Review: ‘Drag Me to Hell’

The evil is back. The Oldsmobile is back. Horror director Sam Raimi is back. What’s not to love?

Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) has a great job at a bank, a boyfriend that loves her (Justin Long), and even has a kitten. Everything changes, of course, when elderly Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) comes into the bank to stop a foreclosure. With the chance to prove herself on the line, Christine denies the old woman a third extension to save her home. Soon afterward, Christine learns that she has been cursed, and after three days of torment, the assailing spirit will drag her down into hell itself. Hasn’t President Obama come up with a program to help cursing gypsies keep their homes yet?

Ah, horror. Is it wrong to say this might be director Sam Raimi’s most serious horror flick of all time? While his trademark dark sense of humor oozes throughout the production, even at its most hopeful, you can’t shake the main character’s sense of impending doom, driving her further into desperation. What is also interesting about the character of Christine is that she isn’t weak-willed or an easy victim; she fights back every chance she gets and you can’t help but want to see her succeed. Couple this with a production balanced between practical and computer-enhanced effects, and you get a rare gem of a horror film that resonates on many levels. Mr. Raimi, you have been missed.

The script by Sam and Ivan Raimi also doesn’t shy away from tried and true conventions: a gypsy curse, fortune teller advisers, seances, and a skeptical boyfriend (who’s a clinical psychologist, no less). Scenes of torment also begin with practical and familiar things (shadows, rusty gates, lightning), making you wonder how much is mere suggestion or what could be an elaborate hoax to bilk a desperate woman out of thousands of dollars. Each time, however, events go too far as the curse continues to fulfill itself. Sam Raimi isn’t only in familiar territory but appears to be wallowing in it like a happy pig in muddy pen (a feeling he also commits his two female leads to as well).

Sure, maybe there’s an underlying point about taking personal responsibility here, but should every customer service representative have to watch out for gypsy curses for doing their jobs? Besides a familiar Oldsmobile (will that car will ever die?), there are plenty of other familiarities strewn throughout for fans of the Evil Dead series. One glaring omission was no Bruce Campbell cameo (even Spider-Man got those), but all the rest of it was fun and entertaining. More, please!

(a three skull recommendation out of four)

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