Christine is in for three days punishment before she's sucked into the depths of hell.
Rather than becoming a strong banisher of evil herself, she pays others in hopes that they can help. When each attempt fails, she wallows in ice cream and desperation. Now to be fair, there are moments where she fights -- but in these all-too-brief and fleeting scenes, it's as if Ash ripped through the folds of time and took possession of Christine to give us someone to root for, like there's another personality yearning to break through the surface.There's no transformation, just momentary fighting hiccups encased in a rather flat and one-dimensional character.
It's hard to root for a character you have no reason to love, or even to hate. And it's even harder to not be disappointed since this is Raimi's first starring heroine. The man who brought us Ash and an updated Spider-Man couldn't scheme up an engaging and memorable female lead? Or, at the very least, a character who has some depth rather than fleeting characteristics that seem more like filler than motivation?
If there was anyone who could have made a great female butt-kicker, one to make Sydney Prescott look like nothing, it was Raimi ...
So why do you think it is that he put aside his talent for creating iconic leads, gave up the opportunity to create an engaging heroine, and let it all blow away in the lamia-heavy wind?