dragmetohellVerdict: A nostalgic trip of fright and fun
Grade: A

CHRISTINE: Here, kitty, kitty….

Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is a loan officer, looking to score a big promotion. By chance, she ends up serving the clearly sick Mrs. Ganush (Lorna River), who has just been served papers by the bank to repossess her house. Despite having promised to try and give the feeble old woman more time, Christine can do nothing to prevent this. So Mrs. Ganush curses her, and as unexplainable events begin to happen, she finds out she has three days to save herself before she is literally dragged to hell.

Drag Me to Hell returns legendary cult director Sam Raimi back to the genre that first brought him fame, and the results are simply spectacular, enough to make you wonder why he ever left the genre in the first place.

The film is simply a riot from start to finish. Anyone who ever liked The Evil Dead is in for a real treat with Drag Me to Hell. This is 1980’s horror brought back from the dead, and served as ice cold as it gets. The film is unrelenting in its terrifying moments, and gradually becomes more horrific as it goes along. There are some genuinely frightening scenes at play here, but just as many hilarious scenes at the same time. All of them are played exactly as anyone who knows Raimi’s early work would expect — as ridiculous and ludicrous as you would never expect. The film practically one ups itself at every turn, offering one gruesome gag after the other, really pushing the PG-13 rating out much further than anyone could have imagined. But much like its Evil Dead trilogy brethren, the film never borders on being gratuitous. Anyone expecting to see a Saw clone will be greatly disappointed by the film’s slapstick, cheap scare style.

Obvious homages aside, the film plays itself out with the many Raimi touches fans have come to appreciate, from the moving stationary objects to the whiplashing camera (although two Raimi mainstays are suspiciously missing: Bruce Campbell and Raimi’s brother, Ted). The frantic camera angles are consistent from the opening scene, right until the final frame. It feels tightly bound, and right on the directive of Raimi’s earlier films. Coming off the Spider-Man trilogy, it would have been an easy mistake to make this film more in line with contemporary horror films. But Raimi wisely stuck to a tried and true formula, and its greatness shows in how absurdly entertaining it quickly becomes.

The makeup (and puppet — !) effects are all well done, hearkening back to a time when cheap effects like these were a lot more common. However, the addition of CGI in certain scenes (especially during one particular “eye-popping” scare) just feels lazy on Raimi’s part. Why make the film look and feel so low budget, but then add in really needless effects? Yes, making them similar to Evil Dead’s would have looked even sillier, but at the same time, they stick out noticeably, like they should not be anywhere near this film. Some of them are so laughably bad that you may not notice them, but others totally take you out of the movie and feel useless.

Lohman, a much better choice for this character than the originally cast Ellen Page, delivers a fairly solid performance for someone who is given very little to do outside of scream, be tortured and be constantly looking to continue living her life. She has just the right amount of finesse and gravitas to make the role work without looking like she is deliberately attempting to be campy. She nails her most emotional scenes greatly, and never falters in the role. She just becomes zanier as the film goes on. She is not quite on par with the man himself, Bruce Campbell, but she does a more than adequate job filling his shoes. Justin Long, as her doctorate professor boyfriend, is given even less material to work with, but still manages to pull out some decent work. Wisely, he is given very few lines to be funny with, but the few he does have make for almost as much comedy as the film itself gives. Supporting turns from Dileep Rao, David Paymer, Adriana Barraza and especially Raver are all fairly well done, and work off Lohman quite well. They each get their moments to shine, and do wonderful jobs helping the movie to be as fun as it is.

In the end, if you go into it expecting something on the lines of The Evil Dead, then you will love Drag Me to Hell. It is a twistedly awesome return to form from Raimi, with few faults. It is obviously not perfect, but then a movie like this could never have been expected to be. Loaded with plenty of cheap scares and lots of laughs, could you really hope for anything better?

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Drag Me to Hell (2009)
Written by: Sam Raimi and Ivan Raimi | Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: Alison Lohman, Lorna River, Justin Long, Dileep Rao, David Paymer, Adriana Barraza

About the author

DAVID BALDWIN

David Baldwin is the Film Columnist at Geek Speak Magazine. He was raised on an unhealthy amount of 80s and 90s cinema, and somehow equally admires bloody action sagas and seminal teenage coming-of-age dramadies. If he is not talking about movies or TV shows, he's probably sleeping. Talk to him about the latest Oscar drama or schlocky horror film you watched on Twitter at @davemabaldwin.