Drag Me To Hell is a wonderful synthesis of excessive horror and inappropriate comedy. Does it try to reinvent the wheel? Hell no. It’s a back to basics, scream a minute horror film with more than its fair share of shockingly brutal violence. Co-writer/director Sam Raimi though knows how to rein in the excesses the genre has recently pushed directors in, by making them so excessive on occasion that they’re funny. Does he always pull it off? No, but when he gets it right it’s really rewarding – bank loans officer Alison Lohman’s first violent encounter with Lorna Raver’s evil gypsy woman Mrs Ganush is a case in point. Raimi doesn’t give the viewer a chance to settle, only rarely alowing you a chance to catch your breath after Raver has unleashed her curse on the unwitting banker. It’s an adrenaline hit a minute at times, and quite regularly truly gross.
Sam Raimi’s return to horror also doubles as a timely morality play. Lohman in her zeal to be a less caring, more cold and calculating banker, has actually brought this on herself. She’s only nominally sympathetic, which allows us to really invest ourselves in the guilty pleasure that is Raver’s curse. Making her a greedy banker was a masterstroke, justifying in an instant all the horrors inflicted on her. The genuinely sympathetic character is her psychiatry lecturer boyfriend Justin (‘Jeepers Creepers’) Long – as adorable as ever, and finally beginning to exude authority of his own on screen. No matter what hallucinations are inflicted on Lohman or how excessive her behaviour gets as the curse takes its toll, Long is there as the dutiful, unconditional tower of strength. The chemistry between them is real, the relationship believably written. The film suffers somewhat in its second act, as Lohman tries to forestall her seemingly inevitable damnation to hell, and the film bounces between outright light comedy (when Lohman and Long visit the latter’s parents) and self-parody (from fortunte teller Dileep Rao who is actually quite funny), but the first false ending should be an effective warning to 80’s horror fans – you ain’t gonna get a happy ending here. I won’t spoil it, although I will happily reveal that at least one of your guesses will be right!
Drag Me To Hell is a witty return to form for Sam Raimi after the let down which was Spider-Man 3. It plays like you always wished the Haunted House ride at Disneyland could be – truly horrific and genuinely disturbing, but not so disturbing that you can’t have fun at the same time. There may be nothing new here, but telling an old story well is a dying art, and it’s one well worth revisiting here. 8/10