DRAG ME TO HELL (5/29/2009)
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Dileep Rao
My Rating: 8/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 92% Certified Fresh
PLOT: Christine Brown has a good job, a great boyfriend, and a bright future. But in three days, she’s going to hell.
Re-read that plot description above. That’s pretty much the movie in a nutshell. And it was directed by Sam Raimi getting back into his grindhouse-y horror zone after five years of jet-setting with Columbia Pictures and their “Spider-Man” franchise.
In other words, it’s a movie showcasing a director getting back to what he does best. And it is NOTHING if not effective.
Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), a loan officer at a bank, tries to impress her boss by refusing to extend the home loan of an elderly gypsy woman, Sylvia Ganush, who is facing eviction. Later that night, Mrs. Ganush accosts Christine in a parking garage (one of the movie’s many EXCEPTIONALLY effective scare sequences). As revenge for rejecting her loan extension, Mrs. Ganush bestows a curse upon Christine: in three days, a demonic spirit will come for Christine’s soul, and there’s nothing she can do to stop it.
(We have already received a glimpse of what potentially awaits Christine during a horrifying prologue…and it is not good. Helpful Tip for a Longer Life: Never piss off a gypsy.)
“Drag Me to Hell” doesn’t reach the heights of horror films like “The Exorcist” or “The Babadook”, but that’s okay, because it’s not really trying to be “great”. It’s a D-list story filmed by an A-list director. It’s not concerned with the thematic dichotomy of good versus evil, or anything like that. It is simply a delivery device for scares intended to jolt people out of their chairs every 5 or 10 minutes.
And, MAN, does it deliver. There are sequences of poor Christine alone in her house, while something sinister prowls around outside, and eventually gets INTO THE HOUSE…and I haven’t been that scared since I saw John Carpenter’s “Halloween” on VHS for the very first time.
There’s a creepy scene involving a single fly buzzing around Christine’s head while she sleeps, and then it alights on her face and crawls INSIDE HER NOSTRIL and then OUT THE OTHER ONE. But then it moves towards her lips and starts to force its way INTO HER MOUTH…and it just makes your skin crawl in a way that’s hard to describe. Accomplished with no blood or gore, just…eeyuck.
Mrs. Ganush herself makes a few encore appearances, just to keep things interesting, and then there’s a climactic séance at the house of a celebrated medium who once battled this particular evil spirit before. This will certainly go down in movie history as one of the most scary-slash-gonzo séances EVER. Without going into too many details, let me just say this: I could tell you the scene involves, at one point, a talking goat, and you might laugh, because what’s funnier than a talking goat, and it IS funny for the first couple of seconds…but that laughter will fade as soon as you see what happens next. The word “bizarre” was invented for the séance in “Drag Me to Hell.”
And that right there sort of encapsulates the general mood of this movie. In all of his horror films, Sam Raimi’s sense of humor was always evident, most especially in “Evil Dead 2”  and “Army of Darkness” . In returning to the genre that started his career, he retains that gleeful, mischievous tone. As creepily effective as “Drag Me to Hell” is as straight-up horror, it’s also pretty damn funny, even while we’re getting the bejeebers scared out of us. (It’s hard to explain without getting into spoilers, but you’ll see what I mean when you watch it.)
So there you go. It’s a horror movie that will make you laugh and shriek at the same time. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
…but I would advise checking that your doors are locked before starting it.