Friday, June 5, 2009
Drag Me to Hell (2009)
Drag Me To Hell is Sam Raimi’s triumphant return to the horror genre…and what a fun, exciting homecoming it is for horror fans! The film sees Raimi returning to his well-known horror comedy roots and brings us some of those Evil Dead-like funny frights we love. He walks a razor-thin line between slapstick and scares, but in Drag Me To Hell he makes it look effortless. One minute the audience is screaming and the next moment they are laughing. I can say with assurance that Drag Me To Hell is definitely the most fun you’ll have in a theater this summer!
The premise is simple enough – while trying to get a promotion, Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) puts her conscience on hold and denies an old gypsy woman, Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver), an extension on her house payment. Since Christine has “shamed” her, Mrs. Ganush places a curse her. In three days the evil demon Lamia will come for her soul…but during those three days Christine will be endlessly tormented by the dark spirit. Can Christine find a way to break the curse before she is dragged to hell?
The joy in watching the film is not knowing what is coming next, so I won’t overly explain the finer points and surprises within the plot. Wow, oh wowie, though! This film certainly doesn’t give you any moment to catch your breath, but keeps barreling along like a bullet train to hell! There is always something happening, from some nasty scenes involving phlegm, maggots and a leaky corpse to a nosebleed that begins as a trickle but explodes into an arterial spray to a menacing handkerchief to plenty of creepy sounds and sudden shadowy appearances by the demon. Moment to moment the movie kept me on the edge of my seat, literally clinging to the arm rests, while I alternately jumped and laughed.
Besides the breakneck, tension-filled pace, I (and everyone in the full theater I saw it in) enjoyed the slapstick humor that worked remarkably well alongside the horror. There were many moments of laugh-out-loud funniness (most often followed by a jolt that had you jumping out of your seat!) along with the plentiful gross-out, “ewwwwwwwwww!!!” scenes involving the bodily functions and bugs mentioned above and much, much more, including a granny gumming someone’s chin, an eyeball flying into a mouth, flies crawling in and out of body orifices and so on! I don’t know how he does it so well, but Raimi manages to both freak and gross you out at the same time!
While the story (written by Sam Raimi and his brother Ivan Raimi) is simple and doesn’t rely on twists and turns to keep the tension taut, it still keeps your eyes glued to the screen. There are carefully placed details throughout the film that definitely come in handy towards the end when everything starts adding up. Though the finale does feature a bit of a twist that is easy to see coming, it is nonetheless entertaining and satisfying to watch! The ending isn’t one I expected, but is surprisingly uncompromising and downbeat.
As for the direction, it is vintage Raimi circa 1981. There are lots of swooping, fast-moving pans and zooms that make you feel like you are on a rollercoaster ride as opposed to just watching a film. It always feels like something frightening is going to be waiting in the shot as the camera pans back and forth…and, BOO! there is! No one has been able to replicate Raimi’s direction, and I don’t think anyone every could make it such a fun ride as he does, especially in Drag Me To Hell!
Along with the fantastic directing job Raimi delivers and the stupendously simple yet no less entertaining story he co-wrote with his brother Ivan, the actors also shine in this fun flick. Alison Lohman makes the transition from sweet country girl trying to fit into big city life to animal-sacrificing, determined-to-live heroine in a very natural way. I also enjoyed Justin Long in the role of Christine’s supportive but skeptical boyfriend and Dileep Rao as the psychic Rham Jas. The real stand-out, of course, was Lorna Raver as the old gypsy woman, Mrs. Ganush. Her captivating performance was nothing short of amazing! The new catchphrase for summer? “You shame me!”
For those of you concerned about the PG-13 rating, let me assure you that the film does not suffer for it! There are plenty of ooey-gooey scenes that’ll have you squirming in your seat and this film simply doesn’t need heavy-handed gore for it to be effective. It is no way “dumbed-down” for tween and teen audiences, but instead captures Raimi at his very best, combining outlandish comedy scenes with balls-out horror.
Drag Me To Hell is one hell of a movie that you should be running out to see! So quit dragging your feet and get yourself to a theater to see this fantastically fun and hellaciously horrific film NOW, before you shame me!!
Available from Amazon!