Back in 1981, Sam Raimi made a little movie called The Evil Dead. Full of shocks and gore it was a cult classic, and six years later he managed to top that with its sequel, which had even more blood and gore, made with the help of a bigger budget. Fast forward to 2009, and Raimi has become an enormously successful director with the Spider-Man trilogy, but they were such enormous movie events that he wanted to go back to his roots making a fun, slightly goofy horror film and the result was Drag Me To Hell.
The plot is quite simple and barely needs repeating. Christine Brown (played by Alison Lohman), a mild mannered loan officer at a bank, is looking for promotion and wants to prove to her bosses that she can make brave decisions.
A rather sickly gypsy woman with a dodgy eye (whose teeth seem to fall out regularly) comes in and begs for an extension to her loan. Brown refuses and it’s probably the worst decision she’ll make in her life, as the gypsy woman decides she deserves cursing and a one-way ticket to hell.
It’s a very silly film, but that’s beside the point. The film is more of an experience, and Raimi is a master at putting the audience through the mill as some very nasty things, including blood, maggots and vomit, either hit or come out of the unlucky lady.
There are brilliant set pieces throughout, starting from the first scenes, which give a little bit of background to the curse, and ending with a last minute shock that still surprises you even though in the back of your mind you’re expecting it.
It’s not as gory as the Evil Dead movies, but with a 15-certificate that would have been impossible. There aren’t any actual deaths portrayed onscreen (unless you count animals), and most of the scares centre on the hellish experiences that Christine has to go through.
But, even though you generally know what’s coming around the corner, Raimi is the best around at delivering the shocks thanks to his nifty camera work and his natural ability to set, deliver and climax a scene.
A word out has to go to Alison Lohman, who plays the incredibly unfortunate cursed Christine. When she read the script she must have spent at least a little bit of time figuring out that she was going to have to suffer quite a lot in the movie. But she does it and she does it well, and her desperation to escape her fate is played very well.
On the other hand, Justin Long as Clay doesn’t really have to do much but play his geeky cool shtick he has to play in every movie. Could he ever play anything different? Certainly not here.
As noted previously, the film is very silly, and does descend into cheese at particular points. The use of séances, mystics and stereotypical gypsy people isn’t the most original of ideas, and at some points is downright laughable. But again, this movie is not about the plot, it’s all about the ride.
It’s really good to see Raimi go back to basics, but anybody who has ever watched Evil Dead and loved it will possibly be missing the more exploitative violence and gore. It’s probably comparable to the blood and gore level of Army Of Darkness (Evil Dead 3), which was also a 15-certificate.
But that’s not what Drag Me To Hell is about. It¹s a ghost train, a spook show, more about the scares than gore, and the torture porn genre offers bucket loads of that anyway, if that’s what you¹re looking for.
It is definitely one of the best horror movies of 2009, and up somewhere among the director’s best work, even though you can tell that this film was not meant to be taken seriously, by Raimi or the audience!
It’s a fun-filled fairground ghost ride in the form of a movie.
Drag Me To Hell is out now.
Review discs were provided by Zavvi.com.