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DVD Review: Drag Me To Hell

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It’s hard for me to be scared by horror films these days. Sure I get scared. The fears that I seemingly indulge in are real ones — poverty, loneliness, and death, to name a few. Drag Me To Hell, directed by Sam Raimi and written with brother Ivan Raimi, is a horror movie that deals in a simple fear: the fear of ending up in hell for our sins — literally.

The premise is simple. Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is a do-the-right-thing loan officer who finds that her good nature is preventing her from getting an assistant manager's promotion at the bank she works for. Stu Rubin (Reggie Lee), a much more ambitious loan officer, also wants the same position and endlessly kisses the behind of Mr. Jacks (David Paymer), the bank manager.

Things seem hopeless for her getting the promotion until an opportunity presents itself in the form of an old woman named Sylvia Ganush (Lorna Raver). Ganush’s problem is very common these days — her house is facing foreclosure and she’s looking to get an extension to get more time to pay the bank the money.

Christine of course is heartbroken by the old woman's situation and looks to help her out. Bringing the situation to Mr. Jacks, while pointing out that Ganush already had extensions offered to her, Christine is told that this could be the big one that gets her the promotion. She does the deed by denying Ganush's request. What follows next is hinged on a very common rule: never make an old woman mad. As a result of Christine’s decision, Sylvia Ganush places a curse on her in which she will go to hell in three days. Before those three days are up, she will suffer at the hands of an evil demon who seems to engage in a lot of mind trickery.

I am a big fan of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead style of horror filmmaking. I was hoping with this film that I would see him return in full form to that kind of movie after dealing in bad adaptations of Spider-Man. He does in certain parts of the film, but the picture as a whole is a tad flat.

The setup that brings the curse to Lohman’s character doesn't feel really all that conflicting. The situation as it stands isn’t really a wrong move; people with money problems, however bad, still have to pay their bills. Banks bend over backwards to help out. At some point, the bank is going to do what’s best for the bank and make decisions in their own best interest. When the curse is carried out as a result of Christine’s actions, it’s depressing.

Although I understand that Christine should have done something, there really isn’t anything she could have done. If she tried to bulldog an extension for Sylvia, it would have meant her life would never move forward. It’s kind of a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation.

Justin Long breezes through the film as Clay Dalton, Christine's boyfriend. I suppose since he’s not there for most of the insanity Christine endures that it’s only natural that he acts as if there’s nothing wrong. On the other hand, Clay makes up for his passivity in the final ending minutes of the movie.

You get some sprinkles of the old Sam Raimi in the sequences where Christine is harassed by the demon creature. People not familiar with the style and find it a bit of a throw-off should rent the second Evil Dead film (which is what I think Raimi was going for here). It was rather hard, however familiar the style of his films are to me, to see this attempt as being more straight as opposed to played with a bit of camp thrown in.

Lorna Raver gives the best performance in the film. Although her character is only in the film at the very beginning (and more of an illusion for the rest), her scenes are the most memorable. The makeup effects team should be commended for making her character (in creature form) as scary as humanly possible.

You don’t get much with this DVD except a production video diary. There are no audio commentaries from Sam Raimi or any of the actors in the film. The disc does make great use of the film’s footage for the DVD’s main menu. Still the best DVD menu I’ve seen for a horror film has to be the DVD for the House On Haunted Hill remake.

About Matthew Milam