With the “torture porn” trend having taken onscreen brutality and unpleasantness about as far as it can go short of actual snuff, the time is right for a horror movie that’s more funhouse than charnel house. And who better to make that film than Sam Raimi, the director who cut his teeth on the Evil Dead series before moving on to mainstream success with A Simple Plan and Spider-Man? Effortlessly blending scares, laughs, and thrills, Drag Me To Hell , which opens areawide on Friday, should satisfy both the hardcore fans waiting for Evil Dead 4 and general audiences looking for a summer rollercoaster ride.
Christine Brown (Allison Lohman) is a farm girl in the big city trying to cover up her country roots so she can impress the upper class parents of her boyfriend Clay (Justin Long). She also wants to get ahead at her job as a loan officer. To prove to her boss (David Paymer) that she can be just as heartless as her chief rival for an assistant manager position, Christine denies a loan extension to Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver), a poor old gypsy woman about to be foreclosed on. Bad move. The gypsy places a curse on Christine, summoning a demonic creature called the Lamia that torments its victims for three days before carting their souls off to hell.
The script, co-written by director Sam Raimi and his brother Ivan, gives us believable characters we actually care about, and thankfully doesn’t waste much time with scenes of Christine trying to convince her skeptical boyfriend that something weird is going on. He doesn’t believe her, but he supports her, anyway. There’s also some thematic depth, with the movie exploring the idea that even a genuinely good person like Christine can commit one misdeed and wind up in a living hell.
Mostly, however, Drag Me To Hell just wants to entertain, and lest the Evil Dead fans start to worry there are plenty of Raimi’s trademark gross-outs, slapstick gags, and creative camera moves. Those elements never overwhelm the film, though. Where the Evil Dead series was the work of a raw but talented newcomer, Drag Me To Hell shows a mature and assured directorial hand that knows exactly what buttons to push with an audience while still telling a decent story. Some may prefer flying through space with the crew of the Starship Enterprise, but the most fun I’ve had at the movies this year was an hour and a half spent in hell.