Sam Raimi does a terrific job of keeping the audience scared while also interspersing plenty of absurdity.
You have to admire Sam Raimi for what he accomplishes in Drag Me to Hell, which is a return to form in the truest sense. Raimi is known and loved by two completely different sets of moviegoers. The first loves him for the Spider-Man movies, which have racked up over $1 billion dollars so far and are usually the most highly anticipated movies each summer they open. The second group hates the first group. They love Raimi for his Evil Dead trilogy, which started over 25 years ago and has grown a cult following in the time since because of Raimi’s ability not to take himself or the movies too seriously. The first group of fans will not like Drag Me to Hell.
The movie works so well because Raimi brings back his signature style of blending horror and humor with neither eclipsing the other. This movie is no different. It tells the story of Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), a young loan officer at a bank who is desperately trying to get promoted to assistant manager. After Christine refuses to grant an old woman named Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) another extension on her mortgage, the woman attacks Christine, mumbles some unintelligible lines, and tells Christine soon "it will be you who comes begging to me."
(Is it intentional or coincidence that the story concerns an old woman who is suffering a "mortgage crisis" while the bank looks on without concern? Is Raimi stepping into the field of satire as well? Interesting.)
Christine soon becomes haunted by a demon which will come to take her soul in three days unless she can stop it. She confers with a seer named Rham Jas (Dileep Rao) who tells her that she is cursed with the darkest of the Gypsy curses placed only on those who commit the most wicked offenses.
Raimi, who directed and co-wrote the movie with brother Ivan Raimi, does a terrific job of keeping the audience scared while also interspersing plenty of absurdity that would be as likely to befall Evil Dead‘s Ash as it would Christine. Raimi plays with the practically limitless special effects at his disposal as if he is making up for everything he didn’t have on the Evil Dead movies. These effects never detract from what is happening, but rather serve to demonstrate Raimi’s ability to balance story, performances and action.
Lohman is excellent as Christine. The whole movie seems like Raimi is testing her by bouncing back and forth from serious horror to slapstick comedy, often delivering the most corny lines of B-movie dialogue. Lohman doesn’t miss a beat, stepping up to each challenge the director gives her. Lohman is no stranger to challenging roles; she’s held her own with Michelle Pfeiffer (White Oleander), Nicholas Cage (Matchstick Men) and Benicio Del Toro (Things We Lost in the Fire). I can only hope she continues taking parts that help her grow as an actor. | Matthew F. Newlin