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Drag Me To Hell
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2009

Format: Movie
By:   Sam Raimi
Genre:   Horror
Review Date:   June 05, 2009
Audience Rating:   PG-13
RevSF Rating:   7/10 (What Is This?)

"You handled that just about perfectly." – Mr. Jacks

If there’s one thing that the movies have taught us over their long, illustrious history, it’s this: don’t filk with Gypsies.

From all the way back to the original The Wolf Man, to Thinner, to the new flick Drag Me to Hell by horror maestro Sam Raimi, we’re taught that if you mess with the Romany, you will pay. In spades.

It’s probably stereotyping of the Romany people, but having a rep as mystical bad-asses who will screw you up if you wrong them isn’t exactly a bad rep to have.

Drag Me To Hell has a pretty simple plot. Christine Brown (Alison “Big Fish” Lohman) is a loan officer. She is too nice, and she's dealing with other background issues. This leads to one of the things I like about the movie. Most of Christine’s personal issues are handled in the Joss Whedon style of showing you how she acts, and not laying it all out in exposition.

The reason being too nice is a problem is she’s competing with smarmy loan officer Stu (Reggie Lee from Prison Break), who butters up their boss Mr. Jacks (David Paymer from City Slickers). So when elderly Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) begs Christine not to take her house, Christine decides to prove she can make the hard choices by turning her down.

In return, Mrs. Ganush curses Christine where after three days of torment, she will be dragged to Hell. I’m glad I don’t work for a bank.

Christine also has to keep trying to get that promotion, and overcome the disbelief of her fiance Clay (Justin “Jeepers Creepers” Long). He begrudgingly takes her to a psychic, who explains exactly how boned she is.

Drag Me To Hell is the grossest flick I’ve seen in years, but not for gore. There are flies, maggots, mud, bile and other bodily fluids that flow in copious amounts. Lohman deserves an award just for all the horrid things that end up in her mouth.

Now, a lot of people say Drag Me To Hell is the first horror movie about the mortgage crisis. But really, it plays a small part. It’s the catalyst for the horror, but it’s Christine’s choice, not the bank's, to refuse crazy gypsy lady more time to repay her loan.

Drag Me To Hell is, however, Sam Raimi’s return to horror after being away for far too long, since he was busy telling us tales about a certain web-slinger. You can tell Sam missed the genre that made him famous, because once he turns on the tension, it never lets up.

It’s also a PG-13 rated flick that, unlike most of the other so-called horror flicks with this rating, Drag Me To Hell is really scary. It’s like Sam took the rating as a dare to prove he can make a PG-13 flick with some teeth, unlike other tepid flicks that come out under that rating.

The movie is solidly in the camp of 70’s style demonic horror, like Rosemary’s Baby, The Devil Rides Out, The Exorcist, The Omen and a dozen other flicks where Satan was the bad guy. The flick even uses the old Universal opening and end cards from the time, along with the “Visit Universal Studios!” bit after the credits.

Most of the horror tropes are here: demons, curses, psychics, seances, and a moral quandary at the end. Drag Me To Hell is very well made and entertaining.

Almost all of the scares are of the “something goes BOO!” variety, but Raimi expertly builds the tension up to each one, and never does the "it was only the cat" cheat, which I appreciated. He makes great use of sound, letting us hear what’s coming, while hardly ever seeing it. There’s a heavy mix of CGI to go with the practical effects, but they blend well and don’t detract.

As always, there are the required cameos by Ted Raimi and the 1973 yellow Oldsmobile Delta 88. Sadly, Bruce Campbell was too busy shooting Burn Notice to make his cameo, so don’t hurt yourself looking for him.

The other thing missing is Sam’s usual hyper-cutting sequence, such as the scene where Doc Ock takes out the doctors who try to remove his arms.

Drag Me To Hell is rushed in places, has a few plot holes, and you don’t want to eat before you watch. But it’s fun, scary (unlike too many other horror movies made in the last few years), has solid acting by a good cast, and everything I love about a Sam Raimi horror flick (minus the Bruce).

It’s good to have Sam back in the genre he started with. So when do we get Evil Dead 4? I miss Ash!

RevSF writer Gary Mitchel has been president of the David Paymer Appreciation Society since City Slickers 2.

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