Drag Me To Hell


Over the years, Sam Raimi has been at the bleeding edge of using his movies to torment and torture a surprising array of actors on screen thanks to his particular style of quirky camp. After cutting his teeth by demeaning childhood-chum turned monster killer, Bruce Campbell for the entirety of the Evil Dead trilogy, he turned his mischievous sense of slapstick onto members of the Hollywood elite that included such sights as Liam Neeson having his head smashed through numerous panes of glass (Darkman), Russell Crowe getting assaulted by small children (The Quick And The Dead) and a dead-eyed Tobey Maguire simply not catching a single break for the majority of the Spider-Man trilogy – Christ, even Cate Blanchett had a rough time of it all the way through The Gift – but arguably Sam’s most brutal treatment of a lead actor was still to come. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the epic mistreatment of Allison Lohman in Raimi’s long awaited return to horror: Drag Me To Hell.


Christine Brown is a genuinely nice, genuinely sweet person who has a loving boyfriend in the form of the doting Clay and a job as a loan officer at a local bank – but her boss urges her to start making harder choices if she wants to beat out her shifty competitors and get promoted to assistant manager.
As if on cue, in walks the desperate Mrs Ganush, an old gypsy woman with a milky eye and mounting debts, who pleads with Christine to give her one more extention on her house so she doesn’t lose it – but even though Christine is usually the sort of person who’d be helpful, the lure of that promotion proves to be too much and she denies the old her request.
However, Christine’s single display of tough love causes a maelstrom to erupt within her perfect little life as a rage fueled Mrs Ganush attacks her that night on the way home and places an honest to God curse on her in the name of a spiteful goat-demon named the Lamia. This means that after three days of ever more violent visions where she’s tormented by the beast, her time will come and she’ll literally be dragged to Hell where her soul will be tormented for all eternity (I guess old gypsy women don’t believe in the punishment fitting the crime, then).
As time ticks on and the Lamia’s assaults get more and more harrowing (having bugs vomited into your eyes and mouth isn’t exactly a walk in the park, you know), Christine goes to throw herself at the mercy of Mrs Ganush only to find that the old biddy has been inconsiderate enough to kick the bucket and therefore cannot lift the curse, so the desperate girl seeks help from a kindly fortune teller who puts her in touch with a woman who has had dealings with the Lamia before. A seance is held to try and shift the curse off of Christine, but at this point her personal and professional life is in an utter shambles anyway, will this attempt fail too, thus leaving Christine primed to be dragged all the way to hell?


A more cynical man could simply declare that Drag Me To Hell is merely an excuse for Raimi to string as many horror set pieces together as he can – and they’d have a point – but on the other hand, when said horror set pieces are this good, does it really matter?
Fans of Sam Raimi’s particular of impish camp had been waiting for him to make a triumphant return to the genre that made his name since the relentlessly goofy Army Of Darkness back in 1992 and thankfully, after a decade of Spider-Man movies, its was well worth the wait.
The story, while simple and undeniably silly, is nicely put together and neatly plays into the anti-banker mentality the public had thanks to a string of scandals that had rocked the economy; of course the big joke is that despite her job and the fateful decision she makes, Christina blatantly doesn’t deserve the gauntlet of spiteful indignities the curse puts her through and it’s here where Raimi’s playful mean streak gets to strut its funky stuff. Starting with a knock-down, drag out brawl between our heroine and the supernaturallly tenacious Mrs Ganush in an underground car park (maybe one of Raimi’s greatest achievements ever), actress Allison Lohman is the target of endless bizarre experiences that involve being hurled around her house by an invisible assailant to freaking out at a blinking eyeball in her cake and hacking up a live fly during a meal with her would-be in-laws. It’s hilariously relentless and endlessly inventive, pushing the absurdity to the point of complete cartoonishness, yet still honed enough to elicit razor sharp, laser precisioned jump scares that never feel cheap or forced, something that’s not that easy to do.
You can tell that Raimi his having tremendous fun no longer working under the mega-budget of a tent pole, superhero trilogy while under the watchful eye of studio suits and his gleeful energy is virtually unstoppable and it reaches it zenith in the genuinely superlative seance scene which contains such enjoyable oddball sights as a demonically possessed goat screaming the word “whore” at our leading lady and a prancing goul dancing a jig twelve feet in the air before vomiting up a dead cat; you didn’t get that shit in Oz The Great And Powerful…
Allison Lohman does great work, both with both making her character massively empathetic while holding her own in the taxing action scenes (a fun running gag sees her continuing to have clumps of hair torn out with every confrontation she has with her gypsy nemesis – even after the old bat has passed on) while fully committing to all the cringe inducing, gross shit the movie has in store for her, be it having her face enthusiastically gummed by her toothless adversary, fighting off a killer hankie or even having green liquid goo regurgitated directly into her face by a wayward corpse. But after everything Christine goes through, Raimi leaves the cruelest joke till last, where (SPOILER), after all else fails, she manages to reverse her misfortunes by returning the cursed button that caused everything in the first place directly back to the source, only to find out at the very last second that she’s made a catastrophic error and that her final destination will not be a pleasant getaway with her beau, is the final, gut punching punchline that ends the movie on a mean spirited high.


Paced like a rocket and jam packed full of the srt of ghoulish, spook house fun that the director excels in, Drag Me To Hell may be lacking the kind of substance you’d find in a lot of modern day “elevated” horror, but it’s a genuine blast from beginning to end that grabs the darkest of belly laughs that lurk within you and casts a spell on them that leave you feeling pumped by the end.
Simply put, this Drag, is anything but.


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