Thursday 16 June 2011

Movie Review: Drag Me To Hell (2009)

A simple morality tale turned into a cheeky horror film with a clever streak of understated humour, Drag Me To Hell is a refreshingly original and quite enjoyable movie.

Polite and timid Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is a bank loan officer, eyeing a promotion to the vacant Assistant Manager job. Pressured to demonstrate toughness, Christine turns down a desperate request by the elderly and quite creepy Sylvia Ganush to extend a home loan. This turns out to be a big mistake: the humiliated Ganush lays a humdinger of a curse on Christine, releasing the evil Lamia spirit to terrorize her.

Christine has the support of boyfriend Clay (Justin Long), and also seeks the advice of fortune teller Rham Jas; but neither can help much when uncompromising evil descends on her. Invisible forces invade her house and slap her around; a persistent black fly enters her stomach through her mouth; Ganush dies, but her image continues to reappear in various hideous forms to cause terror. Christine realizes that this will only end when Lamia kills her and drags her to hell (of course). She needs to find a way to break the curse to save her life, and unfortunately this may mean that someone else will have to suffer.

Director and horror master Sam Raimi wrote the script with his brother Ivan, and he overlays the sustained tension of Drag Me To Hell with a genuine sense of fun. There are sharp comic moments, never more than in the dinner scene when Clay introduces Christine to his parents while she is losing her mind because of Lamia's noisy antics. Even the early pivotal attack by Ganush on Christine in the deserted bank parkade manages to introduce snarky wit into a life and death struggle: Christine defends herself with a stapler and, temporarily at least, staples shut Ganush's ugly eye.

Alison Lohman makes for an appealing heroine and central victim, taking the role almost entirely seriously although once or twice a shadow of a smile does almost cross her lips. Justin Long has less to do as the supportive boyfriend, and thankfully the script avoids saddling him with any big speeches. Lorna Raver as the evil Ganush and Dileep Rao as the half smarmy, half effective fortune teller Rham provide plenty of background colour.

Some of the scenes don't work too well: things go bump in Christine's apartment for too long, and a seance involving a goat goes a bit over the top. But Drag Me To Hell is all about the penalty to be paid when selfish acts are committed, even by good people. And who knew that in a small, unpretentious package, being dragged to hell can be the source of no small amount of entertainment.

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