Drag Me To Hell (2009)

Directed By: Sam Raimi
Written By: Sam Raimi
  Ivan Raimi
Starring: Alison Lohman
  Justin Long
  Lorna Raver
  Dileep Rao
Drag Me To Hell

The Evil Dead Trilogy. If you say those words to any self-respecting horror fan, they’re guaranteed to mention two names – Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi. Army of Darkness came out in 1992, and since then director Raimi has been increasing his presence in Hollywood cinema, from the good (A Simple Plan / The Quick and The Dead) to the not-so-good (Spiderman 3 / The Gift). What he hasn’t done since is make a full-on horror film. So when Raimi announced Drag Me to Hell, directed and written by Raimis (Ivan co-writes), it led to high expectations and many a fevered question. Is Bruce Campbell in it? Is it linked to The Evil Dead? At least the ’73 Oldsmobile has to be in it?! Well, the car remains, but Drag Me to Hell has nothing to do with the Evil Dead and, thankfully, only has a barely noticeable cameo from Ted Raimi. Fans need not despair, however, as Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell is an absolute cracker of a horror film.

Bank loans officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) desperately wants a promotion, and having been told to be more ruthless by her boss, she reluctantly refuses a loan extension for frail pensioner Mrs Ganush. Mrs Ganush begs and pleads for Christine to help her, claiming she’d be made homeless without her generosity, but the promise of a better job forces Christine to reject the claim. Little does Christine know, Mrs Ganush is an expert in the dark arts, and she quickly regrets ever saying no to the strange looking crone. This is where the title comes in, as Christine quickly finds herself inflicted with the curse of the Lamia, a vicious demon that spends three days tormenting its victim before literally dragging them into the fiery pits of hell. A crazy premise, but perfectly executed.

Christine Brown is the ideal protagonist – struggling for recognition at work, in a relationship with a man whose parents don’t think she’s worthy of – she is happy but wanting, a situation everyone can relate to. Alison Lohman plays Christine very well – she is an average woman in an average situation – and her fear and bewilderment is actually relieving to see in an era obsessed with kick-ass hardnut female leads. She adds a vulnerability to the role, making the horrific things that happen to her all the more upsetting. And they are truly horrific. Lohman goes through a vast amount of violence and spends the majority of the film covered in a variety of disgusting liquids. It’s funny but tragic, much like the character of Ash before he became the super cool iconic figure we know today.

The secondary characters are well played too, from Justin Long’s cynical but caring boyfriend to Dileep Rao’s tormented psychic. Special mention must go to Lorna River, whose Mrs Ganush is brilliantly portrayed, switching from frail pensioner to psychotic witch with scary abandon.

Drag Me to Hell is ridiculous. Featuring geysers of nostril blood, the vomiting dead and a talking goat, it never fully takes itself seriously, yet tonally it works perfectly and is strangely endearing. Maybe because some of the film is genuinely scary, the lighter crazier moments are welcome and well placed, and if you accept the mad-cappery of it all then you’ll be utterly compelled to continue on Christine’s insane journey. It is only the dodgy CGI that lets this immensely enjoyable film down, and it’s shockingly noticeable in some places. This is a minor quibble, however, in an otherwise wry, riotous and hilarious horror film.

Christopher Young’s score is responsible for the majority of the scares, fully utilizing the aggressive violence of noise to create tension, fear and huge jumps. This is a full horror score, and it sweeps through the movie, moving it along at a decent, intelligent pace. The first Lamia attack is truly terrifying – it is a vicious, thunderous and violent assault that rarely lets up pace and ferocity.

Due to Raimi’s background and wry sense of humour, there are sly nods throughout to other horror films, a healthy dose of old school schlocky violence and a scene in a grave that’s notable for more than one reason. It’s back to basics stuff, and it works beautifully. In one scene the shadow of the Lamia appears to be that of a giant rabbit, but somehow Raimi still makes it bloody terrifying. It is testament to an experienced hand who knows how to pitch every moment, how to make a scene work when it really shouldn’t. Vile, violent and ferocious, but always with a tongue cushioned firmly in its cheek, Drag Me to Hell has the right mix of everything – every subplot is explored, no scene is wasted – and it’s a pleasure to watch.

Drag Me To Hell is an excellent horror film. It is scary, funny, bloody and hugely enjoyable. Whack the volume up, hide behind a cushion, prepare to laugh and watch it.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

One Comment on “Drag Me To Hell”

  1. Paul Carrig says:

    Agree with your review Scullion, you know a horror film is worth seeing when your girlfriend nearly bursts in to tears in the cinema….that’ll teach her for making me watch sex & the city

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