Got a confession to make. I am not a giant Sam Raimi fan. I know, some are already calling for my Horror Movie Lover’s card, but hear me out. Sure, the Evil Dead series are horror classics, introducing us to the world of splatstick. I sincerely appreciate both films and understand their place in horror movie history. But when it comes to his library of films, I just don’t like the majority of them too much. A Simple Plan, Spiderman 2 and especially The Gift (let’s see if I can hear some gnashing of teeth when I admit that I like this film better than the Dead ones) are about it for me. So when the news came out that Raimi was returning to his roots and his next film would be horror, my level of excitement didn’t really waver much in either direction. So what did Raimi deliver? A damn good horror movie is what. A Tales From the Crypt-ish, Poltergeist-y horror film sporing the PG-13 rating that showed off all the things fans of Raimi love to see, and hopefully enough gooey stuff and demon hi-jinx to stave off – at least for a little while – Evil Dead fans still waiting for a sequel.
Drag Me to Hell has a very simple plot that revolves around Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), a country girl turned corporate ladder climber. She works for a bank, attempting to make tough decisions so she can move up a rung or two. Unfortunately, Christine’s first tough decision is to determine the fate of Mrs. Ganush, an old gypsy woman (Lorna Raver) who comes to the branch looking for an extension on her home loan. She’s lived in it for years, and it’s about to be taken away from her because of non-payment. Christine refuses, thinking it will impress her boss (it does), but what she gets for her trouble is a gypsy curse from a pissed off, old woman. The worst curse in her arsenal. One that will have Christine tormented for 3 days by Lamia, The Black Goat, before he and his minions-from-hell drag her down to her new home.
So now Christine must find a way to keep the demons at bay as they switch between hallucinatory tricks and physically whooping her ass while she finds a way to get rid of the curse. Her skeptical boyfriend (Justin Long) tries to be supportive, even when she employs the help of a local fortune teller – a woman who has an old score to settle with this particular demon. But time is quickly running out and the demons are ramping up their attacks as the final hour draws near, and the one person who can put a stop to all this isn’t wavering. Can Christine put an end to this terrifying curse? Will she get the new position at the bank? But most of all, will she ever get to make another delicious Harvest Cake?
I was going to write up yet another in a seemingly long-line of “Awesome!” “Thrill-Ride!” “Go See This!” type of review to go with all the others, but really, it’s a good film. Go see it. You’ll have a good time. So instead, I figured I would stray a bit and just list the 5 things that I really liked about Drag Me to Hell as well as 5 things I really didn’t like at all. Be warned, there are spoilers ahead and this list is meant more for those who have already seen it. If you haven’t yet, please watch it first THEN come back and let me know what you thought. So without further delay:
5 Things I Loved About Drag Me To Hell
- Lorna Raver – Seriously, she is pretty much the best thing in the film. Without her performance, the film wouldn’t have been half as effective as it was. It doesn’t help that I suffer from a bit of gerontophobia, but even if I didn’t, Raver’s portrayal of Mrs. Ganush is downright creepy, terrifying and at times utterly disgusting. She plays Mrs. Ganush to the hilt in her various stages of being pissed off and had no problems dishing out the pain in equal or greater levels than she received at the hands of Christine. A real trooper and professional.
- Alison Lohman – Like Raver, she took all that Raimi threw at her and she did it well. Even though she was one of the more unlikable character in the film – come on face it, she was willing to toss out an old woman in the streets just to, ultimately, impress her new dick’s parents. But even so, you really wanted Christine to make it and a lot of that had to do with the charm Alison brought to Christine. Besides, how could you not love Christine and the way she embraces her (much cooler) country side, abandoning the poser socialite she is so trying to become, whenever she yelled the word “bitch” with the required two syllables.
- Closed Quarters – Raimi has not lost his touch in this department and still knows how to work magic in confined spaces. The fight between Ganush and Christine inside the car was one of the best choreographed, entertaining fights I have seen in a movie in a long time. I don’t think there was an emotion left that Raimi didn’t get out of the audience I saw the film with during this scene. Laughs, screams, yells of support and sounds of disgust. This was also the case when dealing with the attacks on Christine in her house as well. These attacks reminded me a lot of The Entity x 100 – minus the rape and breast squeezing of course. But they were well shot and had Raimi stamped over each and every one of them.
