Drag Me to Hell (2009)
Release Date: May 29th, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Sam Raimi Actors: Alison Lohman, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, Justin Long, David Paymer, Bojana Novakovic
hough separated by a seventeen year break and an understandably larger budget from his “Evil Dead” series (“Army of Darkness” finished the trilogy in 1992), Sam Raimi’s unmistakable style clearly commands every facet of his return to the genre that made him legendary. Infusing nauseating repugnance (but little gore) and wildly dark humor with every scare, “Drag Me to Hell” revels in its own excesses. It creates a hilariously frightful battle of demons and young girls, morality and talking goats, with unforgettably nightmare-inducing imagery.
Desperate to acquire the coveted Assistant Manager position at the Wilshire Pacific Bank, loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) chooses to evict an old Gypsy lady from her home. Shamed and enraged, the vengeful woman curses Christine with the Lamia, a goat-like demon sent to take her to hell after three days of torment. Quickly running out of time, the terrified but determined girl must fend off the supernatural beast – and wage war with her own soul if she wishes to save it.
A nonstop bombardment of jump scares is usually overbearingly traumatizing – the beauty behind Sam Raimi’s direction is the humor, which graciously and frequently follows every moment of intense shock. The scares are fast-paced, unforgivingly abrasive, steeping with anticipation, preceded by lengthy moments of silence (the calm before the storm), and backed by brutally loud, sudden sound effects with amplified music (classically headed by screeching violins). “Drag Me To Hell” is engrossingly horrifying and simultaneously hilarious. It’s entirely predictable but completely effective. Raimi’s other trademarks of horror direction are also present; lots of bodily fluids and slimy locations; creepy-crawlies (flies and maggots); invasive close-ups; and spiraling, zooming camerawork.
It’s also refreshing to see a strong female lead character, even though it’s not uncommon to find women at the forefront of gross-out horror pictures (a trope that aims to ramp up the terrors by presenting them to the fairer sex). Christine is immediately the target of subtle sexism and a competitive male environment, so it’s especially satisfying that she demonstrates commendable backbone, taking matters into her own hands and bravely coping with attacks from her invisible assailant. “Drag Me To Hell” reuses a familiar, repetitive formula for fright flicks, but with its competent blend of thrills and laughs, it’s one of the most solidly entertaining films of the summer – and a triumphant return to nail-biting horror for a director who became famous for his bold and recognizable scary movie methodology.
– The Massie Twins