Rated PG-13 for sequences of horror violence, terror, disturbing images and language, 99 minutes
"Drag Me to Hell" is Raimi's thrilling, fun and jumpy return to horror
Welcome back, Sam Raimi to horror films, and what an enjoyable thrill ride you provide with your latest offering, Drag Me to Hell. This marks the first genuine horror film for the Spider-Man director in 17 years, since Army of Darkness, and his best one since his hallmark Evil Dead series, which put Raimi on the horror film map. Single-minded in its quest to please the masses, Drag Me to Hell is hilariously over-the-top (as much as a PG-13 rating will allow) from the first frame and its story needs more work, but Raimi is one of the few directors who can scare you and make you laugh in the same breath.
Loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), pretty, smart and on the verge of an important promotion, orders to evict an old woman named Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) from her home. Bad move. Now, she finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse courtesy of the ugly-weird Ganush woman, which turns her life into a living hell as she's taunted by some pretty nasty evil spirits. Desperate, she and her suspicious but handsome boyfriend Clay (Justin Long) turn to a seer named Rham (Dileep Rao) to try and save her soul, while the evil forces work to push her to a breaking point so they can literally drag her soul to hell.
Raimi's Drag Me to Hell is one of the more exciting but over-the-top horror offerings of recent memory. It's has enough jumpy, scary moments to please horror-film enthusiasts and those looking for a good ride. In spite of its title, Drag Me to Hell has little to do with hell itself and has enough commercial appeal to please the masses. The familiar Poltergeist-type premise itself is thin, leaving too much unexplained, and Raimi goes toward the obvious gross-out moments too much, but one thing can be said of this offering: there's never a dull moment. Those awfully mean, unpredictable spirits show up at any time to terrify and cause unspeakable damage.
Raimi's hardly subtle approach is often heavy-handed, and you know exactly where the predictable ending (which reminds of Stephen King's Carrie) will take you, but Raimi's creative spirit when it comes to horror is admirable, even if his story needs some work. Raimi and older brother Ivan also penned Drag Me to Hell's sloppy script; the plot is threadbare at best, the characters aren't well-written and some of it's downright choppy. Fortunately, it all seems shaped around all those inventive and tensely skittish moments, which are plentiful enough to memorably carry Drag Me to Hell.
The lithe Lohman (Matchstick Men) is a tenacious yet vulnerable heroine, and a tough one, too: she's literally dragged, beat up, thrown around and thrown up on in every imaginable sense throughout Drag Me to Hell. Justin Long, best known as Mac from the Mac-PC Apple commercials, blandly has little to do, but character actress Raver, under loads of frightening make-up, is an impressively disgusting old woman who won't go away.
The lively special-effects, including the creepy make-up, some flies, false teeth and a talking goat in the amusing but rousing climax, are cheesily above-average and done in the usual gory-but-fun Raimi style. Ironically, the most memorable episode in Drag Me to Hell features minimal special effects: a riveting but humorous wrestling match between Mrs. Ganush and Christine in a compact car that will make you think twice about where you park.
Drag-Me-Hell is nasty, hilarious and crowd-pleasing fun, but not recommended for the faint-at-heart; it happily and energetically pushes many frightening, disturbing buttons not to mention its PG-13 rating. But for those waiting to be eagerly scared out of your movie seat this summer season, Drag Me to Hell is the perfect movie for you.
This review can also be found at www.popsyndicate.com.