Drag Me to Hell
Film review by: Witney Seibold
Sam Raimi returns to the genre that made his name: the vaguely-comic horror flick. Raimi has made some great films (“A Simple Plan,” Spider-Man 2”), some excellent cult movies (The “Evil Dead” movies), some middling Hollywood entertainments (“The Quick and the Dead,” Darkman”), and some real clunkers (“Spider-Man 3”). Despite his reputation as a raucous leader of horror fanboys, largely in part to his work on “The Evil Dead,” Raimi is actually possessed of a wonderfully diverse oeuvre. Which is why it’s all the more thrilling to witness his latest, “Drag Me to Hell,” a film in which he seems to be enthusiastically revealing that he still has a solid interest for, and talent in, making creep flicks quickly and relatively on the cheap.
The story is rather simple: Christine Brown (nearly-30-year-old Alison Lohman, who still looks to be about 15) covets a management position in her floundering bank. She feels she will not get said position unless she toughens up, and begins turning people away when they ask for loans and what not. When an old gypsy woman (yes this movie has an old gypsy woman) appears in her bank, Christine refuses her an extension on her credit. Evidently, being denied a credit extension is impetus enough these days to warrant an old-fashioned gypsy curse. The gypsy (played by Lorna Raver in ghoul makeup, complete with one blind eye and slimy dentures) summons a goat demon to take Christine away, and bodily perform the titular imperative. The film involves Christine avoiding the demon’s attacks, her attempts to explain herself to her bland, neutered cityboy boyfriend (Jusitin Long), and her desperate stabs at foiling the demon with the aid of a fortune teller named Rham Jas (Dileep Rao), not to be confused with Ram Das.
“Drag Me to Hell” is rated PG-13, so it’s not going to be too dark or serious. Indeed, the film is rather light on its feet, and even a bit silly at times (talking goats, and a shocking cameo by a kitten). Raimi can pull out the scares if he wanted to, but he clearly is having a lot more fun with a jocular brand of horror. This does not mean, mind you, that he’s slighting or parodying the material. No, his comic sensibility is actually his way of showing affection. A film is always that much better when you can tell the people involved have a passion for the subject, and Raimi is clearly enjoying himself here.
Lohman, I mentioned, still looks like a teenager, and I think this works in the film’s favor. She can scream like a champ, and looks genuinely out of her depth. If the heroine of this film were a tough badass, I think it would play as a lot less mature; I don’t want kickass action starlet with a curse or her head; there’s no way a badass would die. With Lohman, her fate is always up in the air.
The film’s ending, which I will not reveal, is a bold masterstroke. You may be able to see it coming, but it took boldness to actually make it happen. Good on everyone involved for making it happen.
“Drag Me to Hell” is almost reminiscent of a certain kind of horror film made with prolificacy in the 1980s. Gypsy curses, brave wise non-whites, séances, goat demons, blood sacrifices… I thought all of that went out of style with “The Serpent and the Rainbow.” It’s grand and fun to see it all back in action.
N.B. Lohman gets vomited on not once but four times in the film. The old gypsy woman once unhinges her lower jaw, and begins to violently gum at Lohman’s chin. I know I’m not the only one out there to find these things exhilarating.