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Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.26%
Worth A Look: 23.26%
Pretty Bad: 15.12%
Total Crap: 8.14%

7 reviews, 44 user ratings

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Drag Me to Hell
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by Erik Childress

"A Greatest Hits Package Far From The Greatest"
3 stars

Itís a bit hard to fathom how long Sam Raimi has been away from the horror genre. Maybe because his Evil Dead trilogy remains such a quintessential staple that its timeless appeal just always pre-associates the director even after heís moved on to create one of the most successful franchises in film history with Spider-Man. Since the final chapter of what many fans would consider to be his ultimate trio of flicks, 1992ís Army of Darkness, Raimi dipped his toes into the gothic mystery of The Gift but dabbled most notably into dramatic forays such as the brilliant A Simple Plan and the weakest link in Kevin Costnerís baseball chain, For the Love of the Game. Those paying attention saw the Raimi we love come home to roost during Spider-Man 2ís Doc Ock hospital attack along with the bizarro (almost silent-film-like) humor that he perfected with Bruce Campbell back in the day. With Drag Me To Hell, his fans will no doubt be pleased that heís whipping out the greatest hits. But just the same, itís the greatest hits package equivalent to Peter Gabrielís best-of album not including In Your Eyes.

Alison Lohman plays Christine, a bank loan officer who has the apocryphal everything going for her. She has a loving boyfriend in Clay (Justin Long) who is on the verge of proposing and a good job with the potential for a big promotion on the horizon. Her boss, Mr. Jacks (David Paymer) informs Christine that sheís in the running along with ambitious suck-up, Stu (Reggie Lee) but that she may be coming up second currently based on her inability to make the tough decisions. In other words, screwing over customers and dropkicking their dreams. Her resolve will be tested once Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) walks up to her desk.

Dressed in practically full gypsy garb, the dead-eyed old woman is looking for an extension on her loan; one which would be her third. Despite trying to pass the buck over to Mr. Jacks, Christine is left to make the decision herself and Mrs. Ganush is rebuked. Feeling shamed after some overwrought last-ditch begging, the old gypsy stalks Christine down and places a curse upon her. In three days time, as we were witness to in an opening prologue, the doors to hell will open under her feet and literally drag her into the underworld. As if that knowledge wasnít enough to take down anyoneís week, the pesky demon and the Ganush will be haunting her day and night, ruining her potential final days on Earth unless she can discover a last-minute reprieve to keep the evil at bay.

Clearly this is meant to be nothing more than a goofy little horror exercise and its clear from the get-go that Raimi would have installed buzzers in theater seats across America, William Castle-style, if he could. Characters are drawn pretty basically; Long as the charming, supportive boyfriend; Reggie Lee as the unscrupulous work rival; and Raver as the nasty witch-looking foil. Christine is wisely given a little bit of ethical query in the face of survival, both professionally and physically. And Lohman is believable as the kind of sunny money lender that doesnít want to hurt anyoneís feelings. (Between her and Jim Carreyís loaner in Yes Man, this may be the tag team responsible for our current financial crisis.) But what would you do if you were trying to get ahead on the verge of getting married and had an old woman with two extensions already standing in your way? Particularly after you watch her flaunt her disgusting dentures on your desk and steal all your candy.

These opening scenes work best as we recognize Raimi cozying up to the warm blanket of his indie youth, grossing us out with nasty (yet natural) bodily secretions and the frenetic signature that accentuated Bruce Campbellís original demon battles. Never one to back down from a great set piece whether it involves a possessed hand or the freakishly exciting L-Train sequence from Spider-Man 2, Raimi manages to deliver one of his best in the first 25 minutes of Drag Me To Hell; a parking lot skirmish between Christine and Mrs. Ganush that would best most directorsí big finales. Hair-pulling, biting with the interior and exterior of the car as weapons, this sequence alone is going to amp up even those without the pleasant baggage of Raimiís recognizable skills with the camera. Unfortunately the best thing about Drag Me To Hell comes way too early in the proceedings and it slowly fades into a been-there reunion that lifts its cards a little too high for all the table to notice.

You shock us once within the kind of horror dream state only witnessed by our heroine, itís kinda fun. You do it six more times, itís just not scary or shocking anymore. Thatís Horror 101 and the most ignored rule in so many otherworldly, possessed haunted house tales that come out these days. Raimi is better than that and thereís very little difference between one scare scene to the next. A sťance scene late in the film (with Raimiís wonderful tendency towards dark circusesque humor) is enough to remind us that the old school Raimi is alive and well, but once the overly repetitive nature of bedroom, basement and dining room scares gets its hooks into you, the disappointment is hard to avoid. Maybe rules donít matter that much in horror films, but the curse suggests a very specific type of haunting and to have Mrs. Ganush continue to appear as an Evil Dead-like entity in place of the demon she summoned to do the dirty work for her is a bit cheap since itís the unknown that should have us on edge by that point instead of the devil we know.

