Screenwriters: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi
Starring: Alison Lohman (interview), Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, David Paymer, Adriana Barraza
Running time: 99 mins
Sam Raimi's long-awaited return to the horror genre doesn't disappoint, with Drag Me To Hell a wildly enjoyable romp that both shivers the spine and tickles the ribs with effortless ease. The story is simple and engaging, Alison Lohman turns in a thoroughly brave turn as the tormented leading lady, and - best of all - a talking goat is the incarnation of pure evil. This is horror at its most bonkers and brilliant.
Lohman plays loan manager Christine, a kind-hearted lass eager for a promotion at her firm. To impress her boss she turns down a desperate plea by old gypsy lady Mrs Ganush for another extension on her repayments - and is rewarded with an ancient curse for her actions. Only Christine can see the evil forces closing in on her, causing much embarrassment to her in front of her smart boyfriend Clay (Justin Long) and his stuffy parents. But how far will Christine go to rid herself of the curse before she's given a one-way ticket to hell? Could sacrificing her beloved pet be one way to fend off the attacks?
From its terrifying opening, Drag Me To Hell unsettles the audience with a steady stream of scares that emanate from Raimi's mastery of suspense and timing, as he knows exactly when to unleash the terror and jangle the nerves. An abundance of slapstick gore provides plenty of thrills, particularly involving certain body parts of the decaying gypsy woman being unleashed upon poor Christine. If you're someone who winces during the maggot-munching Bushtucker Trials on I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, then it's best advised to have a paper bag on standby while watching this film. Flying squishy eyeballs, frothing false teeth and body-invading bees are just some of the icky perils that crop up.
Echoing the severe ordeals endured by Bruce Campbell's Ash in Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy, Alison Lohman is put through an incredible number of gruesome encounters as her character is dragged down towards the hellish abyss - and the young actress emerges with her star in the ascendancy. She nails some deceptively hard scenes, displaying her physical acting prowess while fending off an attack by a killer handkerchief, in addition to ensuring her character is consistently sympathetic despite some of her less than humanitarian actions.
Lohman neatly brings out Christine's internal business vs. morality conflict in an understated manner during the workplace-based scenes, plus her breakdown at a dinner party and admission that her mother is an alcoholic all reek of psychological credence despite the very strange and fantastical nature of the story. Justin Long's amiable Clay functions as a straight foil to the increasingly bedraggled Christine, although the role is too underdeveloped and underused to make much impact. Along with a couple of dodgy computer-generated effects that detract from the brilliant 'real' make-up and prosthetics, those are the movie's only arguable flaws.
The film's sound design is notably impressive, with the eerie hums and vibrations echoing The Exorcist in terms of their ability to freak out the viewer. Although much of the horror is splattered in your face - you can almost feel Mrs Ganush's frothy, filthy false teeth sinking into your skin - there are plenty of subtle visual touches, often involving shadows, that keep the excitement levels raised in between the set-piece splatterfests. Much of the actual horror takes place in the viewer's mind though, which is a pleasing antidote to the 'torture porn' horror that has infested cinemas in recent years.
The superb Drag Me To Hell deserves to be seen on a large screen with a sizeable crowd. Much like a theme park rollercoaster ride, the synchronised gasping, screaming and relieved bursts of laughter can only enhance the experience. Let's just hope that it's not too long before Sam Raimi ditches the web-spinning antics of the Spider-Man franchise and digs up the Book Of The Dead for more zany Ash antics...
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