Written by Staci Layne Wilson
Photographed by Staci Layne Wilson and Enzo Giobbé
Top Photo: is Christine Christian [click to enlarge]
It's got to be cool to be Sam Raimi. But also awkward. I mean, imagine sitting up on a platform stage in front of hundreds of fans whose questions and range from the hoped-for ("Can you tell us about your new movie, Drag Me To Hell?"), to the expected ("When is Evil Dead 4 going to get made?"), to the unanswerable ("Sam, you're a bad motherfucker!").
The bad mo'fo hisself, Sam Raimi
My personal favorite was: "Hi, Sam. My name is Bonnie, and I was a day player in the movie. Am I still in it?" Raimi laughed, asked his editor, who was in the audience, and confirmed, "Of course you are!" I also liked the moment when a female fan shouted, "Do you remember me? We talked at Comic-Con." To which Justin Long, who stars in Drag Me To Hell, quipped, "Remember you? He won't stop talking about you!"
Panel: Sam Raimi, Justin Long, Lorna Raver
Long was on hand for the Drag Me To Hell panel, along with Lorna Raver, who plays a (literally) cursing Gypsy in the movie. The horror flick's main star, Alison Lohman, was unable to attend, but she was very much present in the film clip they showed prior to the Q&A: in it, the poor girl's nostrils are front and center as they become an irresistible entryway for a grotty housefly. The Fangoria Con attendees squirmed, blanched, and laughed.
As Long said, "This movie really is a seamless blend of comedy and horror, and you know, we really are the same kind of geeks. There is no one else who can pull that off the way Sam does. Just to be a part of the return to that form [ala the Evil Dead movies] is an honor."
Raimi added, "People have been asking me, why did you stay away for so long? And doing this movie really reminded me how much I missed working in horror. The audience is just so aware." The filmmaker, who is really best-known by the public at large for his successful Spider-Man blockbusters, said Drag Me To Hell really kept him on his toes as a director, because the horror fans know and anticipate all the set ups, and it is a fine line between fooling them and giving them what they want. "So, it's a lot of fun for the director to be so closely associated with that audience and to counted on to provide so much. In a movie like Drag Me To Hell, a lot of the horror is made by the audience."
Raver's character does a lot of horrible things in the movie, not the least of which is summoning the devil to take care of the loan officer (Lohman) who denied her an extension on her home's mortgage. "I did a lot of reading," Raver said of how she prepared to play the Romany hag. "She comes from an old world culture, and there is the superstition… there were some videos of gypsy families that I watched, which were useful. There's also just the basis that she is an elderly woman who is being kicked out of her home — so that's just basic human emotion. As far what she becomes, well, that's different!" She also worked with a dialect coach to get the Romanian accent down-pat.
As far as being a diviner of the future from the time the Drag Me To Hell script was drafted (cowritten with his brother, Ivan), Raimi said, "That was just a coincidence with the economic downturn we are now experiencing, and us vilifying the banks in this movie. But for our character of the loan officer, we were hoping that she would be likable to the audience in her personality, and in the things that she does every day. She really does try to help, but she commits this sin just this one time, in which she creates this situation where she could hide behind the institution and blame the mortgage payments and say, 'It's not me that's taking your house, it's really the bank.' We wanted this sin to become acceptable to her, and to the audience. We wanted the audience to take this choice with her, this bad choice, so that when this demon came after her in retaliation, they were with her in that moment."
Of course, everyone wanted to know if Raimi's usual cameo kings — his brother Ted, or longtime friend Bruce Campbell — are in Drag Me To Hell. "Ted has one line in this picture," Raimi revealed. "We didn't have time to shoot it as a [visual] scene. We were running behind, and so I had to just stage this one little thing in the hallway — you barely even see him, you just hear him talking outside. I wanted to get Bruce to do something, but he's on that TV show [Burn Notice]."
Raimi also gave some advice to aspiring filmmakers, and talked a little bit about his early inspirations. "I loved John Huston. I especially loved Treasure of the Sierra Madre. I remember watching that, and seeing the part when those friends made a bond and an agreement, and shook hands — Tim Holt and Humphrey Bogart — and the camera slowly moves in on that handshake. That is when I first because aware what a beautiful thing a crafted shot could be. It was a landmark moment that Huston wanted you to remember when later you saw how far the Bogart character would fall. I became a Huston fan and aware of filmmaking in that moment. So, Huston [was an influence], I learned to love Hitchcock, and I was lucky enough to take a course on Fellini once, so love his work, and then Fritz Lang's Metropolis."
After the Q&A, Raimi was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from Fangoria Magazine.
The award looks like it could also be used for clubbing baby seals. Dual purpose!
We caught only one other panel today, which was Grace, an evil baby horror movie directed by Paul Solet. The story follows Madeline (Jordan Ladd), a young woman who insists on carrying her dead baby to term. Following the delivery, the child miraculously returns to life with an appetite for human blood. Back in 2006, when it was just an idea, Solet showed the short film version of Grace at the Fangoria show in Burbank, CA., and walked around with the dead baby prop to help draw attention to his budding project. "The baby was our publicist," joked the director.
Moderator Rob Galuzzo, director Paul Solet, producer Adam Green, and star Jordan Ladd
Adam Green, one of the producers of Grace, and who is best-known to horror fans for his gory comedy, Hatchet, said, "I was there in 2006 promoting Hatchet, and I was outside after my panel signing autographs and a few friends suggested I see this short film, Grace. I was like, 'No.' But then I heard it was about a dead baby, and I was interested. After Hatchet was successful and Anchor Bay asked, 'What else do you want to do?' I said, 'Grace' and so we made this movie."
Solet explained that Grace isn't just another creepy kid movie. "Grace touches on several interesting themes, one of them being the unbreakable bond between mother and child. This is a wonderful playground we have here, in this genre. You're not limited at all. I love a good gut-punch, but with this subject matter you get a good soul-punch as well."
Out: Soul patches. In: Soul punches.
Ladd agreed: "I was going to stay away from horror for awhile because I have done so much in the genre, but the story was just so compelling. Within 15 pages into the script, I was hooked. I was trying to figure out this character, and how to play her. I was really unprepared to go to the places that I ended up having to go in terms of pain, and dealing with those feelings [of a mother]. The preparation was really arduous, but Paul kept me on course and [fortunately] we had a long time to put the pieces of this girl together. So when we walked in to shoot, I was ready to go."
Saturday's panels promise to be even more exciting — we'll bring you news of the Night of the Demons remake, a preview of Hisss, cleverness from Clive Barker, and a look at Laid To Rest.
Today, we talked with horror icons Sybil Danning, Bill Moseley, the original Last House on the Left villains, and up and coming illustrator, Brian Johnson. Be sure and watch the video here [coming soon], and check out our photos of the spooky stars and the cool merch. (For tickets to the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, you may visit the Creation.net website, or buy on-site [cash only]).
Here are a few photos of Friday's festivities.
Robert Kurtzman and the creature from his upcoming movie, Hisss
Last House on the Left stars Marc Sheffler, David Hess, and Fred Lincoln
Sybil Danning and Staci Layne Wilson
The Chrome Skull from Laid to Rest
...and, bears that bleed, babes who bare, & more madness!
Friday Video [link]
Saturday Report [coming soon]
Sunday Report [coming soon]