Drag Me To Hell (2009)

Christine Brown has a good job, a great boyfriend, and a bright future. But in three days, she’s going to hell.

Being a huge fan of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead franchise, it was very exciting to hear that the director was eager to return to the horror genre after his successful Spiderman trilogy concluded. It was also thrilling to learn that Raimi’s film was a completely original idea in an era where the market place was beginning to become flooded with countless horror re-makes and Saw rip-offs. Raimi promised fans that his film, Drag Me To Hell, was going to be a throwback to ‘fun’ eighties horror, particularly his The Evil Dead franchise and as early trailers suggested ‘a return to classic horror.’

Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is a pleasant loans officer at a Californian bank but has several issues on her mind. She’s in competition with a competent colleague, Stu Rubin (Reggie Lee) for an assistant manager position at work and isn’t too sure about her status with boyfriend, Professor Clay Dalton (Justin Long). Concerned that her boss might think less of her if Christine shows weakness, she refuses a time extension on a loan to an elderly gypsy woman, Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver), who now faces foreclosure and the loss of her home. In retaliation, Mrs. Ganush places a nasty curse on Christine, which she subsequently learns will result in being taken to hell by a demon named the Lamia in several days time. Now with the help of psychic, Rham Jas (Dileep Rao), she must rid herself of the demon, who is working hard to push Christine to her breaking point, before her time is up.

Alison Lohman digging up the remains of eighties horror!
Alison Lohman digging up the remains of eighties horror!

Drag Me To Hell begins wonderfully with a retro 1980s Universal logo, reminiscent of the day’s director Raimi released his The Evil Dead pictures, and then jumps into a classic horror prologue set in 1969, which delightfully sets the comic-horror tone for the rest of the feature. It’s obviously clear from the get-go that Raimi knows his horror and let’s be honest, while most enjoyed his Spiderman films, Drag Me To Hell is the type of movie he should have been making for the past decade. Everything about this film screams classic Raimi, from the retro score and the credit text, to the design of the demonic creatures in the film, including the creepy Mrs. Ganush, Raimi has thankfully kept true to his roots, retaining his authentic Evil Dead feel despite the film’s larger Hollywood production values. The only thing missing in Drag Me To Hell is the infamous Bruce Campbell, Army of Darkness (1992), cameo, which was originally intended, but eventually dropped due to Campbell’s busy schedule filming television show Burn Notice (2007).

Drag Me To Hell also retains Raimi’s delightfully ludicrous comic touch as the film features some grotesquely laugh-out-loud moments, most surrounding Mrs. Ganush’s attacks on Christine; my particular favorite sequence in the film involves a possessed demonic goat in a mad séance that screams sheer silly perfection. While some of the visual effects aren’t particularly top notch, they work rather well with the picture’s humorous undertone and don’t necessarily hinder the production’s over-all quality. But is the film scary? While Drag Me To Hell is quite comedic, it’s still genuinely frightening as most of the ‘horror’ sequences are convincingly creepy and retain enough suspense to frighten those who aren’t too particularly familiar with the genre.

Making contact with the army of darkness!
Making contact with the army of darkness!

While apparently Ellen Page, Juno (2007), was originally cast as Christine, Alison Lohman, Matchstick Men (2003), who eventually replaced Page, is better suited to play the character. Lohman portrays Christine with enough sincerity that viewers will no doubt be rooting for her character’s triumph against the wicked Lamia, although she and her on screen beau, Justin Long, Live Free or Die Hard (2007), just look too young for the roles they are playing. Lorna Raver, Freeway (1996), on the other hand is perfectly cast as the ghoulish Mrs. Ganush, embodying everything the gooey character entails and it’s splendid watching Raver in this nightmare inducing performance; after seeing the film, it’s difficult to believe that in reality Raver a rather sweet woman.

As its title suggests, Drag Me To Hell isn’t the subtlest film around, and while not everyone will succumb to Raimi’s stomach-turning craziness, fans of his earlier work, particularly his The Evil Dead films will find plenty to enjoy in this little picture. Look out for director Sam Raimi’s cameo as a spirit during the exorcism scene.

4 / 5 – Recommended

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Drag Me To Hell is released through Roadshow Entertainment Australia