Everyone is calling Drag Me to Hell Sam Raimi’s triumphant return to horror. But I say, take the Raimi name out of it, and you’re just left with a faux-camp horror movie that’s not particularly frightening or funny.
Drag Me to Hell tries to walk the fine line of scares and laughs that the Evil Dead trilogy did so excellently years ago. However, a gypsy curse of a young woman causing her psyche to devolve like she just got a “seven days” phone call from the girl from The Ring, is not nearly as much fun to watch as a man fighting his own possessed friends (and hand) with a chainsaw and a shotgun in a remote cabin in the Michigan woods. But Raimi tries valiantly to make us enjoy it anyways, with varying results throughout.
Alison Lohman is Christine Brown, a former farm girl with big city expectations. She’s up for a promotion at the bank where she works, but her boss tells her she needs to be able to make the kind of tough decisions a middle manager has to.
Her next chance comes in the form of a decrepit old woman whose house is being forclosed on. After weighing whether or not to give her a third extension on her credit, Christine opts against it, thinking she’ll impress her boss in the process.
Well, as it turns out the old woman is a gypsy, and if Snatch taught us anything, it’s don’t **** with the gypsies. She curses Alison, and damns her soul to be tormented for three days before her soul is quite literally dragged to hell by a gypsy demon god. Her life starts to unravel, and the symptoms of the curse grow until she’s willing to do absolutely anything to avert her alleged fate.
But the problem is, nothing about Alison’s gypsy curse plagues are scary in the least bit. The annoyances involve A) a persistent fly that has a distinct passion for Alison’s facial orifices, B) a copious nosebleed and C) visits from the gypsy goat demon whose shadow tosses her around the room for a minute or two. It might be a bit scary if it were actually happening to you, but watching it happen is pretty mundane for the most part.
In fact, there are only two scenes in the entire film that remotely call back to Raimi’s Evil Dead days. The first is a parking garage brawl between Christine and the surprisingly spry gypsy woman, which reminds one of Ash fighting off his zombie-fied friends in the cabin, and near the very end, there’s a séance which features tap dancing demons, possessed goats and every bit of typical ridiculous absurdity we expect from Raimi horror.
But the film just isn’t scary. It’s certainly disgusting, with no less than three different scenes of the old woman vomiting various substances into Christine’s mouth, but that’s merely cringe-inducing, and I could watch Two Girls, One Cup on the internet for the same effect.
And it’s not really that funny either, though the movie is closer to a comedy than a horror film overall. Alison Lohman does a great job with the role, but the character she’s given is nowhere near as cool or clever as Bruce Campell’s Ash Williams. Raimi does a terrible job of making her sympathetic, as most of the time she comes off as kind of a selfish bitch, and in case her annoying aspirations of career advancement at a small town bank weren’t enough to make you dislike her, there’s a scene where she quite literally STABS A KITTEN TO DEATH. How’s that for relatability?
The fact is, that if we’re being honest with ourselves, and did a blind taste test of Drag Me to Hell, it wouldn’t be getting nearly the same overwhelmingly positive critical reception without the Raimi name attached. Yes, it’s nice that this isn’t a remake of a Japanese movie, or a reboot of an old horror franchise, but that fact and the Raimi name aren’t enough to make the film good.
I’ve been hammering away at comparisons to Evil Dead, but the fact is that this category of horror doesn’t belong only to Raimi, and more recently, James Gunn’s Slither and Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead have proven to be much better exercises in the camp horror/comedy genre. Drag Me to Hell just comes across as halfhearted, relying on buckets of goo rather than clever writing and good pacing. It is nice to see Raimi return to the genre, but this wasn’t the movie he should have made, and we shouldn’t be throwing roses at him just for showing up.
2 out of 5 stars
Behold! The god of B-list horror hath returned! Kneel at his feet ye lowly knaves!