DRAG ME TO HELL - Mania.com

Movie Review

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Movie: Drag Me to Hell
  • Reviewed Format: Theatrical
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 1 hr & 39 min.
  • Starring: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, David Paymer, Reggie Lee and Adriana Barraza
  • Written By: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi
  • Directed By: Sam Raimi
  • Distributor: Universal Pictures
  • Series:


Fun With Talking Goats

By Rob Vaux     May 28, 2009

Mania's review of Sam Raimi's DRAG ME TO HELL(2009).
© Mania.com/Robert Trate


When they see the PG-13 rating on Drag Me to Hell, horror fans may fear that Sam Raimi has lost his exploitation-film touch. Not to worry. The rating itself is a bad joke, overlooking some of the most intense and horrific movie imagery in recent years solely because there's no nudity or swearing. Kudos to Raimi and company for jobbing the system so completely as to once more render it meaningless. And shame yet again on the MPAA for kow-towing to studio commercial demands--revealing for the umpteenth time what a spineless gang of parasites they really are. (Way to protect America's families, fellas. Be sure to stick this one on the lower racks at the Wal-Mart where tiny five-year-old hands can reach it.)
As for the film itself, it constitutes a full-bore throwback to the Raimi of old--the one who delighted in chasing Bruce Campbell through the woods with a steadicam and treated the cinematic medium as the coolest pinball game ever conceived. Big Bruce is nowhere to be seen here, but that yellow '73 Oldsmobile is on full display, driven by a gypsy crone who curses nice girl Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) as revenge for foreclosing on her home. Drag Me to Hell also features sentient crockery, spooky figures at windows and periodic boo-gotcha moments delivered with soundtrack cranked to 11. Evil Dead 4? Not quite, but you can see it from here.
Raimi seems acutely aware that most people these days know him more for Spider-Man than for the horror classics which made his career. Yet while he cheerfully celebrates his roots here, he stops just shy of shoving our noses in it: characteristic of his deceptively confident dance between extreme horror and Three Stooges farce. When truly frightening spirits arise to menace our fair heroine, you just know there's an anvil waiting somewhere for her to drop on their heads: a balance few filmmakers can even contemplate, let alone execute.
Granted, Christine's no Ash. She can barely match wits with her feckless rivals at the bank where she works, let alone the armies of perdition. Her wet noodle of a boyfriend (Justin Long) supports her, but struggles to understand the nature of the problem: namely, that the gypsy woman's curse will send her soul shrieking to hell in three days unless she can find a way around it. In the meantime, a creature known as a lamia--your basic goat-headed abomination of the underworld--begins tormenting her every waking moment, giving Raimi ample opportunity to jump out at us from dark places. Copious special effects appear in the service of simple and elegant horrors: shadows forming clawed hands which reach out for Christine, floating handkerchiefs that crawl down her throat, and a pesky fly which should make for more sleepless nights than any legion of gibbering boogeymen.
Raimi deploys it all as if his years at the top of the Hollywood food chain never existed. Though glossier and more polished than the Evil Dead films, Drag Me to Hell adroitly resurrects the gleeful anarchy lying at that series' core. It also surrounds the scares with a fast-paced framework that allows for plenty of EC Comics twists, reveling in grotesquery even as it snickers up its sleeve at the absurdity of it all. Lohman proves an aptly game lead, allowing the director to have fun at her expense while playing Christine's increasingly desperate moral compromises with an appropriately straight face.
Horror movies of this ilk have been few and far between of late. The post-9/11 crop veered towards abattoirs and torturous sadism, daring audiences to see how much they could take before their better natures demanded they leave the theater. The movement produced its share of decent films, but the overkill has sucked much of the joy out of the genre. There is no director more qualified than this one to bring it back: to slap some William Castle joy buzzers on the theater seats and remind the audience not to take it all so seriously. Drag Me to Hell displays a few stumbling points (the business with the kitten is uncalled for, no matter how intentionally ridiculous it may be), and a few of the winks become too sly for their own good, but having been away from horror so long, we can forgive Raimi if he needs a moment or two to get his bearings.
For all their protestations to simple popcorn fun, most summer movies groan under the weight of their own pretense. Drag Me to Hell carries no such burden: eager to remind us how much of a gas this time of year should be.


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acidsquall73 5/28/2009 10:46:17 AM

I had no problem with the kitty horror ;-)

Saw this at a screening on Tuesday night. B plus is the absolute lowest I would go. I really enjoyed this movie. I swear I was waiting for Ash or a skeletal warrior to make an appearance during the seance scene. I know it would've been hokey and would've taken away from the story, but how fun would that have been? I gotta say I jumped out of my seat a couple of times. And it's not like it was just loud. There was a couple parts I wasn't expecting. I would definitely recommend this to anyone that, even if you weren't a fan of the Evil Dead movies, has any desire to see a good horror flick.

Good review Rob.

joeybaloney 5/28/2009 1:16:36 PM

So looking forward to this!

DaForce1 5/28/2009 7:17:38 PM

Definitely a B plus. Saw this tues. night as well, and if you've seen Evil Dead, you pretty much know this storyline as well, but it's still a fun ride. My only problem was all the foul things going into people's mouths. Seriuosly a gross-out for me.

Special kudos to the young kid at the beginning of the film who I almost mistook for a child Bruce Campbell impersonator the way Raimi was throwing him around the set. Definitely a nice return to the horror/comedy (played completely straight) by Raimi. Hopefully doesn't stay away for so long again next time.

invisioner 5/29/2009 6:49:04 AM

 Just a tiny correction, Sam didn't use a steadicam to chase Bruce around with, he used two 2 x 4s he mounted the camera with and the Cohen Brothers RAN AFTER BRUCE WITH IT!!! Sorry, I learned about that in film school and it was tres cool to read the Cohen brothers did that with Sam. 

DaForce1 5/29/2009 9:02:42 AM

Invisioner, actually Sam met Joel Cohen when he went to edit Evil Dead. In fact, Joel is named as the editor of the movie. The Cohen Bros. weren't on the shoot of Evil Dead. Read "If Chins Could Kill" by Bruce Campbell for a play-by-play of the filming of Evil Dead. Pretty funny stuff.

avidfan 5/29/2009 10:53:43 AM

Awesome, awesome, awesome...

raa2001 5/30/2009 5:50:45 PM

I saw this movie yesterday.  It was a lot of fun and definitely reminded me of an 80's B movie placed in the 21st century.  This movie was actually more funny than scary.

MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 5/31/2009 1:02:33 AM

This movie was good as fuck.  It was funny and scary and definitely reminded of the style of horror that was Evil Dead 2.  If it was another director I would have said he was heavily influenced by Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2 that's how much it reminded me of that shit.  And thank God we finally (SPOILER WARNING) have a movie that doesnt' have a happy ending.

ddiaz28 6/1/2009 8:00:42 AM

I didn't plan on seeing this but my neighbor asked me to go with him and his son so I figured what the hell (pun intended) and went.  I really enjoyed it.  Especially the over the top scenes that had a more gross out factor than scare factor.  Especially when the old lady "gummed" her in the face.  Twice!  That was sick.  I found the ending a bit predictable though. 



Instead of her being dragged down though, I thought it would have been a better ending to have had the boyfriend being dragged to hell because he had the button now instead of the coin.  It would have made for a bit of horrific irony.

themovielord 6/1/2009 11:21:20 PM

ddiaz, I thought the ending was still good. Despite how predictable it was. Raimi kept me guessing though if he would be that obvious with his eventual outcome...  Rob V you're right, this time of year movies are supposed to be fun like DRAG ME TO HELL.

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