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  DRAG ME TO HELL

Sam Raimiís first pure horror film in over two decades was this fun popcorn movie. Donít expect anything too profound, just a skilled and enjoyable exercise in comedic scariness.

The Package
     Sam Raimi, as Iím sure youíre aware, made his name with 1981ís no-budget gorefest EVIL DEAD and its more comedic 1987 sequel. In the ensuing years Raimi has concentrated on the likes of DARKMAN (1990), ARMY OF DARKNES (1992), A SIMPLE PLAN (1998) and of course the SPIDERMAN films.
     DRAG ME TO HELL, released in the summer of 2009, was a welcome return to form for Raimi. Even though it was saddled with a PG-13 rating, itís very much in the tradition of EVIL DEAD 2. Too bad it didnít make any money. Maybe itíll be rediscovered on DVD.

The Story
     The pretty Christine, a transplanted Southerner, is laboring as a loan officer in an LA bank. Desperate for a promotion, she turns down an old ladyís request for a loan in an effort to impress her asshole boss with her toughness. The old woman, a severely creepy individual, waits for Christine in the parking lot and attacks her inside her car. A brutal fight ensues, during which the bitch rips off one of Christineís coat buttons and curses it. The next day the old goat kicks.
     The following night Christine visits a Middle Eastern psychic, who reveals that an ancient monstrosity is now after her. The psychic advises sacrificing an animal to appease the spirit. Christine refuses at first, but changes her tune when the ghostly harassment becomes unbearable: she kills her beloved pet kitten and buries the corpse in her garden.
     But the evil isnít sated. While dining at her boyfriendsí parentsí house Christine finds an eyeball in her food. It seems the animal sacrifice did nothing to appease the curse, and that a stronger remedy will be needed--a sťance to be exact, carried out by the psychic and his mother, who has a history with demons. The sťance, a wild, noisy affair, is a success, but the psychicís mother dies.
     Yet the scariness still isnít over. Apparently Christine will now have to give her cursed coat button away in order to fully absolve herself of the curse. She settles on an appropriate recipient: the corpse of the old woman who started the mess, currently interred in a cemetery. But will this really stop the madness--and will Christine be able to go through with it?

The Direction
     This film is shallow, pandering and sensationalistic, but so are Sam Raimiís EVIL DEAD flicks. Like them, the script of DRAG ME TO HELL (by Sam Raimi and his brother Ivan) is a patchwork affair that exists solely as an excuse for Raimi to indulge his gift for outrageous funny/scary setpieces. Yet his directorial talents have increased immeasurably since the EVIL DEAD days, and heís come up with something that might conceivably work on its own without the horror business.
     In the lead role the childlike Alison Lohman is fairly endearing and even sympathetic, but make no mistake: Lohmanís real value is that sheís game for the many outrages Raimi subjects her to. In the course of the film she suffers a massive nosebleed, has her face covered in maggots and slime, and digs her way out of a watery grave. The sight of a CGI fly crawling up her nose is actually among the tamer moments!
     Other unforgettable sequences include the early fight between Lohman and the old woman, in which the cootís false teeth fly out of her mouth (which doesnít stop her from trying to bite Lohman) and the unforgettable eyeball-in-the-cake gag, enhanced by the sight of red goo pouring from the eye. Itís whacky touches like that which give this film its edge. Raimiís love of the extreme, inspired as much by the Three Stooges as THE TEXAS CHIANSAW MASSACRE, is infectious. It may also be puddle-deep, but the fact is we see movies like this for a good time, and as such DRAG ME TO HELL more than delivers.
 

Vital Statistics

DRAG ME TO HELL
Universal Pictures/Ghost House Entertainment

Director: Sam Raimi
Producers: Grant Curtis, Sam Raimi, Robert G. Tapert
Screenplay: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi
Cinematography: Peter Deming
Editing: Bob Murawski
Cast: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, David Paymer, Adriana Barraza, Chelcie Ross, Reggie Lee, Molly Cheek, Bojana Novakovic, Kevin Foster, Alexis Cruz, Ruth Livier, Shiloh Selassie, Flor de Maria Chahua

     

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