Drag Me to Hell is pretty damn good for a film that sat dormant for over ten years. Sam Raimi and brother Ivan wrote the screenplay after the last of the Evil Dead films had been made. The original title had been The Curse (Hmmm, wonder why Sam didn’t use that title?) and it was meant to be a modern morality tale.
Unfortunately Sam had to wade through three Spiderman films before he could start work on Drag Me to Hell. so it’s no real surprise that the screenplay is over a decade old. This is Sam Raimi going back to his Evil Dead roots. And though he doesn’t have Bruce Campbell to torture, he does have Alison Lohman who proves that you don’t have to be Bruce Campbell to imitate a Timex timepiece.
Lohman actually endured some things at the hands of director Raimi that would have most folks gagging. She doesn’t doesn’t even like the horror genre, but she’s a game girl who did all her own stunts. Pretty impressive.
The film opens with a 1969 visit to a spiritualist who is trying to drive an evil spirit or demon from a young Mexican boy. she loses the fight and the boy is dragged through her floor, screaming all the way to hell. The film then jumps ahead a whole lot of years to the present.
We meet mortgage clerk Christine Brown (Lohman) who is competing for the post of assistant manager against her creepy colleague Stu Rubin (played with a kind of smarmy charm by Reggie Lee). In an effort to please her annoying boss Mr Jacks (David Paymer) she turns down Mrs Ganush’s request for an extension on her mortgage which will stop the bank from taking her home. Mrs Ganush is played brilliantly by the much younger Lorna Raver
Mrs Ganush flings herself at Christine’s feet and clutching her skirt, begs for her to re-consider. Christine ‘freaks out’ at this dramatic behaviour and calls for security to remove the gypsy woman. Before she is dragged away by security, she spits at Christine and swears angrily at her.
A shaken Christine leaves for the day and as she gets into her car in the banks parking garage she is attacked by Mrs Ganush. This is one of the funniest scenes in the film as the two battle tooth and nail. At one point Christine ‘staples’ the other womans head. Just when Christine thinks she has won, Mrs Ganuh snatches a button from her clothes and places a curse on it and Christine. The woman then vanishes.
Christine enlists the help of her fiancée Clay Dalton (Justin Long in perhaps the ‘straightest’ role he’s ever done.) and they go to a fortune teller Rham Jas ( Dileep Rao) who tells her, initially, that there is nothing he can do. He explains that she is being haunted by an evil spirit. Christine goes home where she is attacked by the spirit and she goes back to Rham Jas pleading for a solution.
Jas explains the the spirit is the Lamia and it is very powerful. He tells her to sacrifice a small animal to appease the spirit. Christine heatedly states that she could never kill and innocent animal. The next day she is attacked by the spirit again. After she is pummelled and thrown about her bedroom like a rag doll, she kills her pet kitten. (Again one of the funnier moments in the film.)
The rest of the film is Christine’s battle to defeat the now dead Mrs Ganush and the curse. Sam Raimi could just as easily titled the film “Things That Make You Cringe with Embarrassment.”
Most of Christine’s ‘tortures’ are in public and excruciatingly embarrassing. Each set piece is a form of social gaffe that is so outlandish that it reaches the realm of slapstick. The nose bleed at the bank, the humiliation at the meal with Clay’s parents, the entire episode at Mrs Ganush’s funeral.
And that for me was what made the film fun and entertaining. What makes these social faux pas work so well is Christine herself. She is the epitome of the small town farm girl who feels out of her depth in the big city. Her insecurity is what forces her to cruelly turn down the pleading woman at the start of the film and this is what gets her in trouble.
Like his cult classic Evil Dead series and its hapless hero Ash, Christine gets the metaphorical crap kicked out of her, repeatedly. But like some kind of demented Weeble, she refuses to stay down and fights all the way to the end of the film.
This film made me laugh a lot. It also made me jump and squirm at some of the more ‘embarrassing’ punishments meted out to the heroine. In short this was Raimi doing what he does best, making horror films that make you do all the aforementioned things while watching.
If they ever give out awards for Court Jesters of Horror, it should go to Sam Raimi and Wes Craven. Two of the best Schlock-Meisters in the business.
I would rate this film as a ‘two-bagger’ because you’ll lose half of your popcorn from jumping and the other half by doubling over in laughter.
- Sam Raimi Talks Evil Dead Remake; Calls it ‘Gut Wrenching’ (dreadcentral.com)
- Evil Dead Reboot Wraps! The Waiting Begins. (dreadcentral.com)
- Sam Raimi Excited To See ‘Gut-Wrenching’ New ‘Evil Dead’ (moviesblog.mtv.com)
- Sam Raimi’s New Horror Flick ‘The Possession’ (returntofleet.com)
- Official ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ Poster Teases Sam Raimi’s Oz (screenrant.com)
- Sam Raimi Says New EVIL DEAD Movie Is Gut-Wrenching (geektyrant.com)
- plain idiocy. (seabiscuits.wordpress.com)