I’ve never been overly scrupulous when it comes to following guidelines, particularly those I set out for myself. So, on that note, I interrupt your regularly scheduled review of some golden oldie to present my thoughts on something that’s still in theatres (in fact, it just opened).
He’s back again, armed with a bigger budget, a young and talented cast, and enough buckets filled with blood, bodily fluids and other assorted nastiness to send the squeamish running for cover. Who am I referring to? The answer of course is director Sam Raimi, and the film in question is Drag Me To Hell. It stars Allison Lohman as Christine, a loan officer who is cursed by an old gypsy woman after Christine refuses to grant her a third extension on her mortgage. The nature of this curse? The movie’s title pretty much tells you all you need to know.
Drag Me To Hell represents an opportunity to see Raimi returning to his roots. His last three movies prior to this one were the Spiderman films, but Raimi cut his teeth making low-budget horror films. Of these, the best known is the cult classic Army Of Darkness, which featured a career-defining performance from Bruce Campbell. Unfortunately, Campbell is not among the cast in this film, but Lohman proves to be a fitting substitute.
As far as this film goes, there’s bad news and there’s good news. The bad news is that there’s nothing new here. Gypsy curse this, demon that, eternal damnation, blah blah blah. The good news is… There’s nothing new here. There’s no need to go reinventing the wheel – especially when it comes to the horror genre – so Raimi doesn’t try, he just takes you on a great ride. Sure, it’s a ride we’ve all been on a time or two, but that doesn’t mean it’s less fun.
Joining Christine in the efforts to save her soul are her boyfriend Clay (played by Justin Long) and a couple of helpful mediums (played by Adriana Barraza and Dileep Rao). Opposing them is the delightfully creepy gypsy woman, Mrs. Ganush. Ganush is played to perfection by Lorna Raver. Her and Lohman get the most screen time and play off each other well. Unfortunately the others aren’t given a whole lot to do, particularly Long. Though I like him as an actor, his character is portrayed as a dope but somehow is meant to be believable as a professor. It doesn’t really work.
Fortunately, the movie isn’t about his character, it’s all about Christine. Lohman does a fine job with the role, playing the quiet girl who’s thrust headlong into a nightmare. Her character spends a lot of time getting thrown around, beaten up, and looking pathetic, but on the flip side she does have some great lines – delivered with just the right amount of defiance – as her battle to save her soul heats up.
In typical Raimi fashion, there are jokes peppered throughout Drag Me To Hell. There’s nothing quite as overtly slapstick as some of the Three Stooges-inspired moments from Army Of Darkness, but a few scenes come close. These instances provide some welcome breathers, because despite the film’s rather predictable plot, it still has more than enough genuine scares to keep you on edge.
Contributing to some of these scares is a fantastically creepy score by Christopher Young, the composer behind such classic horror scores as Hellbound: Hellraiser II. Young’s work on Drag Me To Hell runs the gamut from simple, foreboding violin and piano cues to goosebump-raising, fully orchestral pieces with choral accompaniments. It’s easily one of my favourite film scores this year.
In the end, Drag Me To Hell turned out to be exactly what I was hoping to see: a fun, traditional horror movie, with a couple of Sam Raimi touches. Nothing more, and nothing less. Those in search of a bloody good time need look no further.