- The Effects – And not just the visual ones. The sounds employed definitely enhanced the visuals like no one’s business. From the sucking noises of Mrs Ganush putting her teeth back in, to the sump pump noises of Ganush gumming Christine’s face, they were very effective. Speaking of visuals, I have not seen this much fluid and objects pass from one mouth to another since I watched a Sasha Grey video. Maggots, spit, puke, eyeballs, gunk, a kitten – Mrs Ganush passed on enough gag-inducing material to feed 50 hungry Fear Factor contestants, and just like Sasha, Christine swallowed it all like champ.
- The Ending – Even though you saw it coming (unless you are brain dead) it was really the only way to end this flick and I am so glad they decided to do so. I am hoping this is a sign of Raimi having full control of the film’s direction, as that means there truly may be hope for Spiderman 4.
5 Things I Hated About Drag Me To Hell
- Justin Long – Was he needed? Really? It may just be me, but whenever I see him he ALWAYS comes across as a smarmy asshole and this has nothing to do with his Mac commercials (or the fact that I don’t own one). His character’s inclusion in this film is a mystery to me as he just was not needed. The only good thing is that aside from Christine herself, he got shafted the worst. By then end of the movie, he looks like a schmuck in front of his parents, the girl he bought an expensive ring for just got pulled into the bowels of hell before his very eyes, and to top it all off he is out 10,000 bucks for a seance that didn’t even work. What a tool.
- The Seance Scene - Sorry, but I don’t get a hard-on every time I watch Evil Dead so seeing some of the same effects from 1980 being used in 2009 just pulled me right out of the movie. This was supposed to be the showdown with the creatures we had only been getting glimpses of up to that point. Instead all I got was a lamer version of 13 Ghosts with extremely transparent wirework being employed on a tap-dancing demon. I am pretty sure they used the same rig they used on Evil Ed in 1987. Add in the cheesy goat effect, and a finale that ended with a woman dying after spitting up what looked like a red curtain. Sure, all of that may have been a nod to the Dead fans, but for me personally, I was left unimpressed with the scene and let down considering all we had witnessed before it.
- The CGI Effects – I have a hard time believing anyone was happy with some of the scenes that used CGI. They were on par with Wolverine: Origins. One in particular was the anvil scene that ended with some standard Raimi swallow-the-flying-eyeball schtick. The effects in this scene were downright AWFUL. Granted, this may have been entirely on purpose. Maybe to help ease the censors into the much coveted PG-13 rating, or just a director’s choice to keep the scene on a little more comical note. I don’t know, but either way, it was bad and I cringed when they happened.
- The Score – Wow. Could it have been more overused? Or loud? Don’t know where you saw the film at, but Starlight theater in Charlotte, NC had that shit up to 11. The score was actually pretty damn good when used right and not trying to scare the living shit out of you ineffectively. At no point in this entire film did you not know what was coming next. It was as predictable as Pop Goes The Weasel being played perfectly even. I’m not complaining about that as much as I am guessing that is why the creators felt they should ramp up the jump-scare factor by BLOWING OUT YOUR DAMNED EARDRUMS whenever things as non-horrifying as a handkerchief landing on a car windshield happened. You can make a video of little kids falling asleep in their high chairs scary employing that age-old tactic.
- The “Twist” – I use the word “twist” loosely as it really isn’t a twist in the Usual Suspects type of way, more along the lines of a Scooby-Doo episode type of way. Anyone who didn’t know the minute Long’s character sealed up the coin in the envelope, that this would be a focal point later in the film, well either you are 10-years-old, retarded, or a retarded 10-year-old. But my issue isn’t really that this was so obvious – to the point that his placing the coin in the envelope might as well been accompanied by an arrow blinking on the screen pointing at it – as that happens a lot in movies and sad to say, par for the course. But what I didn’t like was the entire graveyard scene in which the audience is supposed to be on the edge-of-their-seats hoping that poor Christine, in Jo-Beth Williams mode, gets that goddamned button in Mrs Ganush’s mouth in time. There is no tension when you know that the button isn’t in the envelope in the first place. So either it was just dumbed-down directing that left a scene neutered for those of us who are not brain dead, or Raimi meant for the audience to know the button was not in the envelope and Christine was wasting her time which still diluted the entire scene’s effectiveness.
But don’t let me sway you from seeing the film, as you can see by my following rating, I really enjoyed it. It was at times scary, unsettling, funny and gross. Everything one would expect from a Raimi horror film, and he delivered on them all.