Sunday, June 7, 2009

I Hear That Hell Is Suuuuuch a Drag

Let me start by offering an olive branch to any Gypsy I’ve ever wronged. I can’t imagine that the number is high, but like any imperfect human, I’ve cut off some drivers, taken a subway seat at the cost of an ambiguously aged stander, and given poor directions to strangers when in a rush.

In other words, I don’t have a lot of human sins chewing on my conscience. In other other words, if any of the victims of these seemingly minor crimes happen to have boiling Romani blood, please accept my deepest apologies in the form of your choice of home-baked muffin, cheesecake, or kitten.

As you may have guessed, I followed up Fangoria with a midnight trip to the cinema and while it doesn't revolutionize the genre, the gleeful little Drag Me To Hell is likely to make horror geeks happy and Gypsy rights’ activists offended. Sam Raimi’s critically celebrated (but so far audience-ignored) “return-to-his-roots” certainly kicks the CGI’d ass of Tobey Maguire and could teach Platinum Dunes a few lessons in how to make a horror movie. Storywise, on the other hand, it could probably learn a new trick.

Quick Plot: A young banker (Allison Lohman) is itching to climb the career ladder, but her lack of ruthlessness in loan foreclosures and skill at sandwich runs are holding her behind her oily rival. Naturally, the best way to impress the boss is to deny the mysteriously glassy eyed client Mrs. Ganush an extension, which would be fine if the old crone didn’t have that convenient ability to curse souls to an eternity of hell.

Despite being directed by a man responsible for one of the biggest blockbusters of recent years, Drag Me To Hell is a small movie, and a wise one at that. Lohman gets some help from Justin Long as her nice-guy boyfriend, but for the most part, this is a simple story about one woman crossing the wrong Gypsy. The small scope makes it a speedy and intense, if slightly forgettable 90 minutes. There are quite a few genuine scares and moments of yuck, plus some sharply humorous beats. The final product is like a Raimi brunch, a savory egg-white omelette seasoned with some R.L. Stine-ish flavor and served with a complimentary glass of embalming fluid juice (pulp content= high). The PG13 rating takes nothing away, and is almost something of a refreshment following the blatantly boob-heavy horror of recent months.

High Points
Lohman creates a vulnerable, conflicted, and overall sympathetic person as Christine...which is pretty vital, since she’s onscreen the entire film

While there have been plenty of parking garage suspense scenes, the car fight here is quite well done

Animal violence has never been so carefully, cleverly and non-offensively executed (offscreen)

Low Points
Was Lohman’s past as a “fat girl” there to flesh out (no pun intended) her character, or did Raimi cross the line in channelling Stephen King’s Thinner?

Upon first hearing, I loved the ring the title “Drag Me To Hell” had. But really, is this a command that makes any sense? Shouldn’t it be something like “Don’t Drag Me to Hell,” "I'm Going To Try Really Hard To Not Get Dragged To Hell," or, if the grammatical tense matters, “Drag Her To Hell?”

Maybe it’s just that every review or conversation I’ve heard regarding Drag Me To Hell mentions Raimi’s CGI mastery, but I wasn’t entirely sold on some of the colder computer effects

Lessons Learned
Coin collecting is dangerous. Entertain your children with some other hobby, like origami or the Sims

The best way to a WASPy mother’s heart is through harvest pie

Do I really need to say it? If Josh Whedon, Stephen King, the Wolf Man, and scores of other fiction haven’t already taught you this, do not, under any circumstance, give Gypsies a reason to hurt you. Duh.

Full Price/Sneak In/Stay Home
This is a film that deserves to be embraced, and you should consider paying for a matinee as a way to throw your figurative arms around it. By no means is this a classic on Evil Dead levels or a nightmare-inducing terrorfest like The Descent, but Drag Me to Hell is an enjoyable and genuinely jumpy horror movie that at least merits a bigger opening than a piece of camp mascot poop like Friday the 13th. If your budget is truly limited, then waiting for a DVD release won’t kill you (or damn your soul to what promises to be a very unpleasant afterlife). This is good clean (and oozing) fun that would probably make a great entry into harder-core horror for newbies (I imagine it would have gone over better at sleepovers than my 14 year old pick, Mother’s Day), yet still works as a hearty throwback for tried and true fans.


  1. Sounds like another "comfort food"-type horror film. I will catch this one, per your suggestion, as a matinee. Great review, as usual, Emily and I'm glad that you had a blast at Fango.

  2. Thanks Hans!
    It's a fun film, the kind that you can chance upon on cable and keep it playing as useful background candy. I'd like to see it do well in the theaters, if only to break up the remake glut a bit.

  3. Yes the remake chain needs some separation. I saw a trailer last night for a movie called Orphan that interests me and hopefully will put another separation in that chain.

    byw - Like the "drag" pun in your title. Corny but love it!!

  4. I think that inventive horror is actively being made; it just doesn't get a chance to open in theaters. Unfortunately, the general moviegoing public doesn't do much to sway studios in our direction. Friday the 13th 2.0 (or part 12, as I like to say) opened to $44 million + in the U.S. Drag Me to Hell scrounged up less than $16 million so far, but maybe word of mouth will let it build.

    I'll keep my eye out for Orphan! Thanks Geof.

  5. I saw this on sunday night to an almost empty theater (2 other couples scattered about).... going against what i normally think, this movie would be probably a lot of fun in a packed, reactive audience. The other 2 couples were not even responsive to anything, while my friend and I were laughing our asses off at the funny parts (love the dentureless "gumming" part!) and genuinely reacting to scenes.

  6. Yeah, this is a great Friday night movie theater watch. Our filmgoing was definitely enhanced by hearing lots of "Ews!" It still bums me out that the film kind of flopped.