Short version: Sam Raimi returns to the format that put him on the map with Drag Me to Hell – and you won’t be disappointed.
If you’re a REAL Sam Raimi fan, you’ve heard of him long before he ever sat in the director’s chair for the first Spider-Man movie. His claim to fame came with a little trilogy of films known as the Evil Dead series.
The first film was made on a shoestring budget and launched Bruce Campbell into the B-movie limelight. Evil Dead 2 was essentially a remake of the first film but with a bigger budget. While many people think that film is the best of the series, to me the crown jewel is the third film: Army of Darkness.
Each film had an odd mixture of humor and horror – the first film had a bit of it that made it seem campy. But with each subsequent film he refined the comedy/horror one-two punch to a high art. By the time we arrived at Army of Darkness, he pulled out all the stops and the film was 90% comedy, 10% horror.
People have been waiting for YEARS for Raimi to return to the low budget horror/comedy niche and he finally relented with Drag Me to Hell. He’s commented that he needed to “recharge” on a smaller, fun film after the mega-budget stresses of working on three consecutive Spider-Man films.
So has he lost his touch?
The basic plot of Drag Me to Hell revolves around loan officer Christine Brown (Alllison Lohman) – she’s an eager-beaver at her bank, wanting to be promoted into an open assistant manager position very badly. The problem is that she’s up against a new male employee who is a much more aggressive guy who also happens to have mastery over the fine art of sucking up to the boss.
Her boss tells her she’s in the running but the other guy is more aggressive and is able “to make the hard decisions” (ie. those that favor the bank and hurt the customer). So when a creepy old woman shows up at her desk asking for an extension on her mortgage, Christine decides this is the opportunity to make one of those hard decisions.
Bad call Christine, bad call.
Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver, who does an awesome job and is pictured at the top of this review) starts out nice enough, although she’s creepy and gross as all get out – but once she is denied and embarrassed by Christine the fangs (almost literally) come out and she places a curse on our young up and comer that will give her three days of hell before something REALLY terrible happens.
We see something happen in the opening of the film that is a precursor to the curse, and frankly that opening sequence dropped my expectations for the movie. I found it to be neither particularly scary nor funny and I sat there thinking “Oh man, Raimi has lost his touch?” However I’m happy to have been proven wrong as the film moved along.
Along the way we meet her boyfriend, played by Justin Long, his rich parents including a snooty mom, and Indian fortune teller Rham Jas (played by Dileep Rao). Everyone fits right into the movie nicely like pieces of a tight-fitting puzzle.
The film takes a bit of time to rev up, beginning with the scene in the parking garage that you’ve probably already had a chance to see in the trailer. What’s in the trailer is just a hint and while you’ll be jumping out of your seat at the beginning of that sequence, by the end you’ll be laughing your head off. From there it backs off to the mundane for a bit but once the curse kicks in – a little bit here and there at first, but escalating in intensity… you’ll continue to be pummeled by scary scenes wrapped in bizarre comedy.
Raimi takes Lohman’s character from a sweet, if misguided loan officer to a desperate woman and right on through to someone willing to do whatever it takes to shake off this curse, and it’s hysterical to watch some of the choices she makes as she travels along her path.
Oh, and while (as far as I could tell) Bruce Campbell did NOT have a cameo in the film, you will notice a familiar car…
If you’re a fan of the original Evil Dead movies I think you’re really going to enjoy Drag Me to Hell. And even if you’re not, it provides plenty of VERY effective jump scares (I’m usually not a fan of those, but they’re applied to great effect here), lots of gross visual effects (amazing what you can get away with now in a PG-13 movie) plus a ton of Raimi’s trademark horror humor.
This one has future cult movie written all over it and gets a thumbs up from me.