Sunday, 31 May 2009

Review: Drag Me to Hell

Sam Raimi has been responsible for at least two of my favourite films, namely Evil Dead 2 and The Quick and the Dead. Lately though he has slipped into what might kindly be called Hollywood hackery with the risible Spiderman series, which I dont care what you say, are all pretty shoddy, the latest instalment of which was an absolute stinker. He has now however, with Drag me to Hell, seen a return to the genre that made his name, and happily, a return to the glorious stature of his early work with all the thrills, spills and gross out moments that go with the territory.

Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is the sweet natured loan arranger, whose one act to demonstrate she is capable of making the tough decisions to her fickle boss and secure herself the assistant manager position, finds herself on the wrong end of a gypsy curse when she refuses the extension of a mortgage payment for the sinister Mrs Ganush. We should hope there is no lesson to be learned from Raimi’s cautionary tale, for what follows is 90 minutes of torture for the poor Lohman as she is hounded and brutalised by both the vengeful Ganush and the goat-demon set upon her for this heinous crime, all delivered in Raimi’s former trademark gross out, slapstick style. On realising the curse upon her she is given three days to try to get rid of it before she is taken to Hell to writhe in torment for all eternity, a task which she takes to with much gusto but not a great deal of success, despite the assistance of an unfortunate kitty. Raimi doesn’t muck about – considering the opening scene shows a previous victim of the same demon, a young boy who is violently dragged into the fiery pit within the first 5 minutes, it’s clear there’s no low to which Raimi wont stoop for our perverse laughs.

The plot is daft and 2 dimensional but this is a script written for pure thrills. Lohman’s rival for the promotion is unashamedly obnoxious. The boyfriend is simperingly besotted. The creepy Ganush is outrageously over the top. And yet they all perform their jobs perfectly to propel Lohman along her unenviable path. Scenes are orchestrated to wring the strongest possible squirms of embarrassment and horror from the audience as Lohman’s demonic stalking swings from the creepy to the gross and often to the downright hilarious, the dinner scene with the boyfriends snooty parents and some eyeball cake is a belter, and Raimi doesn’t miss an opportunity to scare our pants off with the big screams at any given moment. The horror slips into outright loony tunes in some places, even going as far as to drop an anvil on an old lady’s head, complete with trademark flying eyeballs.

Performances are all excellent – Lohman herself does an admirable job as she’s put through this ghost ride of grossness in a way probably only Bruce Campbell can really appreciate. Dileep Rao is also worth a mention as the spiritualist who diagnoses her situation and gives his help, brilliantly deadpanning “well, I think that’s enough for today” after the most drawn out and dramatic of scares. The whole thing zips along merrily and has no fat on it whatsoever, culminating in a satisfying macabre finale.

It’s an excellent return to form, full of laugh out loud moments and cheap screams – see it at the cinema- this is an experience best shared with lots of jumpy, screaming people. Short and sweet, this is mile a minute film making that only Raimi has ever got right. It’s just a shame he will still be returning to his Spiderman chair, as this nasty schlock corner is clearly where his heart, and his talents, lie.

Tree house rating


Drag me to the cinema

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