Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, Adriana Barraza, David Paymer
Sam Raimi is known for two things: Spider-Man and the Evil Dead movies. Long before he brought Spidey to the silver screen, the Evil Dead was Raimi's groundbreaking work, presenting classic horror and terror to film. Now he's going back to his roots, so to speak.
Drag Me To Hell introduces us to Christine Brown, a young woman who works as a loan officer at the bank. She's bright, pretty and has a loving boyfriend, Clay. One day, she meets an old woman, Mrs Ganush, who wishes to extend her loan on her house. In an attempt to impress her boss, Christine turns the woman down.
Unfortunately, this turns out to be a huge mistake on Christine's part, as Mrs Ganush is a gypsy, and she didn't take that kindly. She attacks Christine later that night and subsequently puts a curse on her. After consulting a fortune teller, Christine learns that she has been given the curse of Lamia, where in 3 days the evil spirit of Lamia will come for her and drag her to hell, literally. Thus begins Christine's journey into terror, as she experiences nightmares, hears unsettling sounds and gets terrorised physically and mentally by things that are there or otherwise. Unable to tolerate it any longer, Christine and the fortune teller, Rham Jas seek out a woman who has battled the Lamia before, for help.
Drag Me To Hell has quite an intriguing plot, the kind that makes you want to root for the protagonist while wanting to see how it plays out to the end. For that, I'll give Sam Raimi and his brother Ivan, who co-wrote the screenplay, credit where it's due. I have to admit, when I got to the end, I was impressed and rather let down at the same time. My latter feeling was because I should have seen that ending coming, and the fact that I didn't was kinda embarassing, but nonetheless it was a nice touch.
Alison Lohman plays Christine with a very sweet like demeanour, and it's refreshing, yet at the same time I kept wondering if this character truly exists in our world. I observed Christine to be someone who is exceptionally brave, even though she is obviously afraid. Why? Because despite being terrorised by evil forces beyond her control, Christine never once has a nervous breakdown. She gets terrifying visions of Mrs Ganush, gets thrown around the room at one point and gets a serious nosebleed at work, and she doesn't cry profusely or show signs of emotional stress? She sure is tough. The fact that we see her eating ice cream after a failed attempt at getting help for her condition only reinforces the idea, and it kinda makes it funny when it shouldn't.
Justin Long succeeds in playing it serious as Christine's boyfriend, Clay. You probably wouldn't have been able to imagine someone from a Ben Stiller film being the straight guy here, but Long pulls it off well. Lorna Raver is perfect as the scary Mrs Ganush, but here's where I have to knock Raimi a bit regarding her character. How in God's name can she be so strong? Despite being old, Mrs Ganush is capable of wrestling with Christine and taking a great amount of punishment while she's at it. I mean, I know we ought to suspend some disbelief since it's a horror film, but this is ridiculous.
As for the scare tactics, the usual ones are here. Loud sounds, check. Dark shadows, check. Nightmare sequences, check. And Raimi brings some other things to the table: squeamishness. He makes Mrs Ganush a disgusting person to look at, with the yucky looking dentures and spitting into her hankey act. Then there's a scene where maggots get vomited onto poor Christine's face, and one where an entire hand is shoved into her mouth. What the hell is up with that? (no pun intended) These scenes, meant to make us go "Ewwww" only irked me because I sure didn't see the point of having them. This isn't scary, it only makes me feel annoyed. Annoyed that I had to put up with something so juvenile. Maybe it would work back in the Evil Dead, but not now. These unwanted aspects kinda reminded me of Spider-Man 3, where Raimi goes overboard in presentation.
As a whole, this is a valiant attempt at making a good horror picture. Not perfect by a mile, but worth watching at least once. (3.5/5)