John’s Horror Corner: Drag Me to Hell (2009), a very Raimi, gastro-intestinal experience and a fun-filled grossout jump-fest.
MY CALL: A very Raimi, gastro-intestinal experience. Walk in expecting a fun-filled gross-out jumpfest and you’ll leave very happy. [A+] IF YOU LIKE THIS, WATCH: Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness, Dead Alive, Black Sheep (no, not the one with David Spade).
Sam Raimi delivers a modern-style horror with a real budget in Drag Me to Hell. Now, I understand that a lot of people just plain HATED this movie. They complained that it’s not scary, it’s loud, and the ending was soooo predictable. I beg your pardon, but this is intended as a “fun” horror. So if you laughed during the movie, you hold your tongue! When on Earth has a fun horror been anything but these things? I found it delightful and timeless. Drag Me to Hell is a perfect horror movie. In case you thought I stuttered there, it is a “perfect horror movie.” Here’s what worked for me…
Drag Me to Hell is a morality tale, much as those of The Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt, about Christine Brown, a young woman who looking to ascend a bank’s corporate ladder. To prove she can make “tough calls” to her boss she refuses a loan extension to a venerable gypsy of dubious finances (amazingly played, too). If horror has taught us anything it’s that you never screw with gypsies or carnie folk—just look at what happened in Thinner. In proper gypsy form the hag issues the Curse of Lamia, a 3-day hex culminating in being dragged to Hell.
This plot kept my interest even during the normally slow backstory build-up phase. How? The slow parts are not actually slow. There’s are well-written office dramedies between the Christine and her office adversary (Stu, played by Reggie Lee of TV’s Grimm) and her future mother-in-law. Much like The Last Exorcism (2010) or Grave Encounters (2011), one might even be satisfied with the movie had there been no actual attempt at HORROR at all! A testament to good screenwriting.
Christine is played to perfection by Alison Lohman. She’s cute, peppy, credible, and has a serious gift for physical comedy. She’s at the center of all of the horror, which I found to come at the perfect frequency and, even with cheap tactics (sudden loud sound and camera angle changes), highly effective at making me jump. Raimi loves to put his actors through the ringer and Lohman comes off as a Fear Factor winner as she gets maggots, mud, blood, drool, and other fluids deluging her face. That’s the gastro-intestinal beauty of it all; every jumpy-scare is readily ensued by some unspeakably disgusting gag that makes you cringe and smile. Movies like this are most effective when watched with friends (and beer).
The remaining cast—her love interest played by Justin Long (Going the Distance, AfterLife), Dileep Rao (Inception, Avatar), and David Paymer (Payback)—are just there to watch Lohman decompose throughout the movie. But they all serve Raimi well as he shows his Evil Dead roots—even duplicating them—in later scenes in the best possible taste, including a malevolent goat possession which smacks of the cackling mounted deer head in Evil Dead 2. Other highlights include floating Raimi-demons, some sacrifices, and numerous other sequences which I wouldn’t dare ruin.
All good demon-curse movies need a seance. But it’s not really a party until someone vomits a dead kitten.
Kitten-vomitting scene….classic. No fun horror flick is complete without it.
If you are seeing this for the first time, see it on a 60″ in pitch black at night with all of the lights off (even that dim light over the stove that we all leave on during movies to find our way to the fridge safely). The more immersed you are, the higher you’ll jump and the more you’ll laugh. Walk in expecting a fun-filled gross-out jumpfest and you’ll leave very happy.
Classic Raimi-demon hover-dancing scene.
They say goats will eat anything–even aluminum cans. This one eats souls. Most evil goat EVER!