‘Drag Me to Hell’ *** Movie Review 091909

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The Work = ***
What a fun horror romp 'Drag Me to Hell' is! Filmmaker Sam Raimi seems at home with the material here and despite the PG-13 rating he manages to crank out some scares, some laughs, some “ew gross” moments and a satisfying conclusion. If you are a fan of horror movies with a touch of the goofball humor (like Raimi's great 'Evil Dead 2') then I think you will enjoy 'Drag Me to Hell'. If you don't already have some sort of fondness for the material, you will probably find that the film does little to win you over.

'Drag Me to Hell' follows a one Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) as she struggles with her job and her her boyfriend Clay's (Justin Long) less than thrilled parents. They want Clay to marry someone of status who is from a family with money. Christine is from a relatively poor family from the country and their only status is that of alcoholism. Depending on how much you want to read into things you may say that Christine's downfall is pretending to be something she is not. She lies about herself and her family.

She is struggling to climb the corporate ladder in banking and is more or less told by her boss that only the most cut throat of employees will be promoted. In walks Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver,) an old eccentric lady looking for a loan extension. She is struggling to get a handle on her debt and she looks like someone who has seen better days. Christine is sympathetic to the old woman's plight but her desire for a promotion overrides her sympathy and she denies Mrs. Ganush. The old woman looks like she could be at death’s door and Christine desperately wants the promotions so she stands firm. Mrs. Ganush doesn’t take the news well and at one point she literally begs on her hands and knees. Christine doesn’t give in and she manages to offend the old woman in the process.

Mrs. Ganush doesn’t take the offense lightly and she does more than just yell at Christine. The lady was not as frail as she first seemed and Christine’s world is turned upside down by a horrific curse put on her. Once Christine is cursed, Raimi kicks ‘Drag Me to Hell’ up to speed and the film becomes something of a thrill ride all the way up to the end. If there is a word to describe ‘Drag Me to Hell’ it would be “fun”. At a time when horror films focus on torture and screaming for tension, Raimi bucks the trend and as a result ‘Drag Me to Hell’ is all the more memorable for it.

There was a moment when Raimi’s company Logo materialized into a wavey’ image onscreen at the very start of ‘Drag Me to Hell’. During the logo’s appearance there was a music cue and in that moment I expected to hear the ominous narrator from the start of Raimi’s ‘Evil Dead 2’. The narration didn’t happen and I couldn’t help but feel a sleight disappointment and I felt another one when I realized that ‘Evil Dead’ star and Raimi collaborator Bruce Campbell did not have a cameo in the film. (Supposedly his work schedule on the show ‘Burn Notice’ didn’t allow for it.) For those that don’t know, the ‘Evil Dead’ movies are a series of films that Raimi and Campbell made in the 80s and 90s. The first film in the series was a straight up horror feature and had little humor. The third and last film in the series was largely comedic and had little horror but right smack in the middle of the films was ‘Evil Dead 2’. The feature had just the right mix of horror and comedy. When I was a young teenager, I saw ‘Evil Dead 2’ for the first time and was both amused and horrified. It is funny to admit that I was terrified when I watched it then because it is pretty tame by today’s standards.

Perhaps, it was just that I had never seen anything quite like it when I saw ‘Evil Dead 2’ for the first time I became a lifelong fan of Raimi and Campbell. Over the years Raimi has made many films but was sorely underrated until he found huge success with the ‘Spider-Man’ features he directed. (Sometime if you get the chance check out the great crime drama he directed called ‘A Simple Plan’ a great, great, film.) ‘Drag Me to Hell’ is something of a return to the stylings of ‘Evil Dead 2’ and while the film is not directly related to the ‘Evil Dead’ series it does have that wonderful mix of humor and horror. The script was first written by Raimi and his brother Ivan back when Raimi was working on the third ‘Evil Dead’ film so it is not too surprising that it is reminiscent of the series.

Raimi side steps the torture trend and he also doesn’t overuse ‘jump scares’. For those that may not know, horror films often have sequences that will go from being loud to very quiet, with almost no onscreen noise. Then there will be something, maybe an onscreen killer or maybe just a door slamming shut which will make such a loud noise that it will cause the audience to jump. You get the audience to jump enough and they will be on edge, worried at what might be coming next. The problem is, many films use the “jump scares” over and over and over again. If you sit through more than a few jump scares you may find yourself annoyed instead of scared.

Raimi never overuses the technique and yet still builds tension and suspense. Once Christine is cursed, she started to have horrific visions that get worse and worse. Her boyfriend Clay, is a doctor and needless to say, quite skeptical of the curse and what Christine says she is experiencing. One interesting element of ‘Drag Me to Hell’ is that Christine is not always the most sympathetic character. She makes bad decisions and at times does things that are downright reprehensible. Raimi zigzags back and forth from comedy to horror and poor Alison Lohman is put through a lot as Christine. There may not be buckets of blood in ‘Drag Me to Hell’ but Raimi substitutes slime and other very gross liquids (that more than often end up in poor Lohman’s mouth, my girlfriend and I joked that Raimi must like his ladies to swallow.)

I have been deliberately vague about what exactly the curse entails because the less you know the better. Along the way Christine and Clay enlist the help of a fortune teller (well played by Dileep Rao) as ‘Drag Me to Hell’ becomes a spiritual race against time. The film is more ‘Evil Dead’ and ‘Tales from the Crypt’ than ‘Hostel’ and ‘Friday the 13th’. Watching this makes me second guess my review of the more by the numbers ‘Friday the 13th’ (reviewed HERE.) Even thought the film is PG-13, it manages to be gross, scary and lots of fun. While there is nothing in ‘Drag Me to Hell’ that will win you over if you are skeptical, the film should be entertaining to horror fans or fans of Raimi’s work. Reccomended.


‘Drag Me to Hell’ Links:


My review of Rob Zombie's 'Halloween' remake.

My review of the 'Friday the 13th' remake.


Copyright 2005 - 2012 Nate Bundy. All rights reserved.