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Drag Me to Hell (2009) ***1/2

July 12, 2009


Drag Me To Hell (2009) poster




written by: Sam Raimi & Ivan Raimi

produced by: Sam Raimi, Grant Curtis & Rob Tapert

directed by: Sam Raimi

Rated PG-13 for sequences of horror violence, terror, disturbing images and language. 99 min.

U.S. release date: May 29, 2009
DVD & Blu-Ray release date: Oct 13, 2009




This title doesn’t play around but director Sam Raimi sure does! If you liked Raimi’s “Evil Dead” films then this one’s for you. Let this serve as a morality tale for all. The next time you think you’re a “good person” trying to slice yourself a sweeter slice of pie, prepare to be tested. That’s right. Be careful what decisions you make. You never know when some decrepit, mucus-coughing, toothless Hungarian gypsy hag will be tapping your desk with her gnarly fingernails, asking for another loan on her home.

That’s what happens to poor Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), a loan officer at a Los Angeles bank, angling for a promotion to assistant manager. Her boss, Mr. Jacks (David Paymer) assures her that, to pull the gig, she has to be able to make “tough decisions.” That’s exactly what she’s faced with ancient Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) begging at desk for an extension. Things spiral downward (yes, I know) when Christine washes her hands of the deal and from there on reaps the mystical whirlwind of a repulsive woman scorned. She winds up haunted by dark spirits for three days, and after that time, well, she will be sucked into that one-way destination. We know where she is going way before she does but it’s a fine ride seeing her kick and scream!  

One of the film’s highlights, is a crazy funny, terrific sequence in a parking garage. It’s just relentlessly Raimi. He just takes inventively constructed scenes and adds his signature angles, trick zooms and shock edits and employs them with such geeky bliss that you can’t help but smile. Sure, it’s predictable but in a time where all horror films are relegated to needless remakes and torture porn, this is like a tall cool one on a sticky-hot summer day. Lohman manages to pull off being utterly sincere and yet kinda in on the joke, without going either way. At times, she really did remind me of a young Jamie Lee Curtis or even a Nancy Allen. She’s sweet but she ain’t takin’ no crap.


Her baby-faced professor boyfriend (Justin Long, and yes there were Macs all over the place) is something of a dweeb, but hey, at least he’s supportive enough to go with her to meet a fortune teller, Rham Jas (Dileep Rao), who tells Christine that she has a dark spirit upon her. Duh. I guess I like the fact that the boyfriend is essentially ineffectual and the female-centric script (both protagonist & antagonist) is refreshing. As the crazy old lady, Raver is both terrifying and disgusting; Raimi gets some cheap laughs out of her false teeth, creepy glass eye, and sickly fluids. I read somewhere that she came to the audition for the role which asked for “a fragile old lady”. Brilliant.

The film comes to a head with the hilariously overblown séance sequence (involving a goat, no less!) that ties into the opening scene. While the last thirty minutes doesn’t deliver on the build from the previous hour, mainly cuz we can see easily thru a plot parlor trick a mile away.

I had hoped that Raimi (along with brother and co-writer Ivan) would have actually want us to go there and then be way ahead of us, but apparently not. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t some good stuff in the third act (a great muddy graveyard scene, for instance, and the ending’s abrupt deliverance), but it’s kinda tainted by a plot device that seems sorta distracting. Bottom line: You know who this movie is for. It’s a giddy, trashy fun ride. I know for certain that some just won’t get it. They’ll think it’s stupid and to that I just shake my head. They don’t understand: It takes a clever man to make a film this stupid. Although he may not be as outspoken as Tarantino, it’s obvious Raimi is intoxicated by movies. He knows films and their history and he often indulges in conventions, playing with them and occasionally turning them on their head. There were several times where I actually jumped in my seat. Not just cuz this is a LOUD movie but simply cuz that’s what Raimi wants out of you. That’s the type of good time he wants to give you.

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