Sam Raimi likes to be in control. And if he wants to make a film he can truly stand behind, he simply needs to be in control. "The best way for me to move forward on films," the director once said, "is that I've got to be the singular voice that makes the creative choices on the film."
That wasn't the case in "Spider-Man 3," and the result was a movie that made almost $900 million worldwide but that almost everyone whose opinion you'd respect, including Raimi, realized did not present Spidey at his crime-fighting finest. That's one of the reasons the director had such a good time making "Drag Me To Hell," his return to the horror genre after years spent with Marvel's web-spinning wall-climber.
"On this one, I had the right of final cut, so this is one of the rare cases—really since the first movie I did, 'Evil Dead'—that I've had final cut and complete creative control over the picture," Raimi told MTV News in a recent interview. "There are things I wish I could have done better but this really is the movie I intended to make from the get-go."
The movie he made is scary and disgusting and funny and manages to avoid so many tired horror film tropes. Out on DVD today, "Drag Me" follows Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), a loan officer who denies a helpless old woman an extension on her mortgage payments. The woman exacts revenge by placing a gypsy curse on her and Christine is forced to do everything she can to escape it before she is pulled down to hell for eternity (beware of big spoilers below).
I sat down to watch the film for the first time last week, and I was struck by how the story was so settled in our everyday reality: for all the fantastical bits about demonic plagues, the plot weaves itself around plebeian matters like house payments and job promotions. It makes the flashes of horror—and there's a lot of that, including some seriously creative, and super-gross, use of an old woman's corpse—that much more believable.
"We did want to ground it in real world elements," Raimi explained. "We wanted an environment that seemed like it was identifiable to most people, from her workplace to her house. We wanted the audience to identify with her, to really understand her and relate to her, so when it comes to the moment she does something a little sinful for her own betterment, I wanted the audience to make that choice along with her. We wanted them to have sinned with her. (SPOILER) Then when that thing came for her and pulled her to down to hell at the end, they'd go, 'Oh my god, that could have been me.'" (END SPOILER)
It's not only the film's deep commitment to realistic details that make it an atypical entry in the horror genre. There's very little blood—save for one scene in which Christine spouts a nasty nosebleed her boss' way—and very few people die. And, best of all, not one character makes a boneheaded decision that leads to a predictable death.
"I've made a lot of movies where I had to put those moments in and couldn't think of better way to get to a particular point," Raimi admitted. "On this one we tried to get the character to drive the action a little bit more."
"Drag Me" pulled in over $80 million at the box office. I guess you need to do a little better than that to merit a second go round, because although the film definitely leaves open the possibility that another, Christine-less story could unfold, Raimi doesn't see a second film happening.
"I don't have any thoughts about a sequel and I don't know if it's been popular enough in the theaters to merit one," he admitted. "That's usually what determines it."