Drag Me To Hell
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, David Paymer
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of horror violence, terror, disturbing images and language.
Parental Notes: This is not for kids who can’t handle scary movies. There’s plenty of disgusting and startling stuff here, monsters and demons and all of that. Teens may enjoy it, but youngsters prone to nightmares should be kept home.
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Sam Raimi is probably best known for his work on the “Spider-Man” and “Evil Dead” franchises. His latest film, “Drag Me To Hell,” is very much in the latter vein. It’s a throwback to old-fashioned horror movies, full of sudden noises and scary visuals to make you jump, disgusting images, and lots of dark humor. Is it cheesy? Yes. Is it predictable? Yes. Is it worth seeing if you’re a horror fan? Yes!
Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is a sweet but ambitious young woman. She moved from the family farm to the big city, is dating a professor, and is working at a bank, where she’s got her heart set on the Assistant Manager position. Her manager is dithering between her and her nasty new coworker, so when he tells her that she needs to be able to make the tough decisions, she takes him seriously. Unfortunately for her, this leads to her turning down an old gypsy woman for an extension on her mortgage payment — and any horror afficionado knows that you don’t mess with old gypsy women. Christine winds up cursed: for three days, an evil spirit known as the Lamia will torment her, and then it will drag her to hell to be tortured for all eternity.
Christine’s torments are filled with Raimi’s trademark gross-out humor, from a high-pressure nosebleed to what may be the most disgusting hand-to-hand fight this reviewer has ever seen. This isn’t a torture-porn horror film in the style of “Saw” or “Hostel;” the scares are a mix of sudden shocks and utterly disgusting moments. We’re never in doubt that bad things are about to happen. The question is just how bad they’ll be. Raimi’s sense of timing and scale is so good that even when it’s clear the sudden, jump-inducing moments are coming, they’re still effective.
Sure, the final plot point is telegraphed so broadly that it’s impossible to miss: that’s part of the charm of this sort of film. When you sit down to your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant, there are no surprises in store (you hope!). You know what you’re about to get, and you’re glad of it. “Drag Me To Hell” is that, in horror movie form. Thoroughly predictable and a lot of fun. Being able to see the drops and curves coming up on the roller coaster track doesn’t make the ride any less exciting.
The special effects are for the most part excellent, and CGI is used sparingly and effectively. There’s a talking goat that manages to be at once hilarious and very creepy, and plenty of body fluids, creepy-crawlies, and combinations thereof to go around, not to mention plenty of prosthetic makeup and some very old-school shadow, wind, and wire work which is pleasantly effective. As much as Raimi clearly delights in over-the-top stuff, he’s not afraid to go subtle too.
Fans of torture porn horror shouldn’t waste their time, and folks not into the blend of horror and comedy that is Sam Raimi’s specialty should likewise stay away. But if you’re the kind of person who’s seen “Evil Dead II” a hundred times, you must not miss “Drag Me To Hell.”