Drag Me to Hell Directed by: Sam Raimi Cast: Alison Lohman, Justin Long Running Time: 1 hr 45 min Rating: R Release Date: May 29, 2009
Plot: Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is trying to impress her boss at the bank by denying a gypsy an extension on her overdue mortgage. And, like everyone in the whole world would expect having seen dozens of movies exactly like this one, she’s saddled with an unpleasant curse that will end in eternal damnation.
Who’s It For? Suckers, like me, who are enduring fans of Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. Oh, and anyone who thinks it’s funny to watch a corpse barf maggots into Alison Lohman’s mouth…har har! That just never gets old.
Expectations: I hoped against all hope. Truly artistic horror is like fine wine—it’s easier and takes less time just to mass-produce the crap in a box.
Actors: Alison Lohman as Christine Brown: Alison Lohman looks and sounds and comports herself like a porcelain, Victorian doll. There is something so remarkably unusual about her face and she’s great fun to watch. It’s also enjoyable—on some dark, weird level—to watch her kick an old woman in the gut and dig up a fresh grave on a rainy evening. So she’s a sweet-faced Victorian doll with claws and I dig that. At the same time, the character flip-flops unreasonably between hardcore and helpless, which is really frustrating. Score: 6
Justin Long as Clayton Dalton: Justin Long is one of my most favorite people in the whole, wide world (check out his five minute cameo in Idiocracy), but he is sorely miscast in this movie. Plus, naming him Clayton Dalton is like naming a character Bob Schlob. Sometimes character names are plausible, and this is really not one of those times. You shouldn’t spend the whole movie thinking to yourself, “Clayton DALTON? CLAYTON Dalton?” He’s still extremely likeable and unless Justin Long personally punches me in the head, I’m probably never going to rate him below a 5. Score: 5
Talking: The dialogue is smooth and functional. It does the job with proficiency. Needless to say, it isn’t the screenplay that made this movie such a disaster. Please see Sights for more information. Score: 7
Sights: Here’s what you do: take Army of Darkness, and remove the intentional humor and self-conscious absurdity; picture Army of Darkness taking itself too seriously and what you have is bad, campy, bubblegum horror. The main drive behind the suspense is melodramatic shadow hands followed by actual “ooooo” sounds and Raimi’s bizarre fascination with putting disgusting things in Lohman’s mouth, including but not limited to: old woman drool, embalming fluid, an entire fist, various bugs, bloody eyeballs, grave muck, and a possessed handkerchief. Maybe it’s pearls before swine, because the rest of the audience spent the entire movie peeing themselves with glee. Score: 2
Sounds: “Ooooooo!”…agonizingly cheesy at times. There were some cool personal touches here and there—the “clip-clop” of Lamia’s cloven hooves on the wood floor was fun, but not enough to justify the "oooo" scenes. Score: 3
Best Scene: “Here kitty, kitty!”
Ending: Actually, pretty satisfying. There’s a neat little twist that isn’t entirely predictable, and the bright side is now at least Clayton Dalton (CLAYTON DALTON?) knows his girlfriend isn’t a total nutter.
Questions: Who has an anvil suspended by a rope in their garage other than Bugs Bunny? Should Sam Raimi worry about his apparent vicarious oral fixation? Did anyone do any actual research about Gypsies or did they just watch other silly, inaccurate movies about gypsies? Was the whole rest of the audience smoking really good weed? Am I losing my mind? So many questions.
Rewatchability: The movie spans over three days and it actually felt like a full three days, so probably not. And I’m not just being a cranky critic who loves to take a superior position and jump up and down on a movie—honest to god, it felt like that movie was 72 hours long.
OVERALL This movie had moments where it reminded me of the fabulous B-horror films of the 1940s and 1950s, and it’s obvious that Sam Raimi loves the genre. Unfortunately, Raimi lacks any subtlety, which is a crucial element of really great horror films. If you want to make a mockery of the genre, do it with enthusiasm; if your mockery is unintentional, it’s just incompetence and I know that sounds harsh, but Raimi can do much better than this. I would expect this sort of output from Random Joe Q. director, not someone who put together the Spiderman movies so spectacularly. So instead of just being another stupid movie, Drag Me to Hell actively disappointed me and I hate that.
I don’t want Raimi to quit horror, because he’s so devoted to it. I just want him to live up to his potential as a horror great.
Final Score: 4/10