Drag Me to Hell (2009) Review

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I have been gypped

Drag Me to Hell (2009): 4 out of 10: Well, this is wonderful, another movie that achieved universal critical acclaim that I did not enjoy. Oh, and to make matters worse, it is a horror film (which rarely achieves universal acclaim and which I love) and is by director Sam Raimi whose movies I usually like.

Drag Me to Hell is all about gypsy curses. In the tradition of the superior Thinner and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, our heroine Alison Lohman, inadvertently comes across the curse. She is a bank manager who turns down a third extension on an old gypsy’s house mortgage, causing her to lose the home. (Lohman is eyeing a promotion and her boss told her to be tough) The Gypsy in question attacks Lohman (in the film’s best scene) and then places a curse on her. She has three days to get rid of the curse or she will, as the title suggests, be dragged to hell.

In those three days, the demon in question will torment Lohman, so far so good. Then the movie falls off the rails. Lohman does something so horrific and unnecessary to get rid of the curse she becomes a Black Hat extraordinaire. Now a twist like that certainly can work if the film acknowledges it, but Raimi keeps his cards too close to the vest.

It quickly comes clear that Lohman, despite acting like a younger, blonder, more innocent Kirsten Dunst, is easily the evilest thing in the film. The film simply does not pull this switcheroo off or may not even realize it on some level.

The major fault lies with the lead performance of Alison Lohman, who seems to skip through the movie with one confused expression, another confused expression, and a decent scream. Raimi knows his buttons too well and fixates on violating the chaste Loman’s mouth with flies, maggots, blood, fists, entire arms, and in the most disgusting thing ever; an old lady’s mouth without her dentures.

Loman cannot pull off a fun evil, so instead, she is more the brain-dead banal evil. This is a role that requires a Linda Fiorentino style touch. I simply do not think Loman had the chops for the role.

Drag Me to Hell’s tone is strange. Many scenes are tongue in cheek (a giant anvil held by a rope, for instance) but others are so horrific (The aforementioned horrible act that shall not be named) that it takes one out of the story.

The rest of the cast is decent, with Justin Long giving a convincing performance as the nice guy with the evil girlfriend from hell. (Well going to hell… you know what I mean.) Long is best known as the Apple guy in the Get a Mac ad campaign and the film keeps sticking him in front of Apple product placements handicapping his effectiveness.

There is also some strangely bad CGI in the mix. While Raimi knows how to push the gross-out buttons and the jump scares, he would have been better off with some old school effects.

Overall, I am beyond disappointed. I guess once again I will be that guy who didn’t like the film everyone else loved. It is “Rushmore” all over again.

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