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Drag Me To Hell - Sam Raimi interview

Drag Me To Hell

Interview by Rob Carnevale

SAM Raimi talks about making his long-awaited return to horror with Drag Me To Hell and why it represented a nice break from the Spider-Man movies.

He also recalls why horror is such a favourite genre, the movie that scared him the most when he was young and why he’s also looking forward to getting back to directing the fourth Spider-Man movie.

Q. Going back to horror and directing Drag Me To Hell must have been a nice departure from making the Spider-Man films for you?
Sam Raimi: Yes it was. It was great to have a small crew and a very intimate cast. It was great having a much smaller schedule too, because after about 80 days on a Spider-Man picture you really get exhausted, so this was a very small schedule and it was great to remember how to make a story in a real concise amount of time.

Q. And where did the story first come from?
Sam Raimi: From a short story that my brother, Ivan, and I had written many years ago…

Q. Why did it take so long to turn into a film?
Sam Raimi: Well, it was never really made to be a screenplay. We weren’t waiting to get it made. It just sat on the shelf as a short story and then a couple of years ago my brother said: “Let’s expand it into a screenplay and we’ll make it for the company that I have, called Ghost House Pictures.” We make a very particularly type of supernatural horror film… not a lot of them but that’s our genre and he felt this would be perfect, I recognised he was right, so we finally had the mechanism to make the picture.

Q. Had you missed the horror genre while you’d been away?
Sam Raimi: I did miss it. I didn’t realise that I missed it until I sat in a screening at the Cannes Film Festival last week and a little bit of the London screening last night [of Drag Me To Hell] and saw how much the audience really responds to a horror picture. It’s thrilling. There’s kind of a great electricity with a crowd that wants to see a horror film. It’s wonderful.

Q. And what do you think of the state of modern horror films at the moment?
Sam Raimi: Well, I haven’t seen a lot of them. I’m a super susceptible person to horror films. They freak me out. So, I’m almost too good an audience – I can’t see one after I’ve seen one for a long time. But I love most horror movies that I go and see. If they’re really intending to scare the audience and aren’t just being made for economic reasons… if there’s real artistry that they’re trying to put into it, and really doing their best to think about the shots, and the effects and to scare me or make me use my imagination, then I love them.

Q. Drag Me To Hell has plenty of jump put of your seat moments. Can you remember the first time a horror film made you jump out of your seat?
Sam Raimi: I think there was a movie called The Screaming Skull and I remember screaming and screaming in the theatre and my mother had to take me out of it.

Q. Was it important to you, therefore, to get as many jumps in Drag Me To Hell as possible?
Sam Raimi: I just wanted to really connect with the audience and give them kind of an electric experience – build suspense, take away suspense, build the suspense higher, give them a scare and put them on a real electric movie experience. That’s all I was thinking about… the audience.

Q. Alison Lohman gives a terrific performance and yet you put her through a lot in terms of covering her in stuff…
Sam Raimi: She had to endure so much. She’s an actress that wants to do a great job. It doesn’t matter how much abuse she has to go through, she gives you everything she can and then asks if you need another take to do it better.

Q. Do you believe in the supernatural?
Sam Raimi: Well, I haven’t had any supernatural experiences myself but I do believe that there’s so many outrageous things in the world that we have no answers for, and I believe that anything is possible.

Q. So nothing strange happened on the set of this film?
Sam Raimi: [Laughs] No, I don’t have any cursed set stories to tell you, sorry. This was really a lucky and wonderful set to be on. The actors brought a really positive energy, I had a great crew with tremendous ideas. They were all trying to top each other and make the movie better and that’s why I went back. I’m a collaborator. I like to take great ideas of my partners and incorporate them into the screenplay and make it into something greater than the writers’ imagined.

Q. Will you be staying in the horror genre, or revisiting it again soon? There’s much talk of another Evil Dead movie…
Sam Raimi: I don’t have any plans for another Evil Dead movie right now. But I love the horror genre and one day I’d love to make another one.

Q. But it’s Spider-Man 4 next… Are you looking forward to getting back to that?
Sam Raimi: Yes I am. I love the character of Peter Parker and I think I’m really looking forward to the collaboration with Tobey Maguire and with my friends at Columbia Pictures. I’ve got a really good team over there that I love working with and it’ll be like coming home.

Q. And what’s your hope for Drag Me To Hell? What would you like audiences to take away from it?
Sam Raimi: Well, my hopes for Drag Me To Hell have already been met by audiences that have seen it. I’m very, very happy with the audience telling me that they’re happy with the film. That’s all I ever wanted… to entertain them – not that that’s a little; it’s a lot. But I wanted to make them jump and feel suspense. I feel from the responses I’ve had so far that they seem to be getting that from the film.

Read our review of Drag Me To Hell