(dir. Sam Raimi)
A woman has three days to escape a curse placed on her by a gypsy.
Drag Me to Hell was the first Sam Raimi horror movie I saw, and initially I wasn’t a fan of it. I found it too campy, which now having seen Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness I know that it doesn’t even come close to normal levels of Raimi camp. I’ve grown to appreciate it over the years as I’ve seen more of not only more of Raimi’s films, but other films that balance genuine horror with black humor. But what makes Drag Me to Hell effective is not so much its supernatural story, humor, or gross-out moments, but the careful way that Raimi, and his screenwriting partner and brother, Ivan, carefully establish Alison Lohman’s Christine Brown. As an audience we feel like we know her, we like her, and want her to succeed in ridding herself of the curse placed on her. So often horror movies allow the horror to happen to characters we don’t like, or don’t care about because we don’t know them. But we know Christine and the Raimis use our expectations against us because of that fact. It’s cruel but also winningly effective.
Lorna Raver’s gypsy woman, Mrs. Ganush is wonderfully sinister in a very old-fashioned horror sense. Yes, she’s a bit cartoonish and over-the-top but this ultimately makes the film feel a bit like a grand moral folklore, a warning to be given to children. Even the use of Hispanic and Indian mystics play into this horror folklore by firmly situating the out-of-date with the modern, and again challenging our expectations. This old-school horror is slightly diminished by Raimi’s over-use of CGI and PG-13 rating. One gets the sense that he was still a bit too stuck in his Spider-Man days to completely return to the practical, low-budget horror he gained his fame for, but he still manages to bring his unmistakable vision to the film.
Scare Factor: 3/5 There are a few really good jump scares in Drag Me to Hell, but the concept and the characterization are what really make Raimi’s film a surprise that delivers on a promise in a way few directors would have the courage to fulfill. If you’ve yet to see it or it’s been a while since you first saw it, it’s definitely worth a watch. Oh, and somebody needs to give Alison Lohman a comeback because she’s great in this.