Monday, August 17, 2009

Movies: The unacknowledged source for "Drag Me to Hell"?

Over at the regular "Comic Book Legends" column of the Comic Book Resources site, author Brian Cronin takes note of some interesting similarities between the plot of Sam Raimi's much-lauded spookshow thriller Drag Me to Hell and issue 21 of Haunt of Fear.

For those who somehow missed it, Drag Me to Hell tells the story of an ambitious bank officer who denies a gypsy a housing loan. The angry gypsy places a curse upon her: For three days a supernatural beast called a lamia will torment her and, when the three days are up, the beast will drag her soul to hell. She's tormented by this curse and, despite the protests of her well meaning but skeptical fiancée (a psychologist), the cursed clerk visits a mystic. The mystic attempts, with the help of others, to transfer the lamia curse to another victim. However, this transfer ultimately fails and the bank clerk ends up get dragged to hell right as a train was going to run her over.

While missing most of the incidents in Raimi's movie, the 1953 issue of Haunt of Fear features a young woman under a curse of a lamia. She's got the well meaning, but skeptical psychologist fiancée. And a climax involving death-by-train.

Here's the Haunt of Fear story (to to embiggen):

So, coincidence? Rip-off? Unacknowledged inspiration?

Cronin is hesitant to pull the "rip-off" trigger. From his column: I think it’s almost certainly just a coincidence. It’s not like the stories are even exactly the same. And it’s not like Al Feldstein invented the Lamia – it’s an established demo from Greek folklore (although it’s a demon that has been used in many different ways over the years). But it’s still interesting!

He also adds the following observation, as if to say that it would actually be fair play to rip-off EC.

It WOULD be pretty funny, though, if EC, which was known for essentially appropriating story ideas from various forms of media (without crediting the swipe) was itself appropriated without credit!

In my opinion, there's more than enough unique material in Raimi's movie to avoid the charge of theft. However, if the old comic did serve as an inspiration, then it seems like giving the source a nod in the credits would be the right thing to do. For all of its original material, the Raimi story isn't so far from the Haunt tale that it's impossible to imagine it being an adaptation. If – and that's still a firm "if" – there was some link, it would be a BS move to not explicitly credit the source.


The Headless Werewolf said...

When I saw the title of your post, I thought for sure it would be about CURSE OF DEMON, from which Raimi borrows considerably, right down to the train station setting for the climax.

Anonymous said...

I had the same thought, but then again Curse/Night of the Demon is based on M.R.James' Casting the runes, so maybe it's just a case of a traditional ghost story variation being used by various guys.

Sasquatchan said...

but I'll bet the comic didn't have the T&A of the movie..

Monster Scholar said...

Quite an interesting find and I agree that even though Raimi might not have stolen it he should give it some credit if it inspired him.