NOTE: Look out for The Arrow's own review of the film next week!
PLOT: If you're seen the ads, you know the story. Christine Brown (played by an adorable Alison Lohman) is a semi-rising star at a California bank, coveting an assistant manager's position, yet impeded by her inability to, as her boss says, "make the tough decisions". Seeing an opportunity to impress, she denies an old gypsy woman's plea for an extended mortgage on her home. Of course, this is the wrong day to start asserting yourself for Christine, because she's promptly handed a death sentence by the batty old bird - a death to be ushered in by a frightening, goat-like demon called the Lamia. End plot, begin roller coaster
REVIEW: Sam Raimi's DRAG ME TO HELL isn't necessarily what his biggest fans want from his long-awaited return to horror. It doesn't have buckets of blood, entrails aren't flying everywhere, and there isn't a chainsaw to be found - even when the movie takes a brief detour into a tool shed. It's rated PG-13, which of course is usually code for "pansy shit" in a hardcore horror fan's world. Plus, Mr. Raimi has been off directing a trilogy of very successful movies about a dorky spandex-wearing freak for some time, so naturally it's a concern that all of that blockbustering has taken over Raimi's soul like so many Candarian demons...
Thankfully, it turns out that DRAG ME TO HELL is about as satisfying as a Hollywood horror effort from a post-SPIDERMAN Sam Raimi can possibly be. The plot is as thin as a nail file - just a clothesline on which to hang countless unsubtle "BOO!" shocks and creaky-hallway scenes. And there are grotesqueries to be found here, my friends. If you've ever wanted to witness - up close - the vile ooze that resides within a decrepit old lady's mouth spill and drip across the big screen, then you have found your movie.
Raimi shamelessly uses every trick in the book to evoke yelps from the audience, from the patented false scare to the "it was only a dream- oh shit it's STILL a dream!" sequence. He's aided in his mischievousness by a technical team that's aces, especially the sound effects crew, who bombard you with so many jolts, bangs, and shrieks that you might find yourself ducking for cover every three minutes or so. And of course, there are a great many allusions to the beloved EVIL DEAD series; I won't be specific, but if you're a fan of those films, you'd have to possess a heart of stone to not be pleased with Raimi's giddy (and frequent) visual references to the trio of shockers that made him a name. Like those flicks, DRAG ME TO HELL is a horror movie made in the name of fun, not despair or dread.
Raimi has done well to cast this thing fairly perfectly. Lohman is in just about every scene, and she's got the perfect face for the role, with an almost doll-like innocence that transforms easily into terror. Justin Long, whom I'm no big admirer of, is engaging as Christine's skeptical boyfriend.
Anything bad to say? I guess if you want to be a negative nelly about things, you could argue that this is Raimi strictly on cruise control. These shenanigans seem to come so naturally to him that, while things are always hopping, no great strides are being made to do anything other than goose the viewer a handful of times, slap them on the ass, and send them on their way, with not a piece of new ground broken. Raimi - PG-13 rating aside - never goes for the jugular.
No matter - just don't go into DRAG ME TO HELL expecting EVIL DEAD 4, because it's not. But if you go in expecting to be highly entertained by a director who only wants to make you jump out of your seat (and smile at how easily he's manipulated you into flinching like a little girl), you shouldn't walk away disappointed.