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Drag Me To Hell

“Drag Me to Hell” is a true bubble gum horror movie — safe, vapid, fun and uniquely American. It was of course directed by Sam Raimi, whose name became synonymous with horror once “Evil Dead 2” was released in the mid-1980s. Even though he hadn’t made any horror since the third entry in his “Evil Dead” series, Raimi has always been considered a master of the horror film, despite his going off and directing mainstream pictures like “The Gift” and “Spiderman.”

So it was with great anticipation that his return to the genre hit cineplexes in the summer of 2009. No one quite expected bubble gum. But that’s what Raimi delivered. The film opens pretty strong, with a young Mexican boy being literally dragged to hell by demons. His crime: stealing a silver medallion from the wrong gypsy witch.

It becomes clear the deeper we go into the film that “Drag Me to Hell” is directly inspired by the much better 1950s horror film “Curse of the Demon”. Like Dana Andrew’s skeptic in that film, in Sam Raimi’s 2009 adaptation, a loan officer (Lohman) is confronted with a demonic curse that threatens to send her to hell. While “Curse” had an Aleister Crowley-like warlock making the curse, this film has a foreclosed witch cursing the loan officer who won’t give her a break. Raimi gets plenty of gross-out mileage from the gypsy witch (Lorna Raver), who wears dentures that she frequently removes and eventually morphs into a sucking, toothless, granny ghost. We are also able to instantly identify with Lohman’s working class loan officer, who is just trying to make a living for herself and impress her professor boyfriend, only to wind up cursed. As in “Curse of the Demon,” the curse leads to bizarre visions and crazy behavior from the target, who must give an article back to the person that cursed her (in “Demon” the article was a parchment, in this film it’s a button) if she has any hope of surviving.

Unlike “Curse,” this film has a wicked twist ending. “Drag Me to Hell” makes enough nods to the “Evil Dead” films to please Raimi’s horror fans — and has enough gee-wiz Americana to satisfy fans of Raimi’s “Spiderman” films. It feels a bit like a cross between a “Spiderman” movie and an “Evil Dead” comedy. One gets the sense that the main character may have even been written for Kristen Dunst. Actually, Ellen Page was originally announced as the star of this film, before dropping out for “scheduling reasons” and being replaced by Lohman. With Page, the film probably would have been a box office hit, as Lohman just doesn’t have quite the charisma to draw crowds for a PG-13 movie like this.

“Drag Me to Hell” feels like an extended episode of “Masters of Horror” — a good episode at that. But it just ain’t a horror classic, something you’d expect coming from a guy like Sam Raimi. What may be worse is the fact that the film had a PG-13 rating, when Raimi knew his old-school horror fans would have preferred R. Ironically, the film’s rating may have actually hurt it as the box office — and proven that the PG-13 horror trend was coming to a well-deserved end. Despite its flaws, “Drag Me to Hell” is an effective little horror movie. It also brought Apple spokesperson Justin Long back to the genre. Many of us still remember his last horror appearance: “Jeepers Creepers” nearly a decade ago.


April 11, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment