Review: Drag Me To Hell
PLOT: Christine Brown has a good life. She has a loving boyfriend and a decent job as a bank loan officer. But things could be better. If she can make some tough decisions, she will be able to move into the assistant manager position her boss waves in front of her. And the tough decision comes when a withered old woman comes in looking for help to keep her home. This sad sight begs and pleads with Christine to help her keep the place she spent her entire life. And when Christine chooses her own future over the elderly, bad things are heading her way. After getting off work, she has a nasty altercation with the old woman who proceed to place a curse on her. Soon, bad things are happening as a dark force terrorizes her with some evil plans for the young womans soul. You think youre having a bad day ?
Everything youve heard is true. Sam Raimi is back in a big way, and he is giving audiences one of the grooviest horror flicks in years. And guess what? It is PG-13. Yet DRAG ME TO HELL is a thrill ride that excites like a good and scary roller coaster. It may have an opening sequence that youve seen a hundred times on the Sci Fi Channel. But it still feels fresh and new (with a much bigger budget) as Raimi turns it into an inspired and jaw dropping, kick arse wild ride. I dont want to tell you what happens because it is so much more fun to know as little as possible. But I will say this offers up a enthusiastically insane introduction to a demon they call Lamia, a goat like beastie who is wisely unseen throughout the film. But trust me, you get an eyeful with some wonderful shadows that hover and lurk as this malevolent son of a gun seeks to claim a soul or two.
Here is the deal. You cant avoid talking about THE EVIL DEAD and its subsequent sequels when it comes to DRAG ME TO HELL. One sequence involving a séance, even features demonic possessions that feel right at home with a copy of the Necronomicon sitting on the coffee table. But this is not the same film, it merely has little reminders as to why Sam Raimi should continue to revisit his roots more often. For a PG-13 rated film, there is a ton of gooey, gory and slimy ick-factor goodness that is spread perfectly over the course of this feature. In all honesty, I wonder if EVIL DEAD parts one and two would warrant an R rating nowadays. And while there is the demon factor, I really see this as almost an old-fashioned haunted house movie. When we have our heroine (Alison Lohman) alone in her home with shadows passing by her windows and pots plus other things that make a lot of noise smashing all about, it offers a fun creep factor in anticipation of the next bump in the night.
Speaking of Lohman, her Christine Brown is in true Raimi fashion. She is very human and not always in the best way. When she decides that the chance at becoming an assistant manager at her bank is more important than a poor, old womans home, it is clear that she is going to be challenged. Alison is sort of awkward as she walks the line of doing the right thing to doing what is best for her own sake. She has this innocence about her that is wonderfully inspired, hell, sometimes she just seems to be quite ignorant. But it works. How often can an actress be so attractive and vulnerable, and then a moment later, breezy and dim. None of this is an insult, because if she didnt work, the film wouldve fallen flat. She really carries the story as she runs the gamut of horror victim to horrors fool. It is an absolute pleasure rooting for her, especially since I sometimes wanted the damn Lamia to just drag her down to the fiery pits of hell for her own good. She really is the perfect scream queen.
Alison also has some strong support. Not only from the amiable Justin Long who portrays her boyfriend, the guy who has the worst timing ever. She also has a boss played to perfection by David Paymer. But things get really interesting when Mrs. Ganush enters the picture. Lorna Raver is an absolute fright here. Her pathetic and haggard appearance is a stunner, even early on. And underneath the make-up, Lorna simply transforms into what is sure to be an iconic horror villain. She is absolutely marvelous. When her Mrs. Ganush attacks Christine in her car, it makes for a vicious and monstrously entertaining bit of horror fun. Is it campy? Sure. But there is more than one kind of scary movie. There are several sub-genres that can be found under the heading horror. So those going in to this looking to be frightened and disturbed are going to see the wrong flick. It is clear from the trailer, the TV ads and from the movie poster, there is something fun brewing in this carnival ride of terror.
Sam Raimi makes horror exciting and DRAG ME TO HELL is no exception. While this may not be going for simple scares as he did with the first Evil Dead film, it is not necessarily going for over the top extremes as he did with the sequels. This is a balanced film that drifts between chills, thrills and laughs. And it is delightful to see him working again with cinematographer Peter Deming with whom he collaborated on EVIL DEAD II. While DRAG ME has a much larger budget and is extremely polished, it still has a similar look and feel. It is truly a screamingly giddy piece of entertainment. What we have here is a simple story that relishes the use of sound, shadows and the promise of a soul possibly being dragged straight to hell. But it sure could have used Mr. Bruce Campbell to make the ride even more thrilling. My rating 9/10 -- JimmyO
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