Page last updated at 08:27 GMT, Wednesday, 27 May 2009 09:27 UK

Raimi returns to his horror roots

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Spider-Man director Sam Raimi explains why he returned to his horror roots to make grisly new film Drag Me to Hell.

Lorna Raver attacks Alison Lohman in Drag Me to Hell
Lohman (left) plays a banker hounded for turning down a loan extension

These days, most people know US filmmaker Sam Raimi as the man responsible for bringing comic book icon Spider-Man back to the big screen.

Starring Tobey Maguire as the masked superhero, the three pictures in this blockbuster franchise have made almost $2.5bn (£1.5bn) around the world.

Before signing up to this box-office behemoth, though, Michigan-born Raimi was better known as the man responsible for gory 1981 horror film The Evil Dead and its two sequels.

Full of gruesome creatures and outrageous make-up effects, the films were cult hits that made an unlikely star of square-jawed leading man Bruce Campbell.

This week sees Raimi return to the genre in which he made his name with supernatural horror Drag Me to Hell.

Released in the UK on 27 May, the film tells of an ambitious bank employee, played by Alison Lohman, with just three days to rid herself of a lethal curse.

The original Evil Dead was notoriously dubbed a "video nasty" in the UK and denied a certificate for home viewing for 15 years.

Drag Me to Hell has received a warmer reception, though, arriving in the UK off the back of a gala screening at this year's Cannes Film Festival.


Speaking on Monday during a brief stopover in central London, Raimi admits it was "a surprise and an honour" to be invited to screen his film on the Croisette.

Sam Raimi (left) with actors Dileep Rao and Alison Lohman
Drag Me to Hell received a special out-of-competition screening in Cannes

"I never knew Cannes would have a film like Drag Me to Hell in their very prestigious world," he tells the BBC News website.

"What was most surprising was seeing the audience not hold the film in disdain, but really go to the cinema and try and love it.

"That was great," he continues. "It reminded me Cannes is really just a place for cinema lovers."

A strong stomach is the minimum requirement for seeing his latest effort, which sees Lohman's character face a variety of repugnant ordeals.

In one scene she suffers a spectacularly effusive nosebleed, while in another her face is vomited upon by a ghostly old crone.

Behind the bodily fluids, however, lies what Raimi - who wrote the film with his brother Ivan - describes as "a morality tale about a woman who makes a sin of greed and ends up paying the price for it".

"My brother and I have always been aware of the dangers of greed," he elaborates. "We're fascinated by how it can corrupt individuals."

Some critics have noticed that the story's catalyst - an old woman being evicted from her home - seems particularly apposite given the current economic slowdown.

'Evil eye'

The topicality is coincidental, claims Raimi, though he admits he and his sibling may have been subliminally influenced by the global uncertainty.

Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 2
Raimi is best known for his work on the blockbuster Spider-Man trilogy

"I think any story written by a writer comes out of them being part of a culture and being aware of what's around them," he concedes.

However, the director is less willing to accept that the embittered Mrs Ganush, played by Lorna Raver, reinforces negative depictions of Eastern Europeans and Roma minorities.

The character, he explains, was based on an aunt of his from Lithuania who, he was told as a child, would put the "evil eye" on him if he misbehaved.

"That's some of my history so it's a self-referential moment for me," he says, adding that he is "not too worried" how the character is perceived.

Besides, he continues, Mrs Ganush is not really the villain of the piece but "a victim of this other woman's greed".

"I think it's cute little Alison Lohman who is really the source of evil in this picture," he explains.

"Although she's presented in a lovely light, she is the one with the corrupt soul."

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