Drag Me to Hell

Dir: Sam Raimi

Rating: 2.0

Universal Pictures

99 Minutes

When I was in elementary school, we had a classmate named Dong that would cry at the drop of the hat. Let’s not confuse Dong with Vinny, however, who would literally cry if the breeze hit him the wrong way. Dong would really only cry when we teased him and we soon found, as little shit kids love to do, the easiest way to push the poor lad to tears.

“Dong, the gypsies are coming,” we would chant. “The gypsies are coming to take to you away.” Even though we had no idea what a gypsy was or why they were purported to steal children, such provocation turned Dong into a blubbering mess. Once he even threw at chair when someone pushed him too hard.

I hope to hell that poor Dong does not see Drag Me to Hell, Sam Raimi’s return to the splatter flick genre that made him famous after years making mainstream blockbusters such as Spider-Man. See, Drag Me to Hell features one very pissed off Gypsy woman who, like all Gypsies must do in horror films, curses poor Alison Lohman’s Christine after she refuses to grant her an extension on her housing loan.

More a comedy-horror in the vein of Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness rather than a film created to inspire fear in the hearts of intrepid viewers, Drag Me to Hell allows Raimi the opportunity to return to his old tricks of Three Stooges-type body humor and a chance to play with beasties that spew goo and like to scream in distorted voices. See, poor Christine isn’t all bad. A momentary lapse of better judgment and the desire to wrest a promotion away from a brown-nosing, shitbag colleague (Reggie Lee) informs her decision to foreclose on the Gypsy’s house. Call it the wrong place at the wrong time, but this choice gets Christine a one-way curse to hell when her despondent client sics an angry demon on her ass.

Unfortunately, Lohman does not possess the natural charisma Bruce Campbell brought to the Evil Dead series and her ersatz charm is not enough to carry the picture. Supporting players like boyfriend Clay (Mac-guy Justin Long) and spiritual guru Rham (Dileep Rao) have neither the acting chops nor the script to be anything more than incidental characters. So the entire production rests on the shoulders of Lohman and her battle against an invisible goat-demon named the Lamia.

Raimi will never be a great filmmaker, but Drag Me to Hell is more a series of squirm-inducing scenes than a cohesive film. Sure, there are plenty of gross-out scenes (including a classic battle between Christine and the Gypsy in a moving car), but rather than amount to a film that really chills the bones, Raimi mixes “gotcha!” moments with scenes so over the top, there is nothing to do but laugh.

Drag Me to Hell will never be more than a minor work in Raimi’s oeuvre, mainly because it’s really nothing new for him. After the past decade where Spider-Man made up 3/5 of the director’s films (the other being limp Southern gothic The Gift), Drag Me to Hell feels more like a doodle, a sketch from an artist needing to rejuvenate himself before heading back into the arachnid fold that puts food on the table. What Drag Me to Hell lacks, unlike Raimi’s best work in Darkman, Spider-Man 2 and A Simple Plan is the rich characterization that meshes seamlessly with his horrific vision. There is nothing in here that resonates. Someone is dragged to hell, the credits roll and we cease to care.

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