Sam Raimi is one director who really knows his genre. I’m not the biggest fan of horror movies, but damn, he knows how to find spooks and chills using minimalist tricks that stopped being fashionable quite a while back. I loved his “Spider-Man 2,” and the scene were Doc Ock emerges is downright frightening in what is supposed to be a lightweight comic book movie.
In “Drag Me to Hell,” he uses every trick he’s got to scare his audience, and while the film has its problems, mood and unease are not them.
The films centers around Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), a young woman in a transitional phase; she’s got the good job at bank, where she could get a promotion if she can prove she’s tough enough to handle being a loan officer; she’s got a good boyfriend who might propose if she can make a good impression on his blue-blood parents.
So, she’s a bit bummed that things aren’t good yet, but hope is in her life…right up until she meets Sylvia Ganush (Lorna Raver), an elderly woman who needs an extension on her mortgage. In order to impress her boss (and possibly secure that promotion), Christine denies her an extension, and after Sylvia’s pleas are turned down (and after a hilarious and scary car fight), Sylvia uses a Gypsy curse on Christine, damming our plucky young heroine to rot in Hell for all eternity (anyone who has ever watched “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or its spinoff “Angel” knows those Gypsies mean business with their curses).
At first, Christine tries to shake it off, encouraged by her sweet if condescending boyfriend Clay (Justin Long), but after one harrowing encounter, she’s ready to do anything to put an end to her awful fate.
Seriously, that’s a great setup, and Raimi gives his audience both chills and laughs with the ridiculous and disgusting ways this demon torments Christine. The pacing also just flies by, never lingering too long in one scene.
But what stops the movie from being exceptional is Lohman.
In every movie I see her in I am less and less convinced of her acting chops. She is incredibly beautiful, and she can do a sad look like no one else…and that’s it. No matter what horrors Christine is facing, there is Lohman looking sad or trying to act like she knows what she’s talking about. She is completely unconvincing on screen, and I really wish she would have sat this one out.
“Drag Me to Hell” had all the pieces to make a great horror film, and instead it must settle for being an average one.
“Drag Me to Hell” (2009)
Writter by Sam Raimi and Ivan Raimi
Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring: Alison Lohman (Christine)
Justin Long (Clay)
Lorna Raver (Sylvia Ganush)