Monday, June 15, 2009

Drag Me To Hell

I actually wrote this review of Sam Raimi's movie, Drag Me To Hell for my friend & co-worker when the movie came out, but I figured (after getting permission) I'd repost it here.

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Finally, a horror film that deals with the subprime mortgage market and foreclosure crisis. Sort of. Okay, not really.

After spending the bulk of the decade being entrenched in the Spider-Man series, director Sam Raimi has decided to go back to his Evil Dead cult filmmaking roots with Drag Me To Hell, a delightfully trashy comedy-horror that serves as a de facto Evil Dead 4, albeit with a larger budget and (sadly) no Bruce Campbell.

Right out of the gate, Mr. Raimi uses the old Universal logo from the '80s, showing us his desire to go back in time when he was a maker of schlock cinema rather than the man behind a multi-million dollar franchise.

After a prologue that takes place in the 1960s where a medium (played by Flor de Maria Chahua) tries—and fails—to save a young cursed boy, Drag Me To Hell cuts to the present day where Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), a young mortgage loan officer, is vying for a promotion. According to her boss, Jim Jacks (the wonderful character actor David Paymer), the assistant manager position is either going to her or her sycophantic co-worker, Stu (Reggie Lee). She’s lobbying for the promotion for two reasons: one, to rid herself of her working class pig farming roots, and two, to impress her boyfriend, Clay’s (Justin "I'm a Mac" Long) affluent and snooty mother.

One day, an old gypsy woman, Mrs. Ganush (a thoroughly creepy Lorna Raver) comes into the office and asks Christine if she can have an extension on her home loan to prevent being foreclosed on. Mr. Jacks leaves it in her hands, suggesting that she needs to demonstrate that she can make tough decisions and hard calls.

To prove that she’s got what it takes for the promotion, Christine denies Mrs. Ganush an extension on her loan. The old woman gets down on her knees and begs her, but no dice. Later in the bank’s parking lot, Christine and Mrs. Ganush engage in a not-so-diplomatic (read: cartoonishly violent) confrontation, which ends with Mrs. Ganush putting an ancient curse on the poor ambitious young Christine.

Before long, Christine starts experiencing the effects of the curse, ranging from having the windows of her house shatter to seeing a silhouette of a man with goat horns stalking her to being flat-out physically pummeled by an imaginary spirit. These torments increase as the days continue, and a fortune teller (Dileep Rao) eventually warns her that, before long, the curse will end with her being dragged down to...wait, what’s the name of this movie again?

Mr. Raimi, working from a script he wrote with his brother Ivan, delivers as many shock and gross-out moments as he can get away with for a PG-13 rating. I suspect Mr. Raimi understands the MPAA system so well he knows exactly what he can get away with to avoid an R rating, and pushes it as far as he can (it really is a shock that this movie isn’t R, to be honest). There’s absolutely no subtlety here: clearly, the goal for Drag Me To Hell is to make the audience members jump out of their seats and scream, then laugh at their own discomfort, then scream again.

You may be wondering if this movie is for you. Well, there’s an easy way to figure that out. Do you like well-made B-movies? Did you find Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn fun and funny? Do you find the idea of a demonically possessed goat taunting someone amusing? Will seeing someone’s eyeball pop out of her skull and into someone else’s mouth make you laugh? If you answered "yes" to these questions (as I did), then absolutely, Drag Me To Hell is for you. If you answered, with horrified disgust, "Absolutely not!" well, then, there's always Pixar's Up, another delightful movie (for completely different reasons) playing in theatres.

Never taking any wooden, or real, nickels,

James "Makeshift Gravedigger" Comtois

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Blogger daryl said...

I saw it Friday. A truly enjoyable experience.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

Exactly. A really well-made B-movie. It knows exactly what it wants to be and makes no apologies.

2:40 PM  
Blogger joshcon80 said...

"Do you find the idea of a demonically possessed goat taunting someone amusing? Will seeing someone’s eyeball pop out of her skull and into someone else’s mouth make you laugh?"

Oh, James. Like you really had to ask.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

I know, I know. Though, in my defense, when I had originally written/posted this, my target audience was mortgage bankers.

1:38 PM  

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