I must admit that I am peeved with some of you. Looking at the weekend numbers for Drag Me To Hell it’s obvious that a lot of people who probably call themselves Sam Raimi fans – and who likely worship in public at the altar of Evil Dead - didn’t show up. The movie’s opening wasn’t disastrous, but it was anemic, and that’s a pity since Drag Me To Hell isn’t just a good movie, it’s a great one. And it’s one that demands to be seen in a packed house, a true audience experience.
But if you don’t see Drag Me To Hell in theaters (and I am going to get so mad when the inevitable posts pop up on our message board with people saying “I missed the film in theaters but caught it on DVD and really liked it!”) you aren’t just robbing yourself of a great time. You might be robbing me of future Sam Raimi spook-a-blasts.
When I sat in on a roundtable with Raimi a couple of weeks ago I watched MSN’s Kim Morgan try to nail the filmmaker down on being an artist, a title that Raimi continued to sidestep. He sees himself as an entertainer, and in fact compared his style to that of a tailor – he shows cuts of his movies to audiences and sees how they respond, and then goes back into editing to trim things or let scenes play out more, depending on what worked and didn’t work. I think he’s being overly modest, but I also think he’s being fairly honest. Sam Raimi’s not making movies to share his personal vision but to entertain audiences.
The Friday numbers for Drag were weaker than I liked, but I assumed Saturday would explode when word of mouth hit the streets. I thought that Friday night shows would have kids walking out of theaters buzzing about the movie on Twitter, telling all their friends how much fun they had. I thought for sure the horror faithful would get over their ridiculous anti-PG-13 thing and come out and realize that Raimi delivered the goods no matter what the MPAA said. But then Saturday went down, and Sunday really dropped.
I think Drag will be profitable in the end – the movie is a small one, after all – but what worries me is that Raimi will look at these numbers and think that audiences just aren’t interested in this kind of a film. And despite having made an almost perfect spook-a-blast picture (a term we scoffed at a year ago but love and embrace today), he’ll pack it in and never make another over the top thrill ride like this.
Am I being too much of a doomsayer? Maybe. Maybe Raimi needs to make a picture like this every couple of years, just to get it out of his system. Maybe he’ll just look at the box office and scale the next one back enough to fit into the parameters he sees being set. Maybe he’ll just say screw it and realize that sometimes a tailor’s best work isn’t the stuff that’s for the masses.
But if he doesn’t make another one like this, if he doesn’t return to the spook-a-blast genre, I’m blaming those of you who stayed home. It’s not too late, though – you can still treat yourself to a great night at the movies and make sure Sam Raimi comes back from blockbusterland to visit once in a while.