By Peter Martin (original publication date: 3/16/09 -- SXSW Film Festival)
Don't f*** with old ladies, especially if they have bad teeth and an evil curse up their sleeve. If there's anything new to be learned from Drag Me to Hell, director Sam Raimi's return to horror, it's that loan officers will have hell to pay if they dare to foreclose on your mortgage. It's a lesson that should make everyone stand up and cheer.
The film screened as a "work in progress" late last night at the completely packed Paramount Theater in Austin to a loud, raucous reaction. Some of the finer technical points clearly remain to be tweaked (sound, visual effects, maybe a little editing here and there) and end credits need to be added before its wide theatrical release on May 29. And in its present version, the ratings issue is still cloudy -- PG-13 or R?
But this much is clear: Raimi has made a joyful romp through his personal horror playground and come up with a very entertaining horror-comedy that gets back to the basics. By that I mean creepy shadows on the wall and things that go bump in the night: all the odd, unexplained sights and sounds that keep anxious children awake at night, hiding under the covers. Any inkling that Raimi's soul might have been irretrievably chewed up by the Hollywood studio machinery -- a well-founded concern after the disappointing Spider-Man 3 -- quickly evaporates once the story gets underway.