Synopsis: Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is on her way to having it all: a devoted boyfriend (Justin Long), a hard-earned job promotion, and a bright future. But when she’s forced to make a tough decision that evicts an elderly woman from her house, Christine becomes the victim of an evil curse. Now she has only three days to dissuade a dark spirit from stealing her soul before she is dragged to hell for an eternity of unthinkable torment. Director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man and The Evil Dead Trilogy) returns to the horror genre with a vengeance in the film that critics rave is “the most crazy, fun and terrifying horror movie in years!” (Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly)
Drag Me To Hell 8.25
Oh, how I’ve waited a long time to see this one! (well, it felt like a long time – it was only released 2 years ago!)
When I heard that Sam Raimi was returning to his roots, I was tickled pink; I’m a big fan of ‘Army of Darkness’ and ‘Darkman’ (and all of his other films except ‘Crimewave’ and that baseball movie – since I haven’t seen them). and I hoping for something along those lines. But then I heard a lot of mixed reviews about ‘Drag Me To Hell’ from various sources so I ended up postponing semi-indefinitely.
It was due time that I saw the darned thing. And, you know, what? It was well-worth the wait!
‘DMTH’ takes us back to the same zany scares and humour that made the man a legend with ‘The Evil Dead’ trilogy and even (to a lesser extent) ‘Darkman’ – but with a decent budget for once. He had made the three über-successful ‘Spider-man’ movies by then, so I gather that he was able to pull some strings!
I loved those ‘Evil Dead’ moments, like the old woman sticking her arm down the girl’s throat; the eyes popping out and flyin’ out at the victim’s aggressor; the possessed guy floating/dancing over the table (much like the witch in ‘Army of Darkness’); the supernaturally animated handkerchiefs (especially the one that squealed when it was stepped on!), …etc.
Granted, if taken as a straight-forward serious horror film, this might be distracting, if not annoying – even if it’s in moderation. It’s only done for effect, to get a laugh out of the audience just as something scary is happening. Thing is, Raimi likes to blend horror and humour and he does it well – he is extremely successful at playing one off the other without negating them.
He even goes for the cheap scares, playing with his audience by giving us completely nonsensical “booh!” moments. It’s all for gits and shiggles and one has to watch the film with this in mind and just giggle along.
Despite its slapsticky and schlocky predilections, the film is supported by a fully fleshed-out story that, while hardly original, demonstrates thew filmmakers’ skill and experience. It’s not award-winning material, but it’s well-crafted and it would work well even without all the laughs, gore, chills and thrills; it’s just more fun as is.
The cast was watchable, if unspectacular. Even Justin Long pulled through rather well. I’ve only seen him in comedies and he wasn’t especially convincing in those – so this was a nice surprise. As for our lead, Alison Lohman, for some reason, she reminded me of Scout Taylor-Compton in ‘Halloween (2007)’. I really don’t know why that is. The key difference is that Lohman didn’t bother me like the other did (in all fairness to Scout, she had some seriously big shoes to fill when she took on the lead in ‘Halloween’).
The standouts were Lorna raver, who plays the old Hungarian woman with verve. She was versatile enough to play up the sad, pitiful wretch, do the comedy and to be a frightening, dangerous hag. Another was Dileep Rao, who plays Rham Jas, the fortune teller helping Lohman understand and deal with the curse put on her. The choice of an Indian man instead of a Gypsy woman was inspired, as was the sitar music playing in the background as he told fortunes. 🙂
The set design/dressing was impressive. Jas’ parlour was full of detail that truly only the cast and crew could possibly have enjoyed – we don’t spend enough time there to fully appreciate the minutia. But it’s there. The seance room in the big mansion was another nice set; it had both grandeur and believability. In fact, the next time I watch the film I’ll pay more attention to the locations, because I’m sure I missed quite a bit the first time around.
As for the technical side of things, well… Raimi uses a combination of techniques; he doesn’t just rely on CGI, and what there was of CGI was meshed relatively well with everything else. So I’m pleased with the look of the film, despite some imperfections. As for the aural quality of the film… I’ve gotta tell you that it was a total blast! There was some intense surround activity going on a lot of the time: creaks, whooshes, thumps, …etc. It got very loud, when combined with the motion picture score, but it was such a dynamic track that it’s hard to complain (especially when it’s so hard to resist! ).
I really enjoyed ‘Drag Me To Hell’. It’s not the best film I’ve ever seen, but it’s a fun ride and it’s everything I could have hoped for. It was a really good time and I’m looking forward to watching it again. It’s a welcome return to form for Sam Raimi, who’s been away from the genre for far too long; no matter what he does, he’ll likely do it well – but very few people make a campy horror film like he does.
I hope we won’t have to wait as long for the next one.