by Sam Raimi Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is just around the corner and, in true MCU fashion, we’re still not quite sure what to expect. Yes, we know that Doctor Strange is teaming up with Wanda Maximoff and America Chavez to fight multiversal mayhem and evil versions of himself, but there’s still an MI6-level secret surrounding the summer blockbuster.
But to prepare for Strange’s first direct sequel, you should rewatch one of Raimi’s most underrated and best films: Drag me to hell. It’s arguably the best movie to watch in preparation for Raimi’s superhero movie return, although it’s a less than unorthodox choice.
Released in 2009 and co-written by Raimi, drag me to hell marked the filmmaker’s first total horror project as a director in nearly two decades, and his first non-Spider Man movie from Paramount Gift. After directing three of the biggest films of the 2000s, Raimi naturally wanted to go back, to get back into the workings of the genre storytelling that made him a filmmaker in the first place. So he turned to a story he had crafted with his brother, Ivan: A simple tale of morality hidden within the structure of a terrifying supernatural horror movie, culminating in a punch of a twist ending.
drag me to hellThe premise of is wonderfully simple: Christine (Alison Lohman) wants to prove to her boss that she’s worthy of promotion at the bank where she works, so she shows determination by turning down a poor old woman’s loan extension. (Lorna Raver) who can’t afford to pay her mortgage. The woman panics and places a curse on poor Christine that gives her three days to live. Once that time expires, a demon will arrive to do exactly what the title says. And, in the meantime, otherworldly fears and threats will invade Christine’s worlds and upend her entire existence, one classic Raimi piece at a time.
So you have a countdown, an impending supernatural threat, and all the magical shenanigans that go with it. The scares start early when the old woman invades Christine’s dreams, turning them and her bedroom into nightmares. And, of course, there’s the best (and most memorable) setting of the film: the absolutely delirious fight in the parking lot between Christine and the old woman, the place where the curse originated. It’s great horror movie fun, but apart from the magical element, which makes it a good gateway into a strange doctor film?
Raimi’s films do not exist in a vacuum. He’s a guy who puts everything he learned from the previous project into the next one. In this regard, drag me to hell is full of visual influences and directorial choices that stem from Raimi’s time on the Spider Man trilogy. Raimi’s classic dynamism is there in the camera movements, but it often feels like he layers it even more this time around, especially when we watch Christine in her apartment or at the bank where she works. Raimi doesn’t just follow his moves. He is moving approximately her, pushing with lightning-fast carts and kinetic compositions that maintain the tension by constantly reinforcing the sinister forces at work. Each new hell Christine experiences is one in which the audience is also caught in the middle, as the camera swirls and rushes through her world in a way that depicts the evil that targets her soul.
The same way the visual style is an outgrowth of everything Raimi has worked on before drag me to hell, as does the narration. The filmmaker who broke with the visual and narrative extremes of evil Dead The series has now gone through the family blockbuster process and sees even more appeal in PG-13 genre films than before. drag me to hell becomes a PG-13 experience, removed from the bloody heights of evil Dead, sure, but it retains all of that film’s tonal touches and visual extremes. But it’s a more refined and seasoned Raimi, applying all of his considerable knowledge and talent as a genre filmmaker to a compelling, straightforward tale about a woman on the run from what there is no escaping. .
Whether he’s choreographing a fight scene that takes place mostly in the confines of the front seat of a cramped car, or letting loose with a gross dinner sequence, Raimi pushes the boundaries of the PG-13 rating as close to the R-rated territory as possible, without crossing or compromising its macabre vision. This approach seems to manifest itself somewhat in Multiverse of Madness, judging by some footage glimpsed in trailers. Moreover, Raimi’s approach in hell the fate of its main character, someone forced to face the consequences of their actions in the most supernatural way, is also at stake with Strange in the upcoming sequel.
Beyond all that, however, the thing that makes drag me to hell an interesting conceptual and thematic door for Multiverse of Madness is Raimi’s way of balancing the familiar with the new. There’s a comfort in that familiarity, a feeling that you might think you know where things are going. Then Raimi hits you with a movie dervish, a movie featuring everything from a possessed talking goat to a fight scene that features a ruler and a stapler as its primary weapons. Then there’s the ending, which manages to be both dark and comedic in unexpected Raimi-style.
drag me to hell is a film by Raimi Spider Man influence wanted to exist, and did so by delivering a modern horror classic that is both visually stunning and narratively surprising. It’s a thrilling, uncompromising film, and that’s the kind of energy it feels like it brings to Multiverse of Madness. There are worse things that could happen to the MCU. Raimi injecting him with a heavy dose of whatever he brings to the table is not one of them.
So go look drag me to hellbecause drag me to hell rules.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hits theaters on May 6.