Drag Me To Hell certainly isnít a bad film by any means, but just imagine the impact it would have had (both viscerally and nostalgically) if it were part of, say, a three-mini-feature Grindhouse like collection along with other 45-50 minute entries with guys like Joe Dante and Peter Jackson. Too many dreams to pray for there. Raimi shows his stuff within the prologue, that terrific parking garage fight and even in the graveyard finale. But that climactic scene (and most of the second half, for that matter) is clouded with an obvious nod towards an ironic climax. Iím unable to tell if Raimi is intentionally tipping his hat towards our expectations of Christineís fate, but I donít understand why he would since anyone who catches on (as will, at least, 90% of audiences) will just be anticipating a self-proclaimed prophecy and becoming completely detached from Christineís final efforts to thwart it. Perhaps Raimi lovers will ignore the criticisms completely and just be good little fanboys, supporting this grass roots effort as a counterattack on that big-budget commercialism their favorite cult director got seduced by. But as a huge fan myself of the guy who made Spider-Man 2 a Top 5 all-time comic book film along with the awesomeness of the Evil Dead films, A Simple Plan and the too often overlooked, Darkman, Drag Me To Hell is a lesser effort that hopefully is just an open door worth a little peek through to see another forthcoming classic from Raimi.

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originally posted: 05/29/09 14:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Festival de Cannes For more in the 2009 Festival de Cannes series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell good return 2 horror 4 Raimi 4 stars
10/01/14 KingNeutron Pretty well done, worth a look especially if you have a jumpy girl along :) 4 stars
10/10/11 The Big D Blatant rip-off of Stephen King's book Thinner, but it has an effective ending. 3 stars
10/12/10 Karamashi A purely entertaining horror film that doesn't take itself too seriously. 4 stars
8/10/10 Chad Dillon Cooper For those too chicken to see the Evil Dead series. 2 stars
6/01/10 User Name I can't recall the last time I had so much fun in a theater. 3 stars
11/08/09 art RATED S FOR SICK! 1 stars
10/22/09 Dave I couldn't get past how truly awful the leads were. Horrible acting/ 2 stars
10/19/09 Jenkins Yeah was fairly well bored by this effort 2 stars
9/14/09 M Horror movies the way they used to be!! 5 stars
9/05/09 Marcia Lartz Hardcore dark horror-flick ending a real downer after most of film is more comic. 3 stars
9/04/09 Pat Skerret Loved the parts where Christine does wet farts, but the rest is totally gross! 2 stars
8/31/09 Mac As fun as a gaggle of gooses, despite poor editing 4 stars
8/20/09 scotty Awesome! Able to do gross out with out buckets of gore and blood. Take note Eli Roth 5 stars
8/16/09 Flounder I'm not sure why all the naysayers. I thought this was the best horror film in ages 5 stars
7/14/09 aliceinwonderland Seen it all before but ok 3 stars
7/06/09 art IT IS SICK! 1 stars
6/23/09 Luisa Predictable but still fun...ghost scenes got repetitive 4 stars
6/20/09 ahnold It is an established director trying to make a student movie 3 stars
6/17/09 Steve Michaud Welcome back to the horror genre, Mr. Raimi! You've been missed! 4 stars
6/16/09 Sully 1.I knew hell was under L.A. 2.HA! Give that cursd button to Dick Cheney 3 stars
6/13/09 Ole Man Bourbon I was pleased. 5 stars
6/12/09 matt pretty damn awesome. great ending even though i saw it coming a mile away... 5 stars
6/11/09 Ming one of the best horror film of the year....good suspense and plot 4 stars
6/08/09 Mike the extreme! I was hoping she'd try The Curse of the White Man From Town. 2 stars
6/06/09 Devin G Drag me to hell was cliched, predictable and stupid. 1 stars
6/06/09 James unbellievably poor and predictable story, who hangs an anvil in their shed 1 stars
6/05/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Sub-prime loan officer vs. Satanic goat. Which is more evil? 4 stars
6/05/09 karamashi Just fun. Yes its not evil dead but still. 4 stars
6/04/09 malcolm not perfect but a fun-ass ride 4 stars
6/03/09 Bobby If you love groce body excrements, you'll love this movie. That's about all there was 3 stars
6/02/09 Joe Mama Love the Evil Dead series, but this was lame ass 2 stars
6/02/09 Sheri Terrible, terrible movie...and I love sam! 1 stars
6/02/09 evil goat 224 FUCK U IM A EVIL GOAT BITCH 5 stars
6/01/09 Eric Cinema's most epic nosebleed would be MODERN PROBLEMS. You should do better research. 4 stars
6/01/09 Alex Scared the pants of us all who saw it! 5 stars
6/01/09 Mike A blast, very well-directed by Raimi, built like a funhouse ride. 4 stars
6/01/09 steve owen so bad i gave the ticket seller a cursed button and begged for me 9 dollars back 1 stars
5/31/09 JM Synth Better than most recent horror fare, but I hoped for more 3 stars
5/31/09 Michelle I enjoyed it. It wasn't the best horror I've seen, but it was worth the $ I paid to see it 4 stars
5/31/09 freddy krueger awesome movie. very suspenseful, very fun. highly recommended 5 stars
5/31/09 Anne Better if centered on killing evil, curse wielding gypsies 1 stars
5/30/09 DK Qaulity entertainment 4 stars
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  29-May-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Oct-2009


  DVD: 13-Oct-2009

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Sam Raimi

Written by
  Sam Raimi
  Ivan Raimi

  Alison Lohman
  Justin Long
  Lorna Raver
  Jessica Lucas
  David Paymer
  Dileep Rao
  Reggie Lee

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