Sam Raimi's relationship with Hollywood has always been iffy. Two of the director's first, independent films—The Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II (1987) are still some of his best. They don't skimp on references to classic Hollywood productions, but they also feel like the low-budget schlock-fests that they are.
However rough, those fantastic Evil Dead films demonstrated Raimi's relentless creativity, and soon e nough, he found himself directing a Hollywood-financed picture: 1990's misguided Darkman paired a crazy cast (Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand) with a stupid story, resulting in an unmemorable fizzle. Going back to what he knew, Raimi made Army of Darkness (1992), which is still his best film—a near-perfect action-adventure-comedy, with a healthy dose of goofy horror.
But then Raimi quit horror altogether, instead mainstreaming it as a working Hollywood director, making some good movies (1998's chilly thriller A Simple Plan, 2000's The Gift) and some crappy ones (1995's messy western The Quick and the Dead, 1999's For the Love of the Game, which was originally titled Jesus Christ Another Fucking Kevin Costner Baseball Movie You've Gotta Be Fucking Kidding Me).
But then—and nobody's quite sure how this happened, but it did—Raimi snagged the job to direct Spider-Man (2002), a ludicrously successful comic book movie that he only improved upon with the excellent Spider-Man 2 (2004). But by the time 2007's weary, bloated Spider-Man 3 rolled around, Raimi found himself once again flummoxed by Hollywood: "They really gave me a tremendous amount of control on the first two films," he confessed to Empire. "But then there were different opinions on the third film and I didn't really have creative control."
So once again, Raimi's retreated to what he knows: Drag Me to Hell (see review, this page) is the first honest-to-god horror flick he's directed in over 20 years. Compared to the massive spider-films, Hell is a tiny, low-budget genre flick, and one Raimi seems genuinely excited about. ("I love it when at a horror movie you can sense the audience bonding together," he geeked out to the New York Times earlier this week.) Here's hoping Raimi's return to the genre he knows best doesn't disappoint—and that he'll be able to retain his creative control for his next movie, 2011's Spider-Man 4.