Film Review: Drag Me to Hell

— by Caroline on Crack

Gypsy woman (Lorna Raver) hexes poor Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) in Drag Me to Hell

The creepiness of Spider-Man director Sam Raimi’s new movie, Drag Me to Hell, slowly works its way on you much like a gypsy curse. In the initial viewing of it, you might squeal a bit and laugh a lot but never really squirm from actual fear. It’s not til much later, when, say you have to walk to your car in an empty garage or when you have to turn on the light on the far end of a dark room that the creepiness sets in. Eeeee! Lamia!

I think it’s because I underestimated its scariness. Because, Drag Me to Hell is really more a slapstick comedy in the guise of a horror film than something instantly chilling like The Ring. And that’s classic Raimi. His Evil Dead movies from the ’80s (my fave is Evil Dead II) may have dealt with the walking and twitchy undead, possessed and murderous hands, and blood gushing out of walls but they were also pretty hilarious. I half-expected Bruce “Gimme Some Sugar, Baby” Campbell (Ash from the Evil Dead movies) to have a cameo.

DMTH’s storyline is a good enough scary story with the hapless Everygirl Christine Brown, played by the doe-eyed Alison Lohman, who is tormented by a Lamia via a gypsy curse and tries desperately to undo the hex. What sucks, like any tragedy, is that this didn’t have to happen. See, she’s a loan officer at this bank and she could have extended the creepy gypsy woman’s home loan (I would have!), but because she so badly wanted to impress her boss enough to get the vacant assistant manager position, she doesn’t. And that’s when things go very badly for our young heroine. Ay yi yi.

And yes, there were many times when I hid behind my hair but that was only to avoid gross-out moments. Of which there were many, like the oozing green goo from embalmed bodies and flying eyeballs that kept my bf and the rest of the theater shrieking with laughter.

While I kept my eyes averted from the screen, I couldn’t help but wonder, why has this movie been lauded by film critics, earning a 94% on It’s not scary, and one too many times it resorts to that cheap scare tactic used in modern horror movies — chilling music buildup, momentary silence with sigh of relief and then LOUD surprise. Bah! Oh, is this when I should get in the fetal position? After the 10th time, I didn’t even flinch, except to roll my eyes.

From A.V. Club:

[Sam Raimi] wants viewers to jump out of their chairs, to laugh and scream and cheer, and to nudge each other over the transcendent ridiculousness of what they’re witnessing. This is junk filmmaking at its finest.

And I don’t know if it was just the mall movie theater I was in — AMC Loews Broadway 4 on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade — but the volume felt like it was turned to 11. The tweeners in the audience, of course, loved it, but OW my old ears!

But I didn’t hate the movie. It was good fun, the characters were likable (except that overly creepy gypsy woman), and it wasn’t too formulaic. In fact, I liked how they didn’t go for the easy save. Tragedies had to happen here and often did. Awesome.

I think DMTH is the perfect flick to watch on a weekend night before that barhop. If you’ve already watched Star Trek, that is. Drag Me to Hell is such a refreshing scary movie in this era of torture porn and remakes. And I naturally welcome Raimi’s return to horror and can’t even wait to see if there really is going to be an Evil Dead IV in 2011.

BTW, I highly recommend that you see this movie at the ArcLight or any movie theater that’s not in a mall. Since it’s PG-13, it seems that it’s the perfect opportunity for teenagers to socialize.

During our Friday night screening, gaggles of teens populated the theater screaming at the screen, text messaging with their bright phones and conversing during the movie’s critical moments. One group even got kicked out. HA ha!