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Drag Me To Hell (2009) Print E-mail
Sunday, 31 May 2009
ImageSam Raimi wants to scare you again. It's been nine long years since his last horror flick, 2000's The Gift. But while that film went for a brooding, gothic atmosphere wrapped around a murder mystery plot and featuring a cast of Oscar nominees and winners, Drag Me To Hell returns Raimi to the impish stylings of his famous Evil Dead trilogy.
Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is a loan officer at a California bank. She's dating a psychology professor (Justin Long) and aches for a promotion to assistant manager. Her boss (David Paymer) tells her that in order to move up, she's going to need to learn how to make "tough decisions." Thus, when Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver), an old Eastern European woman, shows up and asks for an extension on her mortgage payments, Christine declines to help her. Outraged, Mrs. Ganush attacks Christine and puts a curse on her. For three days Christine will be tormented by a spirit. On the fourth, she will be dragged to hell. Aided by a fortune teller (Dileep Rao), Christine tries everything she can think of to remove the curse. But will it work? And how much is she willing to sacrifice to save her own soul?
Drag Me To Hell is the simplest, most straightforward horror movie I've seen in a long time. And that is a very good thing. This is the first time since 2000 that Raimi hasn't directed a movie with the words Spider-Man in the title, and you can tell that he's delighted to work on less demanding fare. That isn't to say that Raimi is resting on his laurels. Far from it. Right from the beginning, where a Vintage Universal logo gives way to the imposing title card, you can tell that Raimi is reinvigorated by a trip back to the genre that has given him his greatest success. His direction is spot-on throughout the film, with all of his trademark moves and humor.
And this is probably where the Evil Dead comparisons will come from. Yes, like Evil Dead 2, this is a horror comedy, but I think the horror is played just a little straighter than it is in the latter two Evil Dead entries (I would argue that, as great of a film as it is, there's no horror at all in Army of Darkness at all). Alison Lohman does a great job of taking the film's yoke on her shoulders. For one thing, she's as cute as a button (a little inside joke for those who have seen the movie), and unlike some of Raimi's other leading ladies (Kirsten Dunst) really has some acting chops hidden beneath her pretty exterior. In fact, someone said that she may have been cast in this film to prove she could take over the Mary-Jane Watson role in future Spider-Man movies. If that's true, then I would beg Raimi and the studio to make just that adjustment, as Lohman is perfect. But back to Drag Me To Hell! Raimi and his brother Ivan made some interesting character choices when writing Christine. She's put upon at the beginning, but when faced with the curse, does some truly despicable things. She's got more dimension than your typical horror heroine, most of whom are fresh-faced virgins who get thrown into bad situations. Christine ends up where she is because of her own choices (although the consequences are pretty harsh).

The supporting cast is generally good. Lorna Raver is a fantastic villain, really hamming it up. She's also at times reminiscent of the evil female Deadite in Evil Dead 2 (you know, "I'll swallow your soul!") and has a hankerchief that does her bidding, which may be a slight callback to Ash's infected hand. Dileep Rao does a great job as a fortune teller that Christine consults in order to remove the curse. He's believable and empathetic. The one weak spot is Justin Long, whose performance isn't bad, but he's given very little to do. Most of the time it seems like he's there just to drive Christine around in his Prius. I get the feeling that there was more to his character, and that those development scenes got cut in favor of a leaner, tighter film.
The movie does run along at a brisk pace, and the humor mixed with horror keeps things lively. There were a few moments that I could see coming, but they were so well executed that it didn't bother me in the slightest. And the best scenes in the film are up there with Raimi's best work. If nothing else, Drag Me To Hell proves that Raimi's eye for horror is undiminished, and shows that he's still capable of drawing audiences in with a property that doesn't revolve around a superhero. I've been thinking about this movie almost nonstop since  I've seen it. It's great fun. Don't miss it.

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