Drag Me to Hell (2009)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2009-05-31 14:43
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Written by: Sam Raimi and Ivan Raimi
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, and Lorna Raver


Reviewed by: Brett G.






"Even nice people can go to hell."


Despite having gained international fame and recognition by directing the three Spider-Man films, it would seem that Sam Raimi hasn't forgotten the genre that launched his Hollywood career in the first place. Horror fans have been familiar with Raimi since he directed the first two Evil Dead films while directing other such cult hits such as Darkman and Crimewave before completing the Evil Dead trilogy with Army of Darkness in 1993. Since then, his psychological thriller The Gift has been the closest he's come to returning to his roots before the release of Drag Me to Hell, a film that promises old-school, classic Raimi thrills and chills.

Christine Brown's life is on the upswing--she's got a loving boyfriend and a steady loan officer job where she's up for a promotion. To receive this promotion, Christine needs to exhibit her ability to make tough decisions, and such an opportunity presents itself when an elderly woman, Mrs. Ganush, arrives asking for a third extension on a payment. Christine reluctantly refuses the extension, which causes Mrs. Ganush to become quite violent, which results in security officers removing her from the premises. Later that evening, Ganush assaults Christine in a parking garage and curses her with a Lamia demon who will torment Christine for three days before literally dragging her to hell unless Christine can reverse the curse.

What ensues is a film that's obviously thin on plot with the exception of a few twists and turns along the way, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing because simplicity can often be a strength with horror. Indeed, it's actually reminiscent of the first two Evil Dead films in that a bulk of the running time is dedicated to the demon subjecting Christine to various psychological and physical torments. Along the way, Christine is helped by both her boyfriend (Justin Long) and a psychic (Dileep Rao), but the story is all her's, as evidenced by the fact that she appears in nearly every scene in the film. This means that the entire film arguably rests on strength of Lohman's performance, which is fantastic in that it's believable and generates a fair amount of sympathy for the character of Christine. The supporting cast (especially Long) is also very strong, particularly Lorna Raver's portrayal of the aforementioned Mrs. Ganush.

Of course, one doesn't watch this kind of film for the intricate character dynamics or the drama between them, as the main event of a Sam Raimi horror film is the thrills and splatter, both of which are delivered adequately. As far as thrills go, there's quite a few suspenseful sequences and chair jumpers that will have audience-goers leaping from their seats as the Lamia demon haunts Christine. There's even a few Evil Dead-style sequences that involve unseen laughing demons hurling objects and taunting Christine. The film also includes a couple of very intense sequences, such as the showdown between Christine and Mrs. Ganush in the parking garage, and a sequence where the Lamia is summoned during a sťance.

As for the splatter element: don't let the PG-13 rating fool you, as Raimi opts for more gross-out style horror than straight up grue. Indeed, there are sequences that include Christine having a nosebleed that erupts like a geyser and covers her boss in blood, bodily fluids spilling from a corpse, and an eyeball appearing in Christine's food. It's not exactly the visceral tour-de-force that the Evil Dead films are, but Drag Me to Helll is a fairly gross film at times. That said, Raimi plays it off tongue in cheek for the most part, as the film is infused with the "splat-stick" humor that he pioneered in the Evil Dead films.

As a result, I don't think audiences are going to be left as horrified by the film as much as they're left humored by it, and it would seem that this was Raimi's aim: to produce a kick-ass, no frills thrill ride, and he succeeds in spades. I would best describe the film as Evil Dead in suburbia, only this time Raimi's obviously working with a much better budget that results in a more slick film. However, all of the Raimi trademarks are here: the aforementioned splatter humor, "Raimi-cam," witty dialogue, ridiculous, over-the-top conceits, and, yes, the car makes an appearance. The only thing that's unfortunately missing is the presence of a certain prominent chin. Besides this, the film's only major weakness is a fairly predictable twist towards the end, but this doesn't ruin the preceding 90 minutes of the film.

To put it quite simply, Drag Me to Hell is a mach welcomed return by Raimi to the horror genre, and I think I can safely place it among the best this decade has had to offer thus far. With Raimi heading off to film the fourth installment of the Spider-Man series, it's not likely that genre fans will see more from him in a while (and, if it does happen, one can only hope that it will be in the form of the long-awaited Evil Dead 4). In a decade where the genre has been dominated by grim, grue-filled exercises in violence, Drag Me to Hell is a throwback to the genre's more fun thrill-rides. Horror fans everywhere should strap in for this roller-coaster ride--being dragged to hell has never been so much fun. Buy it!



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