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Drag Me to Hell Director Sam Raimi on the Stapler Scene That Was Too Hot for the MPAA

After seventeen years away from horror films — and a decade spent helming $200 million Spider-Man movies — the director of The Evil Dead returns to the genre with Drag Me to Hell. Alison Lohman stars as Christine, a loan officer whose refusal to grant an elderly woman a mortgage extension makes her (naturally) the target of a hell-dwelling demon. Raimi spoke with Vulture about the film’s rating and dragging Lohman through hell.

You and your brother wrote the screenplay years ago, but the plot is certainly timely.
It’s just a coincidence. It wasn’t written to reflect anything about our society or to paint banks as villains. It’s a simple morality tale about a good woman, Christine, who makes a choice of greed, then hides behind the rules of the bank to avoid coming to terms with the sin she’s committed.

There’s not much blood in the movie. Is phlegm your new preferred bodily fluid?
Phlegm is probably the smallest amount of any substance we used. There’s a nosebleed, there’s a few gallons of embalming fluid that pour out of the old woman’s mouth. She slimes [Lohman] with her saliva. And, yes, there is a little phlegm coughed up.

Fans of the Evil Dead movies might be put off by the PG-13 rating. Why didn’t you just shoot an R?
Because those are just letters that people have prejudices about. It’s not about the rating; it’s about the intent of the film. If people want to see a blood-and-guts picture, this will not satisfy them and they should see an R. In fact, why not an X-rated or unrated film? R is for wussies if you’re talking about blood and guts.

Did you cut anything to get the rating?
In one scene, Christine uses a stapler to defend herself. We had to cut out one of the staples she delivers to the old lady. Also, we had to cut down a scene where the woman bites Christine without her dentures. Why gumming would be R-rated, I don’t know.

Alison Lohman goes through quite a lot in this movie. Did she ever complain? Not once. She has a real can-do attitude. I had to tell her, “Please don’t do this.” And Lorna Raver, the actress who plays the old woman — she just blew me away with the reality of her performance. I had warned her it was a very physical role with fight scenes and sixteen-hour shoots — on and on I went, but she was game for it.

I was surprised at how loud this movie was …
Well, we were going for louder. This is a real spook-house picture, not some artistic experience. It’s designed to assault you — it’s supposed to be played like rock and roll.

How far along is Spider-Man 4?
The writer, David Lindsay-Abaire [Pulitzer Prize winner for the play Rabbit Hole], will be done in about four weeks. I’ve started some simple illustrations, but I’m waiting for him.

Drag Me to Hell Director Sam Raimi on the Stapler Scene That Was Too Hot for the MPAA