Drag Me to Hell (2009)
Reviewed by Andrew Kasch
Starring Justin Long, Alison Lohman, Adriana Barraza, Chelcie Ross
Directed by Sam Raimi
When Sam Raimi announced that he’d finally be directing another horror film, the skeptics came out in full force. I was one of them. While I haven’t bought into the absurd fanboy claims that our pal Sam has “lost his soul” to the Hollywood system, through his highs (A Simple Plan, Spider-man 2) and lows (For Love of the Game, Spider-man 3) there’s no denying that the man’s sensibilities have leaned more and more towards the mainstream. Most of the titles coming out of his own Ghosthouse Pictures sure haven’t done the genre any favors and there were valid concerns that Drag Me To Hell would be the equivalent of an old man trying to skateboard again.
But as the old Universal logo flashes up on screen, our man Sam wastes no time putting those fears to rest. Rest assured this isn’t the big A-list Hollywood Raimi. This is the unhinged, reckless, mean-spirited prankster we all fell in love with. Drag Me to Hell is one giant love-letter to the old-fashioned latex spookhouse flicks of the 1980s and Raimi dives head first into his Evil Dead roots with the same warped energy. This is a true horror gem - fast, scary and insanely fun!
The synopsis almost sounds like a remake of Stephen King’s Thinner -- Allison Lohman plays cute lil’ loan officer Christine who is up for a big assistant manager position at the bank. One morning, a creepy old gypsy woman comes in begging for a loan and the career-minded girl makes the mistake of turning her down flat. And as horror movies have taught us, you simply don’t fuck with gypsies. Following a no-holds-barred drag-out fight (one of Raimi’s all time best) the old woman curses Christine with the nastiest of all hexes. Before long, the underworld comes a-calling and she must find a way to stop the curse before she literally gets dragged to hell.
The film sports a PG-13 rating (or so the studio claims) which is a bit hard to believe considering the amount of carnage and vile bodily fluids thrown onscreen. Once the gypsy curse has been planted, poor Lohman takes a Bruce Campbell-style beating through Raimi’s wonderful world of swoop-cams, attacking furniture and pus-spewing creatures. We even get a bit of old-fashioned deadite action thrown in for good measure! Of course, it’s all carried out with a wicked sense of humor and you can practically hear Raimi cackling behind the camera with every grotesque gag.
Originally Ellen Page was cast in the lead role, and while it would have been cool to see Juno get her ass kicked by demonic forces, Lohman more than holds her own. Justin Long brings a nice comedic touch playing her baffled boyfriend, and the whole supporting cast feels like they were plucked straight from a vintage horror flick.
Conceptually, Drag Me To Hell’s story is old-fashioned to a fault and doesn’t exactly break the kind of ground that Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy did, but that hardly matters. In the age of scareless, passionless music video remakes, sometimes a wild rollercoaster is just what the doctor ordered. Take a deep sigh of relief, horror fans. Sam’s back!
4 out of 5
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