A year shy of celebrating its 10th Anniversary, Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell is slowly growing into a cult horror-comedy classic, but the hilariously creepy fright-fest is also an ingeniously creative and still misunderstood gem deserving of more recognition and attention from mainstream audiences. Scream Factory! brings the unappreciated horror misfit to Blu-ray with a phenomenal audio and video presentation and a nice set of supplemental material. Cult collectors are recommended to add this to their library.
Outside the ravaging circles of deeply-committed horror-hounds, Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell remains a criminally underrated horror gem. And I'm not referring to audiences simply not being familiar with it or that most have not seen it. Rather, it exists unappreciated, if not altogether dismissed, as a weird, corny attempt at scaring moviegoers. At least, that's been my experience. I think the reason for this is the fact the movie is an intentionally weird, corny attempt at scaring people, and Raimi accomplishes this by also making audiences laugh along with the scares. Unlike other horror comedies which make their comedic intentions clear and obvious, Raimi's humor is amazingly subtle and silly all at once, carefully balancing the two seemingly opposing genres without fully letting one completely take over a scene. With lots of explicitly graphic, vomit-inducing gore, the film is a wacky funhouse foray into Looney Tunes-territory where we're meant to laugh at the disgusting imagery along with the ridiculously over-the-top jump scares.
The famed creator of the Evil Dead series and director of the Spider-Man trilogy tells the spooky tale of young, career-driven Christine cursed by an elderly gypsy woman and haunted by a powerfully malevolent demon. That alone should be enough for a satisfying fright-fest, but Raimi, who co-wrote the script with his older brother and long-time collaborator Ivan Raimi, ingeniously takes the plot in some interesting directions. Much of the story touches on Christine's ordeals and challenges as a modern woman, starting with having to work twice as hard for a job promotion that could potentially go to the underqualified and unexperienced Stu. She is also made to feel undervalued and ashamed for her rural upbringing by her boyfriend's well-to-do, haughty, judgmental mother. But Christine's biggest struggle is her fight with staying thin and to the modern standard of beauty, and the demon is essentially a metaphor for our heroine's eating disorder. Honestly, this horror-comedy gem is an underrated cult masterpiece in need of love and acceptance for exactly what it is.
For a more in-depth take on the movie, you can read our review of the 2009 Blu-ray release HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Shout! Factory brings Drag Me to Hell to Blu-ray as a two-disc Collector's Edition package under the distributor's Scream Factory line. The two Region A locked, BD50 discs — one containing the Theatrical Cut and the other, the Unrated Version — are housed inside a normal blue case on opposing panels with brand new reversible cover art and a cardboard slipcover. At startup, the disc goes to an animated menu screen with options along the bottom and music playing in the background. Unfortunately, according to the Shout! Factory website, the exclusive, limited edition poster of the newly commissioned artwork has sold out.
Raimi's stylish horror comedy drags Blu-ray to hell for a second time with a gorgeous 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that is nearly identical to Universal Studios' previous release. However, this new remaster struck from a 2K digital intermediate (IMDb reports the original 35mm source was actually mastered to a 4K DI) still shows enough minor improvements to tempt fans for another séance.
Definition and resolution remain the same, exposing every nook and cranny of Christine's house. The tiny figurines decorating the background, along with the pictures and posters hanging on the walls, are plain to see, and viewers can clearly make out every scratch, dent and rust stain on Ganush's beat-up, yellow 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88. True to Peter Deming's cinematography, the HD presentation also displays excellent contrast balance with sparkling bright whites throughout, giving the horror flick an ironically quirky and joyously upbeat feel. On the other hand, a couple of the brightest moments, such as scenes with fire or flashes of lightning, run noticeably hot and wash away the finer details within those spots. But this is also present in the first BD from ten years ago and ultimately, a tiny complaint in an otherwise excellent picture.
Putting that aside, fans will note the improved brightness levels, providing the 2.40:1 image with superb, inky-rich blacks and an appreciable cinematic quality. There are beautifully distinct differences between the various shades in the clothing, hair and the many nighttime sequences while deep, opulent shadows penetrate deep into the screen, giving the frame a lovely three-dimensional feel, without every sacrificing the smallest detail or object in the background. The film's vibrant, colorful palette adds a vivacious and energetic atmosphere to the scares, delivering a cartoonish array of primaries and a full-bodied, warm collection of secondary hues that further add to the film's balance of horror and laugh-out-loud gross-out gags.
The powerful Lamia makes its shrieking presence known once more with a terrifyingly loud DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that, for all intents and purposes, appears to be identical to the previous Blu-ray release. Listening to the movie nearly ten years later, I admire how well it holds up, especially compared to more recent releases, using the entire soundscape effectively and reserving the surrounds for specific, tension-laden sequences. One favorite moment is Christine's first encounter with the demon at her house, and spine-chilling noises discretely and flawlessly pan across the channels with superb directionality, generating a convincingly creepy and immersive soundfield. These same moments come alive when applying the receivers' Dolby Surround or DTS: Neural:X up-mixing functionality, effortlessly spreading many of those atmospherics into the overheads. Amid all the high-pitched chaos, the mid-range remains impressively clean with astonishing clarity and distinction within the higher frequencies while a robust low-end provides a powerfully commanding presence.
For a more in-depth take on the audio quality, you can read our review of the 2009 Blu-ray release HERE.
Production Diaries (HD, 35 min): Same collection of BTS footage and various cast & crew interviews talking about different aspects of the production, performances and special effects, and the whole thing is hosted by Justin Long.
Vintage Interviews (SD, 34 min): Collected from the discussions during the film's promotion.
Trailers (SD): Original theatrical preview is joined by a TV spot.
Hitting all the Right Notes (HD, 17 min): Film composer Christopher Young talks openly about his admiration for Sam Raimi and his creative process for creating the score.
Curses! (HD, 16 min): Lorna Raver, who played the creepy gypsy Mrs. Sylvia Ganush, is given a few minutes to share her memories, the character and her preparation for the role.
To Hell and Back (HD, 13 min): Brand-new interview with star Alison Lohman where she spends most of the time reminiscing on the production and showers Raimi with praises.
Still Gallery (HD)
Much like the heroine confronting her demons, Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell remains a largely misunderstood, undervalued and unappreciated horror-comedy gem by most mainstream moviegoers. However, I would argue this hilariously gory fright-fest brilliantly balances the creative scares with silly cartoonish laughs while also enchanting audiences a cleverly astute plot. The Blu-ray, courtesy of Scream Factory!, haunts home theaters with a fantastic picture quality and an even better, reference-quality audio presentation. With a small collection of new bonus material, the overall package is recommended.