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Drag Me To Hell – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

It’s hard to believe its almost been ten years since director Sam Raimi returned to his horror roots following an incredibly successful run directing three Spider-Man films. He did so in the form of the 2009 film, Drag Me To Hell. It was more than a return to form though, it truly brought back many of the things we loved about his Evil Dead trilogy that laid dormant almost twenty years prior. While it didn’t catch the world on fire in the summer of 2009, the film opened to rave reviews and took in a solid box office haul.  And now its getting a suped up edition from Scream Factory, which feels kinda crazy but it is almost ten years old already. But, hell, I’m down for it. Hopefully, you will be too when it arrives on February 13th, just in time for that Valentine’s Day watch!

Film 

Christine Brown is on her way to having it all: a devoted boyfriend, a hard-earned job promotion, and a bright future. But when she has to make a tough decision that evicts an elderly woman from her house, Christine becomes the victim of an evil curse. Now she has only three days to dissuade a dark spirit from stealing her soul before she is dragged to hell for an eternity of unthinkable torment.

At the time of its release, this movie was the closest thing I ever thought I’d get to another Evil Dead film. It was almost a “cousin” to it, with Raimi’s influence and the overall feel and look of the supernatural in the movie feeling of the same universe as the Ash Williams series. Little did I know that 4 years later we’d get a remake with Raimi’s hand in it that I’d enjoy quite a bit. I thought THAT would be it. AND NOW, we are about to indulge ourselves in third season of Ash Vs The Evil Dead, continuing on the story that I thought I’d never see continuing. Even with all those Raimi horror dreams come true, Drag Me To Hell still rocks and feels at one with them.

Sam Raimi only directed one film after this (The better left not talked about or remembered Oz The Great and Powerful), and going back here for this viewing make me really miss the guy’s genre crafting. There’s a skill and balance here that few get and really only Raimi truly masters. His movement of camera and putting his leads through hell for our enjoyment all end up working like gangbusters time in and time out. The man blends horror and slapstick comedy (Three Stooges inspired) like no one else. He will make pain look funny or a comedy bump hurt as well as gross you out but also have your guts busting with laughter as you are disgusted.

One little bit of time capsuling here, now almost ten years later, are the film’s leads. Alison Lohman, in particular, how she never flew off into megastardom and was in everything is beyond me. Through four films I’ve admired her in Matchstick Men (One of my favorite Ridley Scott films), Big Fish, Beowulf and Drag Me To Hell, she’s shown a tremendous amount of range and is game for any role she takes on. She is put through the Bruce Campbell wringer by Raimi for the movie and she relishes in it like a pro. Justin Long had a period where he was an “it” kind of guy and then didn’t really disappear, just hasn’t been in a ton of high profile projects. Which is a shame, he’s a great addition and enjoyable unique presence in anything he’s in.

Drag Me To Hell still holds up and Raimi showed he can return to the genre that made him famous without any signs of rust. Hell, honestly, he infused it into his Spider-Man films and that’s what make his three have so much more character and flavor than the two that came after it. This movie was a bit overlooked at the time, but I feel has found a nice audience and can still be passed around or introduced to new faces. Oh and if you are a new face, stay away from that Unrated Version. All it does is add some really poorly done CG effects that don’t add anything to the movie at all.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: For this new edition, both cuts of Drag Me To Hell have been taken from an HD master from a 2K digital intermediate.  The previous release was pretty much perfection in terms of video and audio, only needed updated from its old VC-1 codec.  Nonetheless, here we have a new image, plucked from the same 2K DI, and it looks terrific just like before. The image is crisp, sharp and strong with great detail.

Depth:  Solid depth of field here in this image. Characters and objects move quite freely through their environments. Rapid movements and action bits are quite smooth and don’t feature any real distortions.

Black Levels: Blacks are rich and quite deep with really good retention of detail in darkly lit scenes as well as textures on surfaces, clothes and hair.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty strong with good reds and greens. I particularly like the way Alison Lohman’s blonde hair appears in this image.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout the length of the film. Moles, lip textures, sweat, dried dirt/blood, wrinkles and blemishes all show through quite clean and crisp.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: I’m pretty sure this contains the same terrific 5.1 DTS-HD MA track that was included on the original Universal release. Its a loud track and that’s mixed to full on horror effect with a crisp detailed sense of layering to the sound effects. I even messed around with this on my Atmos setting and it totally worked quite well and was plenty of fun. If you have that ability, fear not.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Loud thumps, crashes, crackling earth and more shake your sub to wonderful pounding degrees.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is a well realized track that doesn’t leave the rear speakers hanging out to dry. Every environment gets full realized to unique details coming from the back channels. Movements and the whirlwind horror ones especially get a nice wicked twist and travel around the room. Its quite an awesome experience. There is a moment in the finale where the spirit roams around the curtains in the room and it does a full 360 through the speakers. Its haunting and incredible.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are crisp and clear throughout, no matter the insanity happening onscreen.

Extras 

Drag Me To Hell – Collector’s Edition is a 2-Disc Blu-ray set that contains reversible cover art featuring the original poster. The first disc contains the theatrical cut of the film and disc 2 is the unrated. Disc 1 contains the previously released bonus material and the new interviews are on Disc 2.

Disc 1 – Theatrical Version

Production Diaries (HD, 35:09) –  Hosted by Justin Long. Features behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with co- writer/director Sam Raimi, actors Allison Lohman, Justin Long, David Paymer, Dileep Rao, Lorna Raver, special effects guru Greg Nicotero, director of photography Peter Deming, and more.

Vintage Interviews (SD, 33:37) –  With director Sam Raimi and actors Alison Lohman and Justin Long from their press junkets.
TV Spots (SD, :50)
Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:21)
Disc 2 – Unrated Version
To Hell and Back (HD, 12:36) – An interview with actress Alison Lohman. She talks about how hellish her experience was with gore things changing daily and 15 hour days with only 5 hours between shoots (The kind of treatment we’ve heard Bruce Campbell talk about numerous times). But, she has nothing but praise for Raimi, saying he has a full grasp on the slapstick and how he let her change the lead’s name from Stephanie to Christine on the first day of shooting. She also got shingles following the movie after filming the grave digging scene.
Curses! (HD, 15:58) – An interview with actress Lorna River. She praises Sam Raimi’s understanding of blending horror and comedy with “comic book sensibility”. There’s a lot of her going through her character’s arc and motivations. We also get her detailing the car fight sequence a little bit as well. The film appears to be one that was completely out of her element, but she sounds like she had a lot of fun doing the film and is tickled to be talking about it now.
Hitting All The Right Notes (HD, 17:10) – An interview with composer Christopher Young. He opens discussing how he saw Evil Dead and hoped to work with Sam Raimi one day because they are like thinkers. Young goes over his over the top and tongue in cheek score that came to fruition because he’d scored The Gift and Spider-Man 3. His mission is to get inside the director’s head and see the way he sees the movie and does this by recording their conversation. He gets pretty deep about things with how he scores films, not just this one in particular.
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Still Gallery (HD, 2:11)

Summary 

Drag Me To Hell is an outstanding horror film that features all of Sam Raimi’s strengths on display: the ability to both scare and gross you out so much you can do nothing but laugh. Some are going to be apprehensive about whether or not to pick up this release. I think the video quality is still there and they’ve tossed in a trio of very nice new interviews. Its been a while since this came out or you probably picked it up for nothing more than $5, so if you’re a big fan like me, its a decent double dip. If you’re a so-so person, you’ll probably be happy with what you already have. And if you’ve never owned it, this is the one to have.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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