Drag Me to Hell Traditional Effects

The many frights and jumps in Drag Me to Hell are the end product of everything from green screen, puppets and prosthetics to creative man-made props and CGI. Raimi’s imaginative behind-the-scenes team includes alums from his previous films and other artisans well versed in the world of horror and gore.

Traditional Effects

Director of photography Peter Deming, who previously worked with Raimi on Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn and served as DP on the last two Scream films and From Hell, used realistic lighting in his shoots that goes progressively darker as Christine is drawn further into the world of the supernatural.

Says Deming of the process: “We went with a lot of source lighting and didn’t correct the odd lighting sources, like in the garage where everything is blue-green. Normally, you’d put all corrected bulbs in, but we went with what was there, including the shots in the street. We used the streetlight look and mixed that with interior lighting. There were a lot of odd color sources that we chose to leave the way they would be naturally. It’s a heightened sense of realism.”
For the séance scene, which has a richer color palette, the cinematographer used additional lighting effects and camera shakes to increase the feeling of anxiety and tension as the viewer begins to believe Christine has no way out.

Deming also took part in creating the atmospheric elements for scenes involving the Lamia, which included reflecting light against shaking Mylar and capturing the unnatural wind that blew leaves down the street. “Sam loves B-movie stuff,” Deming says of the high-impact elements. “He really embraces the wind out of nowhere and the camera shaking and the inventive, interactive lighting. He eats that up.”

The DP made a concerted effort to adhere to the script’s focus on the audience’s relationship with Christine. “From the beginning, Sam and I talked about being with her as much as we subjectively could throughout the film,” he offers. “We stayed right on Alison’s face a lot of the time. We covered scenes and gave her extra-tight close-ups, because we want the audience to be in her place.”

One of the first projects the special effects teams tackled was deciphering how to shoot Mrs. Ganush’s attack on Christine in Christine’s car. In order to film the action, which includes close-ups of Christine jamming her foot on the pedal, hitting the brake and shifting gears, the team created a puzzle car. Their design allowed for the front engine compartment and back trunk—as well as all four sides and doors—to come away from the car. The roof came off in two directions (front to back and side to side), which—despite the tight space—gave the filmmakers a good deal of freedom to shoot from different angles.

Commends Deming of the design team’s work: “There’s no way we could have shot that scene without that car. During preproduction, we went through every shot and figured out what part of the car had to be off and what part of the car had to be on. They sliced up the car according to those shots, and it worked amazingly well. The car was able to be taken apart and put together very quickly.”

Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, the partners at KNB EFX Group who supervised the special makeup effects, have collaborated with Raimi on several of his films. Nicotero and Berger met the director in 1986 on Evil Dead 2 and also collaborated with him on Army of Darkness. When he learned of the project, Nicotero was happy to hear that the film would be using a great deal of traditional effects. “Visual effects are fun, but there’s just something about a bunch of guys pulling cables and moving a puppet around,” he laughs. “Sam is still enamored with that.”
Unlike with several of his past horror films, Raimi did not want this one to be strictly driven by gore. Of the decision, Raimi explains: “I didn’t want to do exactly the same thing I had done before. This time, I didn’t want to have a lot of blood.”

The special effects teams used a wide array of tricks throughout filming Drag Me to Hell. For example, to create Mrs. Ganush’s malevolent floating handkerchief, the team attached the material by four wires to a fishing pole; with the help of a little wind, they then fluttered it around and flapped it toward the source of the curse.

When shooting the driving sequence in which Christine drives manically across town, the handkerchief traveled at 35 mph. Similar to a kite, it was hung on two wires in the direction the car moved, and the material was turned to move in and out of the car when placed in just the right spot.

To create the wind effects in Christine’s Silver Lake apartment (a sign that the dreaded Lamia is approaching), the team used monofilament to open and close doors and move chandeliers and curtains. The craftspeople ran copper tubing pipes through windows and blew air through them toward venetian blinds and curtains.

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