Monday, June 1, 2009

Drag Me To Hell

This last Sunday I saw this along with the new Terminator at the Sci Fi Academy double bill over at USC.

Very much like Sam Raimi’s first couple of Evil Dead films, it features a protagonist being tormented by demonic spirits. But even more so than those previous films, this movie will have you reflecting on your Call of Cthulhu games of the past. At least, it had me reflecting.

One of the main themes in my games was the “slow burn” of encountering the supernatural in some unexpected and casual way, then those supernatural forces coming in ever increasing and material ways to torment characters to the point of them having to eventually take drastic steps to prepare for the evil “things” inevitable appearance.

I usually referred to this affect, in game and without, as “The Call,” as from The Call of Cthulhu. To encounter forces dealing with any sort of evil demonic or godlike being is to be forever hearing “The Call.” You will always be a magnet for the weird and otherworldly. It is the destiny of those who encounter evil forces to carry these forces with them till the end of their days (which is probably sooner than later).

I like to have those Lovecraft entities who didn’t give a rats ass about mankind, but I also liked to combine that with classic ancient evil that tends to swim around the borders of mankind’s perceptions. Just call me a “Lovecraftian StephenKingian”. I always thought of my game world as having room for both cosmic alien entities, and evil of a biblical nature. And of course, neither of these forces are necessarily mutually exclusive. The supernatural and super-science are two great tastes that can taste great together.

These evil forces will manifest themselves at first in minor ways. Perhaps the character will hear footsteps in otherwise unoccupied parts of the house at night, or awaken from twisted dreams of doom only to briefly glimpse a skeletal face at the darkened bedroom window. Eventually these pesky hauntings will even come at them in the hustle and bustle of day time life, such as when I had a character sitting in a busy 20’s diner seeing little tentacles and portents of doom in a swirling cup of coffee.

By the time the character is facing more dangerous and violent encounters with corporeal entities, they have been softened up and tenderized by the hauntings, having already lost a decent percentage of sanity before ever actually being in the full presence of horror. Some characters at this point are being role-played as frazzled and desperate. Others, usually military men or big game hunter types, will be seething with a mixture fear and anger at being jerked around by forces they cannot comprehend.

Drag Me To Hell is that kind of horror experience. A young bank exec denies a particularly disgusting old gypsy woman a loan, and ends up cursed by the devil known as The Lamia. The goat God manifests as threatening wind and shadows on the first night, semi-visible and violent abuser on the second night, and on the third night appears as giant clawed hands reaching up through a fiery hole in the ground to grab you and take your soul down to hell for all manner of horrible experiences.

Although I really would have preferred to see good old Bruce Campbell cracking wise-ass and making with the whup-ass on the demons, I found this film to be a pretty entertaining ride and a viable addition to the Evil Dead universe. Check it out, you may just find some inspiration for a new Call of Cthulhu campaign. It sure has me wanting to start up a new one! I just love tormenting player characters!


  1. Let me know if you get that CoC game off the ground. ;)

  2. a viable addition to the Evil Dead universeIs it actually set in the same continuity then?

  3. Kelvin: There is no mention of Ash or the Book of The Dead (I think), but I am pretty sure the term "evil dead" gets used at least once.

    I myself just assume that an artists (writer, director) future work is set in the same universe unless stated otherwise. As far as I am concerned Spider-Man exists in the Evil Dead universe. Also, people possessed by demons act just like they do in the Evil Dead movies (floating, twitching, deep voice, two-fisted) Either way, I think this is the closest to an Evil Dead sequel we are going to get. Bruce Campbell is starting to seriously show his age (c'mon, we need a youngish Ash), and Sam Raimi is now obligated to two more Spider-Man films.

    What I am really waiting for is a Darkman sequel. Now that Liam Neeson is doing more comic booky, less Schindler-serious films, he might just be up for it (or at least lend his voice).