REVIEW: Drag Me to Hell

31 10 2009

I have made it inherently clear that I’m not a big fan of horror movies.  However, “Drag Me to Hell” is surprisingly rip-roaring entertainment, simultaneously fun and spine-chilling.  Co-writer/director Sam Raimi has removed a veil of self-importance that the horror genre has given itself and presents a movie that never takes itself too seriously.  He knows that his movie is packed full of the stereotypical harbingers of doom: flies, shadows, old ladies, worms – you name it, he included it.  He knows that his movie does not offer a plot you haven’t seen or can’t predict.  Yet he infuses “Drag Me to Hell” with a refreshing dark humor, most evident during the action sequences, that makes it a pill you don’t mind swallowing.

Christine (Alison Lohman) is a loan officer who turns down the wrong woman (a gypsy played to eerie perfection by Lorna Raver) while seeking a promotion.  She is haunted by spirits who would make the “Paranormal Activity” demon cower.  They don’t care for a slow build, but rather come soon, quickly, and often.  “Drag Me to Hell” is particularly sharp in capturing the psychological toll the haunting takes on Christine, especially when she is required to make tough moral judgement calls.  Thus, the movie is surprisingly thought-provoking, raising questions such as, “Who deserves to go to hell?”

“Drag Me to Hell” is only PG-13, so there is no excessive gore or nasty torture.  But there is plenty to freak you out and gross you out, the latter being mostly for laughs.  The movie’s brilliant sequences of terror make you uncomfortable in a completely original way by making you unsure of what emotion to feel.  As Christine fends herself from the haggardly gypsy by using a stapler, you can’t help but wonder how to react.  Do I scream?  Do I cringe?  Do I laugh?  I did the latter of the three, but Raimi brilliantly concocts these moments so that the audience can make of it what they want.  “Drag Me to Hell” is what you make it: an action movie, a horror movie, a comedy, or any combination of the three.  The choice is yours.  A- /

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