Exclusive Interview : Sam Raimi

“I want them to be screaming, but also laughing-out-loud about the absurdity of the situation!, filmmaker Sam Raimi, best known for his work on the ‘’Spider-Man’’ movie series, says of his new film, the horror/comedy ‘’Drag Me to Hell’’.

“A lot of people don’t like it when you mix the genre, but that’s the kind of humour I like to make. I can’t help it. I like to be scared, and to laugh also.”

“Drag”, the tale of a young woman stalked by an evil spirit, sees Raimi return to his roots – as the captain of a bare-bones scarefest. But unlike the director’s breakthrough piece, the cult classic ‘’Evil Dead’’, this one’s played earnestly by its core cast (Alison Lohman and Justin Long) and doesn’t feature that many creatures of the night.

“I tried not to show all those monsters”, Raimi, who also directed the two “Evil Dead” sequels, explains. “I like to make suggestions, and to leave stuff up to the imagination. I like them to fill in the blanks and create the monster. The effectiveness of this film is directly proportional to the audience’s imagination.”

“I loved returning to the genre”, says the filmmaker. “It was like getting back on a bicycle and saying ‘why haven’t I been riding a bike after all these years?’ It was getting back to basics. I love playing games with the audience on films like this. It’s a guessing game – are they going to be thinking there’s something behind that door? Let’s make them think there’s something there, then slowly creep up on whatever that could be, and then really hit them hard! I love playing that game with the audience!”

One of the most memorable moments in the film is a Séance sequence, in which an evil spirit embodies the body of a goat.

“The guys at KNB effects came up with the Goat. It was like a Puppet goat. We had to keep playing back the creature’s lines and [the goat] had to lip-sync to them. And then they had also had a full animatronic goat with levers, and it was on wheels. It worked really well!”

Originally, Raimi never intended to direct ‘’Drag me to Hell’’ – he planned to pass it off to another filmmaker, but couldn’t interest anyone.

“This was a short story that my brother (Ivan) and I had written many years ago. We weren’t even thinking of making it into a movie – we just wrote a 30-page short story one weekend. Then I started my own production company called Ghost House Pictures. My brother said ‘why don’t we adapt the story we wrote into a screenplay, and you can make it for your company?’ So we did that. Then I tried to get another director to direct it – but nobody wanted to; I don’t know whether it was because they didn’t like the script, or what the reason was, but I just couldn’t get anyone interested. Guess it just wasn’t their cup of tea… or cup of blood… or whatever. Anyway, we were then informed that if I direct it, we’d get the financing for it, so I said ‘Okay!’. I’d grown to really love the thing, so I said I’d love to make this picture!”

Raimi, who says “It was refreshing to leave the Spider-Man franchise behind for a while and do something completely new – but familiar at the same time”, wanted to get his old friend Bruce Campbell, who has played a part in nearly every film he’s done, in the movie but it didn’t work out.

“For the first time in his life Bruce is an in-demand actor – at age 50”, laughs Raimi, who also worked on the actor on such films as “Spider-Man” and “The Quick and the Dead”. “He’s on a show called Burn Notice – which is really funny, and he’s great in it – and the week that I wanted to use him, he was busy doing that, so I couldn’t. He was just too in-demand, but we will try and get him in the next – probably Spider-Man 4, I’ll find a part for him.”

“Spider-Man 4” you say, Sam?

‘’I love the character – I love Spider-man, but I really love Peter Parker. I think I can do a good job, if not a better job, than I’ve done before. I really feel like I know the character in a way I haven’t been able to put on film just yet”

Raimi, who requested “a lot of creative control” on the new sequel, says he’s currently “working with the writer and trying to get the script in shape, talking about casting and the visual effects and the story. We start shooting in February next year”.

Before Sony asked for another “Spider-Man”, Raimi was toying with the idea of bringing literary character Jack Ryan back to the big screen.

“I was chasing [that gig] because I love that character so much”, the filmmaker says of the Tom Clancy-created CIA analyst character last seen in 2002’s “The Sum of All Fears”. “I really wanted to treat him seriously and deliver a grade-A Tom Clancy thriller. But then they wanted to make Spider-Man 4, so I couldn’t make it. But I love those movies, I still have [the first films – The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger] on video-tape actually. I loved [Alec] Baldwin and Harrison Ford. Those films are so consistently well-made – I liked them better than some of the James Bond movies.”

But Raimi isn’t fussed, he gets to mess around with his beloved Spider-Man again – and it’s bound to be a big hit – something “Drag me to Hell” sadly wasn’t.

“I never expected it to be a huge hit”, Raimi admits. “None of the films I’ve made, particularly the horror films, have ever appealed to a wide audience – they’re so weird, and out there, that I think they’ve only ever appealed to a very small but dedicated crowd…. A deranged crowd, I will say. It wasn’t until I got the Spider-Man gig that I’d actually made a movie that made money. For twenty-years I did small movies that didn’t make much money – but in fact, I just saw what [Drag me to Hell] has made, and realized it’s made more than any other movie I’ve ever made outside of the Spider-man series, so tell me, that’s a big hit”.

Despite the fact the genre will never be as kind to him as the comic book movie has been, Raimi is still fascinated by horror and is already planning another scarefest – this one based on the legend of the Dibbuk Box, an apparent wine cabinet which is said to cause bad luck and strange phenomena.

“It’s a really great story. We’re trying to find a director right now. We want someone who wants to make something different and unusual and terrifying. If you get on the internet and check out the Dibbuk Box, you’ll come across the most terrifying website – I’m not kidding”.


DRAG ME TO HELL commences Thursday

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