DRAG ME TO HELL (2009) *** movie review by DARK SIDE

Posted on June 1st, 2009
Posted on June 1st, 2009

Here lies Sam Raimi’s worst horror movie ever. Now that I’ve said that, would you believe I recommend this one to both horror fans and mainstream audiences alike? The master of kinetic filmmaking raised the bar pretty high with his “Evil Dead” trilogy (which includes “Army of Darkness” in case you didn’t know). While I’m pleased as Halloween-party punch Raimi has decided to go back to horror after a long stint with the “Spider-Man” movies, I would’ve preferred more interesting subject matter and 3-D would’ve greatly enhanced the experience.

Christine (Alison Lohman) covets her bank’s new assistant manager position after hoofing it as a loan officer for the past few years. When a sleazy upstart threatens her chances, she decides a display of will is in order to prove to her boss she can make the tough decisions needed for the job. A scary, old gypsy lady (Lorna Raver) appears asking for yet another extension on her mortgage payment. Christine refuses, even after the gypsy grovels at her feet. The enraged gypsy then bestows a curse upon Christine in which a hellish demon will appear and torment Christine for three days before dragging her kicking and screaming to hell. When the threat begins to manifest itself, Christine employs a kindly spiritualist (Dileep Rao) to help rid her of the spirit and save her soul.

A loan officer vs. a gypsy curse? That’s gotta be the most boring idea for a horror movie ever, but leave it to Raimi to challenge himself and make a fun movie out of a poor concept. I dreaded seeing “Drag Me” for a couple of reasons: 1. It’s a BOO! movie, full of cheap scares so I knew the incessant screams of the audience would keep me on edge more than the film itself. 2. I’ve studied the “Evil Dead” films so intensely, I know all of Raimi’s tricks and figured there was no way he could get me. Thankfully the audience was steelier than I expected and Raimi got me more than a few times.

Lohman proved an interesting choice as the harried bank employee. Her usual poise and good-girl sensibilities played well against the forces of darkness which manages to not only frighten her out of her wits, but also mercilessly humiliate her in front of others. She had to be a good sport to let Raimi, among other things, dump a bucket of live bugs and meal worms into her mouth. On a spooky note, Lohman looks more and more like Jessica Lang as she gets older (not sure if that’s good or bad for her career?). She takes a lot of punishment, channeling the immortal Bruce Campbell on more than one occasion, complete with a few “Gimme some sugar”-like lines. Equally a good sport, Lorna Raver provided most of the gross-out jokes as the nasty gypsy woman who somehow manages to continue attacking despite her increasingly deteriorating health. Jeers to Justin Long who gets the worst role as Christine’s blue-blooded psychologist boyfriend who thinks his girlfriend is simply losing it but tries to stick by her despite not believing in any of the hocus pocus.

Let’s talk gags. Infamous Raimi slapstick gags to be precise… A skill he has perfected since the first “Evil Dead” film. The technique – dubbed “Spook-a-blast” by his disciples – involves frightening boogers exploding onto the screen like demonic jack-in-the-boxes to scare the audience out of its wits and then laugh once the initial shock has worn off. While I usually hate the cheap “jump” scares, Raimi’s so darned good at it that it creates a circus-like atmosphere that is simultaneously scary and fun. He got me to jump by not only varying the timing in-between the scares, but also by inventing a few new types. Even some of the vile gross-outs worked including a neverending nose bleed that had the audience howling with laughter (guess you had to be there).

“Drag Me to Hell” is fun, but not Raimi’s best horror effort. With its lame concept, uneven pacing and a neat, yet predictable ending you can see coming from a mile away; “Drag” disappoints me as a horror fan on many levels. What does excite me is that it will probably warm Raimi up to finally doing another “Evil Dead” film which is what everybody really wants to see. He’s talked about it for years, but only in the past few months has the talk turned serious. If “Drag” succeeds, then I predict it will compel him to fast-track “Evil Dead IV” (starring Bruce and hopefully in 3-D!) and hopefully not the “Evil Dead” remake he’s also been threatening to produce.

If you have a taste for horror, “Drag Me to Hell” is crowd-pleasing candy and a must see. It’s planted firmly in the same universe as the “Evil Dead” films, which becomes evident whenever a deadite or cackling cooking appliance shows up. Like “Army of Darkness” it will probably grow on me more and more over the years. If you’re a true Raimi fan, it may disappoint but it will get you primed to see what Raimi will do next now that he’s got the black blood of horror flowing through his veins again.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

First, the “Drag Me to Hell” trailer…

Now, a trailer for the stage play “Evil Dead: The Musical” which I want to see very badly (WARNING: R-rated language!)…

Hmmm… where did she go?

-Dark Side

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    1. Sebastian

      I thought this movie flat out rocked! I am so up for more movies doing horror in this way. Head over to my blog to check out my thoughts.
      I personally think an Evil Dead remake might be cool. I say no to “Evil Dead IV”. “Army of Darkness” just didn’t do it for me. Those films hit the peak with “Evil Dead II”. That movie was a masterpiece.
      And why you hating on Justin Long? He’s a perfectly good stand-in for Ted Raimi.

    2. admin

      Hehe, I don’t hate Justin Long. I think he’s great 99% of the time, he just got a lame character in this one. He’ll make it up in his next movie. As for “Drag” I guess I just couldn’t get past the concept. I like most of what he did with it but like “The Gift,” I didn’t feel like it had enough potential for Raimi’s talent. I got pretty much what I expected, great Raimi carnage but a concept that doesn’t terrify me or make interested in any kind of sequel.

      • Sebastian

        Fair enough. I definitely think its a standalone pic.
        And “The Gift” was one of my favs. I preferred it to “A Simple Plan”. I loved the performances in “The Gift”. It was very off-beat and different for Raimi. Now as far as “For Love of the Game” , I wasn’t feeling it.

    3. Allen

      Hey, now. I won’t abide any Army of Darkness hate.

      DMTH was a blast. I loved every minute of it even though, yes.. the ending was very predictable.

      I wouldn’t say no to an Evil Dead 4, but I’d much rather see another original horror film from Raimi. This one proves without a doubt that he’s still got the chops for it.

    4. Trace

      Dammit, I guess I gotta see this one now! It wasn’t on my very limited movie schedule, but what the hey! We’ve got a dollar theater, so I’ll wait for it there…next one I pay full price for is Transformers 2, dude!

      My point of view is opposite of Sebe’s on this one…so, regardless of whether it would be worth while, I can understand an Evil Dead 4…but what’s up with the Evil Dead that I see on IMDB scheduled for 2010? And if this is just a remake of the first one, then why is it being made before the 4th movie that should pick up from Army of Darkness? Seems odd…

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