2009 - 99m.
Drag Me to Hell is the movie Sam Raimi needed to make. A return to his roots after helming the large-scale, high budget Spider-Man movies, the third of which got middling to poor notices, this gives him an opportunity to get back to the freewheeling days of the Evil Dead movies and plays out like the Three Stooges mixed with malicious demons. It has a lot of the same feeling as Evil Dead II even going so far as having a few sly winks at that movie (take the giggling ghost moment, for an example) and made me grin ear-to-ear on more than one occasion thanks to it's over-the-top tone and the fact I felt like I had entered a time machine back to the outrageous horror flicks of the 80's.
Things kick off in 1969 when a desperate Mexican couple take their young son to a medium after he's started hearing voices and seeing nightmarish images. It looks like he's become the recipient of a gypsy curse after stealing some jewellery and is feeling the wrath of a demon determined to, wait for it, drag him to Hell. This leads to an elaborate sequence where furniture is flung, windows rattle, and our youngster is dragged into a fissure in the floor by some clawed hands.
Fast forward to present day where we meet bank loan officer Christine (Alison Lohman) who, according to her manager (David Paymer), is a bit too giving when it comes to granting people money. This doesn't bode well for her chances of being promoted to the vacant assistant manager position, so she decides to get tough with her next customer. In walks the elderly Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) who's trying to get an extension on her mortgage so she doesn't lose her house. She's a pretty miserable sight with her cataracted right eye, dirty dentures, and bad posture but Christine decides to stick to her guns and deny the loan. Bad move.
Mrs. Ganush happens to be a gypsy and, upon feeling shamed after begging and being made a spectacle of, she promises to get Christine back. And boy does she ever as Raimi stages a fast-paced, often hilariously abusive attack scene in an underground parking lot that ends up with Christine being cursed. This leads to scenes of her being harassed by a shadowy, goat-headed figure, things going crazy all around her, and her reacting in such a crazy way that even her boyfriend (Justin Long) begins to question her sanity - which isn't helped by her behaviour during dinner at his parents, one of many slapstick tinged moments that dominate the film's humourous tone.
The rest of the movie has Christine bringing in mystic Rham Jas (Dileep Rao) to help her lift the curse culminating in an exorcism moment in the final third that takes inspiration from Evil Dead II's "Dead by Dawn... Dead by Dawn!" moments and runs with it (including a possessed talking goat that almost steals the show) before heading towards a finale where Lohman's character gets the shit beaten out of her every chance Raimi gets and the twist ending, you should see coming, arrives.
Lohman turns out to be a good choice for the lead morphing her character from timid, to nutty, to badass during the course of the movie while Raver makes quite an impression, with the make-up assistance of Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, as our elderly crone. It just felt like the entire cast bought into Raimi's youthful exuberance and understood what the movie was supposed to be - though I found Long to be a bit stiff in his role.
Drag Me to Hell is like a carnival funhouse. It's more funny than scary and it relies on cheap, loud noise jump scares more than it should, but damn if it isn't a great big ball of fun. It's the kind of goofy, crowd-pleasing horror flick you don't see a whole heck of a lot of lately and brought me back to the first time I laid eyes on Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy. There's just so many visual gags going on here and the script (which Raimi co-wrote with his usual collaborator, and brother, Ivan) has so many winks, in-jokes, and screwball moments packed in the film's ninety-nine-minute runtime that you never get much of a chance (or really care) just how silly everything is. (Chris Hartley, 6/13/09)
Directed By: Sam Raimi.
Written By: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi.
Starring: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao.