Drag Me to Hell (2009)
US (dir. Sam Raimi)
Cast: Alison Lohman, David Paymer, Jessica Lucas, Justin Long, Reggie Lee, Bonnie Aarons
Synopsis: After denying a woman the extension she needs to keep her home, loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) sees her once-promising life take a startling turn for the worse. Christine is convinced she’s been cursed by a Gypsy, but her boyfriend (Justin Long) is skeptical. Now, her only hope seems to lie in a psychic (Dileep Rao) who claims he can help her lift the curse and keep her soul from being dragged straight to hell.
Review: It has been 28 years since Sam Raimi has made a legitimately terrifying horror movie (The Evil Dead). Raimi is one of the most celebrated horror movie director legends, yet he has really only made one original horror movie (and its sequel, Evil Dead II), one horror-comedy (Army of Darkness) and one thriller (The Gift). For him to be considered as a horror legend by horror fans worldwide reflects on the excellence of the revolutionary movie that is Sam Raimi’s 1981 movie, The Evil Dead. When Drag Me to Hell was announced as Sam Raimi’s new horror movie (after decades away from the genre) you can imagine the excitement felt by Evil Dead fans everywhere. Finally Raimi would escape from the turmoils of directing increasingly embarassing Spider-Man sequels and producing unnecessary direct-to-video fare such as The Grudge 3 and and Boogeyman 2. This would be what everyone everywhere would be waiting for. Sam Raimi, back in the director’s chair of a horror movie. To put this in perspective for you, let me use this example. Imagine someone created something so revolutionary that it redefined an entire genre (example being George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead) and then disappeared for over a quarter century. Now imagine they come back to the same genre which they re-defined and announce a new project. Naturally everyone would be excited and would hope to see something of equal value and significance as that first masterpiece. That’s what I, and likely many others, expected of Drag Me to Hell. We wanted something on the level of The Evil Dead, only upped a few notches.
Drag Me to Hell succeeds in being both terrifying (had to look away for at least 5 minutes due to fear!), comic, slap-stick, visually dynamic, entertaining, and down right evil. Essentially, it’s a very distinguishable Sam Raimi flick. Just like an art critic can tell one artist’s work from another’s, I (as well as many others) can effortlessly distinguish a Sam Raimi movie from any other director’s work. There is a certain je ne said quoi that Raimi brings to each and every one of his movies that makes it unquestionably and distinctively a Raimi film. He is truly an auteur filmmaker in every sense of the word.
Inititally I was severely bummed that this movie was rated PG-13. Usually a PG-13 movie just plain sucks. When considering that The Evil Dead was nearly slapped with an NC-17, you can understand the confusion one would experience when realizing that a Raimi horror movie would have such an absurd rating. It did cause me to be very apprehensive about the movie. The rating is justified, however. There’s no sex or nudity, there’s no drug use, there’s hardly any swearing, and there isn’t any on screen dying at all really. There isn’t even a CHAINSAW! Suprisingly though, the film still does provide the scares, and that’s the most important part.
I think the great part of this movie (as in pretty much any Raimi movie) is that the good people really suffer all the way through the film just for our entertainment. Christine Brown (played by Ellen Page replacement Alison Loman, thank GOD!) gets slapped around, beaten up, covered in blood, mud, old lady saliva, goo etc etc etc. until it just becomes unbearable. Unfortuantely she doesn’t carry herself as well as Bruce Campbell and it almost made me wish that the main character was a man, or someone who looked like Bruce Campbell. Seeing a girl take that kind of beating just made me feel kinda sorry for her and there are of course, limits to the sort of abuse they can show a woman experiencing on film in a PG-13 (damn MPAA). Otherwise it’s a slapstick joyride that gets a rise out of the audience (probably intended for teenage boys, considering the target age range indicated by the rating).
The storyline was great, but some part were left unexplained (i.e. how did the old lady die? why is the curse so effective? etc etc.) There was also a rather annoying part of the movie involving a seance in which a whole bus load of CGIed ghosts appear. I thought that part was very lame and unnecessary. No damn ghosts showed up in The Evil Dead goddamnit! If you’re going to make a movie about a witch and a curse, stick to the witch and the curse story! Don’t introduce some cheesy CGI ghosts half-way through the movie that have nothing to do with anything. Also, why is the MacBook guy in this movie? I don’t like him and his constant Mac plugs. Seeing him in this movie was like seeing a dead bug on a cake. It was unnecessary and annoying and avoidable. I can think of a million other boyfriend alternatives besides that douchebag. Douchebag grin! Arrrrggggh! Who the hell finds this kid attractive!?!?!?!
Anyways, the movie managed to meet all my expectations, but it didn’t exceed them (which was kind of a downer). I really went into this movie thinking I would be raving about it being an instant classic, but instead I was just merely entertained, amused, and satisfied. I wanted something more darker and less teenage-oriented (yes Sam Raimi, big kids go see horror movies too!).