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Sam Raimi's 'Drag Me to Hell' at SXSW: Viewers, and bats, go nuts!

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Dragmetohell_lOn Day 3 of Austin’s SXSW Film Festival, horror fans converged at the beautiful Paramount Theater for the midnight screening of Sam Raimi’s unfinished cut of Drag Me to Hell. Would that I went to every movie with this crowd. People came ready to love. When Ain’t It Cool News’ Harry Knowles, in orange Hawaiian shirt and lime green sneakers, wheeled out onto the stage to introduce Raimi, the audience members took to their feet at the mere mention of the Evil Dead director’s name. In between Spider-Man movies, Raimi had finally found time to return to his roots. Standing ovation. In his brief hello, Raimi came across like an endearing dork in a square black suit. He pratfalled as he walked across the stage, pretended to confuse his prepared speech with an eviction notice from the local Four Seasons Hotel, and then he got his tie purposely jumbled behind his glasses like a blindfold. “Hey, who turned out the lights?” he wondered. It was like watching your favorite uncle at Thanksgiving before he decides he ought to go nap.

As the curtains parted, a couple stray bats swooped circles up in the dimming lights and the crowd geek orgasmed. (Unlucky bats? Yucky promotional stunt?) The movie (in theaters May 29), starring Alison Lohman as a cursed bank loans officer (ha!), was funny and silly and smart and full of genuine screams that ended in happy snorts of disbelief. The delightfully gnarly death match in the parking garage between a crazy-eyed old gypsy and the delightfully cast Lohman should make one of EW’s inevitable future list of best fight scenes. IT WAS AWESOME. Standing ovation. Welcome back, Mr. Raimi.

Who out there is psyched for another Raimi horror film? Is there any way he could fail you? When will an old gypsy ever get to break typecasting and play the lead in a romantic comedy?

addCredit(“Melissa Moseley”)