This past weekend, when I wasn’t screeching like an enthusiastic howler monkey at the passing drag queens in the Pride Parade, I managed to finally get my ass into the city and I finally caught Drag Me to Hell. Needless to say, I loved it. In fact, quite frankly (bad pun alert CODE RED!):
I mean, I could be biased, and by “biased” I mean “completely lacking in taste, good judgment, and (quite possibly) sanity.” After all, I did find Spider-Man 3 curiously entertaining in a campy, train wreck sort of way; so much so, in fact, that I saw it three times opening weekend. Then I bought the DVD. My only rationale is that I find the musical numbers fascinatingly out of place with the rest of the film. That, and I wrote the handbook on making good choices.
My point is that Sam Raimi, even in his missteps, displays an incredible understanding of genre and how to manipulate it and push it to the brink of shlock and camp without it becoming something eye-rollingly ridiculous (in the not-fun way). He’s capable of taking genre filmmaking seriously without making it laborious; his direction always has levity to it, and Drag Me to Hell is by no means an exception.
The plot is simple enough: Alison Lohman plays Christine Brown, a well-meaning loan officer determined to leave her small-town past by climbing up the ladder at her bank. In a bid for the open assistant manager position, she refuses to grant a mortgage extension to a sickly old gypsy (Lorma Raver), gets cursed by said gypsy, and spends the rest of movie being tormented by a goat demon (yes, a goat demon) that will in three days time drag her to hell. Gross-out gags, tons of scares, and darkly comic humor with the perfect touch of B-movie camp abound. You can’t necessarily argue that Sam Raimi’s aiming for art with Drag Me to Hell, but it’s impossible to deny that he’s made an incredibly smart and rather merciless thrill ride.
The scares, while mostly of the easy boo! variety, are at least genuinely earned by the way Raimi builds a mood of dread and suspense, and the ending is simply jaw-dropping perfection. The second the film cut to the closing credits, I blurted out, “Holy shit!” like I’d just gotten a rather nasty case of verbal/real diarrhea. It’s just that exceptional in execution. Drag Me to Hell is, as was advertised in the trailer, a return to true horror. Oh, and best of all? Raimi’s created a wonderfully rich and intriguing Final Girl with Christine.