“Drag Me to Hell,” Sam Raimi’s gorrific return to all things spooky, is a masterful blend of comedy and horror with a bloodbath of artsy cinematography and witty moral commentary.
Christine Brown is a loan officer who competes with a co-worker for the assistant managerial position at her bank. When Mrs. Ganush, an old Gypsy woman, requests a third loan on her house, Brown denies Ganush in hopes that her boss will see that she can “make the tough decisions.”
A fateful moment in which Brown “shames” Ganush leads the old gypsy to place a curse on her. The young loan officer is literally tormented by demons for three days until ultimately getting dragged to Hell.
Seeking the help of her philosophy professor boyfriend, Clay Dalton, and Rham Jas, the neighborhood psychic, Brown desperately tries to dodge her cursed fate with morally ambiguous methods.
Alison Lohman plays Brown, the self-affirming girl-next-door vegetarian who used to be fat. It’s rumored that Ellen Page was originally slated to play Lohman’s character; and if the rumor were true, “Drag Me to Hell” would be a different movie.
Lohman was a perfect Christine Brown because of her helpless, doughy-eyed appeal – not to mention her lung power when it came to screaming. She made blending comedy and horror seem effortless.
Page, best known for her title role in “Juno,” has a sarcastic, sharp-witted persona that wouldn’t work in this particular film. It’s hard to picture Page reciting, “There is no friction with the proper diction,” especially since we’re used to seeing her play a tough girl.
Justin Long, best known for his clumsy role in “Dodgeball,” is Clay Dalton. Long plays the skeptical professor well, although Dalton and Brown lack chemistry in the film. Raimi likely made the relationship somewhat static on purpose to heighten Lohman’s insecurities about herself and to pose the question as to whether Dalton will stay with her, even when it seems she’s going crazy.
Although the relationship between the two adds depth and suspense to the film, the stronger question we end up asking at what length are we willing to go to save ourselves? What falsified morals are we willing to compromise? A sacrificial scene involving Brown’s beloved cat exemplifies that well. Did I mention that Brown once volunteered at the animal shelter? In society, we find ourselves doing good deeds to get something out of it or for self-satisfaction. Raimi’s film is a commentary in this light.
Raimi also creates an aura of suspense throughout the film by combining a classical horror film score with extreme close-ups. One particular shot is of Mrs. Ganush tapping her rotten fingernails on Lohman’s desk at the beginning of the movie. The synchronicity of the score and the shots add to the sometimes-cheesy special effects – we’ve gotten so used to seeing special effects used in movies these days that nothing impresses us anymore.
The title of the film is a blunt give away of the climax, but the movie is more about being a complete package rather than trying to guess what’s going to happen at the end. As far as flaws are concerned, the title is the biggest one. Walking into the theater and not knowing anything about Raimi’s past work, one is unlikely to expect much from the film except pure entertainment. But from the opening credits on, the movie delivers. “Drag Me to Hell” was a wonderful surprise.