Drag Me to Hell Blu-ray review – Sam Raimi drags us back to his roots

Within the first few minutes of Drag Me to Hell, a rather forceful and frightening cold open that effectively sets the tone for the next 90 minutes, Sam Raimi announces his return as master of splatterstick horror.

Bold, creative and legitimately entertaining, it’s everything Raimi’s critics thought the now mainstream director was incapable of producing – a truly unencumbered genre film.

And arriving on home video in time enough for Halloween consumption, Drag Me to Hell is the perfect remedy for genre enthusiasts tired of the stale retreads and mean spirited, unimaginative gore.

The only upset is sparse supplemental material, but an outstanding audio and video presentation – along with an unrated cut that amplifies some of the film’s best gags – make Drag Me to Hell mandatory viewing for all horror fans this holiday season.

Storytelling: 4/5

Christie Brown (played by Alison Lohman) has everything going for her – a successful banking career with a possible promotion in the future, her own house, a cute kitten and her boyfriend is a Mac (played by Justin Long, hawking Apple merchandise the entire film).

But when an old, impoverished gypsy comes begging to her for a stay on her foreclosure (drawing obvious parallels our current mortgage crisis), Christie decides to stand firm on the notice in an effort to prove to her supervisor that she is the strongest candidate for a looming promotion.

And all hell breaks loose. (Literally.)

The old gypsy does not take kind to Christie’s lack of sympathy, and after a violent and hysterical parking garage brawl, puts a curse on the poor girl. As the title would suggest, she only has three days before being abruptly dragged to purgatory by a demon called the Lamia.

And that’s when Raimi really opens his toy chest of goodies; intent to create a wild roller coaster ride full of shock scares, trademarked dutch angles and childlike, sadistic glee.

Raimi loves tormenting his leads, and Christie gets put through the proverbial ringer – the film beats down Lohman’s character to the point that she resembles the female iteration favorite Raimi standby, Bruce Campbell. She’s tossed in the air, gnawed on, vomited on, beaten, bruised and everything in between.

And Raimi is clever enough to not allow the audience to become too sympathetic towards Lohman’s character; just when you think the director is being cruel, he fabricates a plot device that inspired gasps from the audience when I initially saw the film in theaters.

In short, while she is somewhat the victim, she has what is coming to her at the same time.

The unrated cut, which does not increase the running time, amplifies some of Raimi’s gross out gags and includes a bit more blood than the theatrical cut. The end result is a far more unyielding splatterstick film, but the cut still retains the same over-the-top, cartoonish charm that made the theatrical version so endearing.

The film never takes itself seriously, with a screenplay by Sam and Ivan Raimi that pays equal homage to their slapstick and horror roots. The whole thing plays like a Chuck Jones-inspired romp, down to the inclusion of falling anvils and talking animals.

Drag Me to Hell wears its heart on its sleeve, and the entire film is just pure, unadulterated fun. It definitely feels like only something that could have come from the imagination of Sam Raimi; setting himself apart from his contemporaries with a brazen, childlike affection for shock value.

It’s good stuff.

Video: 4/5

Raimi has leaned towards colorful, striking visual presentations and Drag Me to Hell is not excluded from that winning formula; the 2.39:1-framed, 1080p transfer looks stunning.

Raimi reunites with director of photography Peter Deming for the first time since Evil Dead II (ironically the most similar of Raimi’s filmography to Drag Me to Hell), and brings a bold look to the film – complimented by deep blacks that beautifully contrasts some of the more compelling imagery.

The transfer itself is a work of art, devoid of imperfections and regular offenders, offering casual fans and enthusiasts alike a rich viewing experience that is a testament to the Blu-ray format.

Audio: 5/5

Drag Me To Hell touts a Dolby DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track that absolutely tears the walls down with its outstanding sound design.

Raimi has built the cinematic equivalent of a haunted house ride, and he knows the best way to shock and scare an audience is with sound. And the Blu-ray mix is an ardent follower of that philosophy, with a wide array of sound effects that fill channels and utilizes directional audio with glee.

From demonic noises to bumps in the night, everything is amplified for maximum shock value; Raimi often misleads the audience with visual cues that are met with surprising and thrilling sound design.

Raimi collaborator and composer, Christopher Young, lends his significant talents to a classical score that never feels overbearing or collides with the clear, sharp vocal dialogue track. Young, who relies heavily on strings, infuses his score with the same kind of organized chaos that infects the entire film.

This is a track that justifies an expensive investment in a surround system, and a perfect excuse to turn the volume up to eleven for a rousing Halloween screening.

Package: 2/5

If there is one disappointing element to Drag Me to Hell’s two-disc Blu-ray release, it’s the complete lack of supplemental material.

Housed on a BD-50 disc (the other disc being a digital copy), Drag Me to Hell boasts a half-hour worth of production diaries.

That’s it.

There’s no audio commentary, BonusView support, additional content or easter eggs. All we get are some production diaries, which albeit informative, are completely sub par in this day and age.

Universal rounds out the release with bare bones BD Live functionality and D-BOX motion support, but nothing here will pique the interest of enthusiasts.

Incredibly disappointing, as both a fan and enthusiast, that Universal dropped the ball so badly with this release. And it makes one wonder if there will be a double dip in our near future.

For shame, Universal.

Bias:

I saw Drag Me to Hell in theaters twice, and during one screening, literally saw two teenage girls run out of the theater screaming and shouting expletives.

I don’t think there was ever a bigger grin on my face.

Now on home video, the unrated cut makes the ride a far more intense and enjoyably lewd one. If some of Raimi’s gags made you gag, keep a bucket close to your side for this slightly more demented cut.

The Blu-ray release gives home theater enthusiasts one of the best audio and visual presentations on the market, and helps catapult Raimi’s design philosophy of entertainment to its peak.

The flip side is disappointing lack of supplemental material; genre fans and enthusiasts aren’t even lucky enough to score a photo gallery or outtakes.

Still, there are few alternatives better suited for All Hallow’s Eve, and Raimi’s triumphant return to the genre that once made him a crowd pleasing favorite is worth the price of admission alone.

Being dragged to hell never felt so fun.

Verdict: 4/5 – “BUY”

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