I’ve never forgiven Sam Raimi for Spiderman. The movie may’ve been mediocre, but the finale to the film showed Raimi’s new core audience: the retarded redneck. Spiderman is a twat of a hero: unlike most, he won’t save the world, only the US and he’s proud of it. The film was such a dreadful piece of propaganda I even started to dislike the genre. And Raimi, who after all had helmed the film. Sam Raimi, one may remember, moved into the spotlight after Evil Dead, a nice – although slightly overrated – piece of genre cinema. Above all, it showed a love for cinema and some inventivity (putting a camera on a wheel to reproduce the point of view of a tumbling head). That Sam Raimi, not the Spiderman director but the director of Evil Dead and Crimewave, had announced his return to cinema… Raimi’s latest would be back to basics, a return to his initial form. But that was Raimi’s promise… can we really trust the man who gave us Spiderman?
Drag Me To Hell is the story of Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), who has worked her way from farmer’s daughter to insurance broker. She’s in a relationship with a young professor (Justin Long) whose rich parents don’t care much for a daughter-in-law of such low standing. One day Christine gets a weird client, an old woman with one eye, false teeth, more rimples than skin, low personal hygiene and an upcoming eviction from her house. The woman wants another loan and Christine’s boss forces her to make the right decision. With a job promotion ahead and only Christine and Stu as the main contenders, she decides not to give the woman any more money. The old woman is less pleased with this decision than her boss and puts a curse on poor Christine.
Let’s pause the film there and go to a news bulletin instead: Raimi probably never intended this but the stock market’s collapse makes the film not only more topical, it also puts Christine’s decision in another light. In the film the young woman’s reluntance to give the old woman a loan is portrayed as a bad decision, a chance for Christine to get higher up the ladder and devastating news for the old woman. Financially, it’s a good decision though: there’s no way this old woman could pay back the money she loaned and the old woman, who didn’t want to burden her granddaughter by staying in the same house, would force her beloved granddaughter with a gigantic debt.
Sadly, never in the film is this decision highlighted. The entire film focuses on Christine’s decision as a bad one for personal reasons and because of the curse. It is a missed opportunity as it would’ve given the film a bit more depth. And surely there’s nothing wrong with an entertaining horror movie with some depth and topical commentary. It never hurt Romero.
Anyway, back to the film. So there’s a curse on Christine and it doesn’t take long before Christine gets visits from a demonic entity. Her boyfriend may support her, but the couple need more help. Christine asks for the help of a psychic, who then sends her to an older psychic woman (provided Christine coughs up $10,000) whom we’d seen before in the opening scene of the film (one that made the Dutch nitwits behind us complain for two minutes they were not going to watch a Spanish film – yes, the flashback scene is not in English: if you’re allergic to that, avoid Drag Me To Hell and get a life).
And then it’s time for Christine (and the film) to prepare for an epic battle between this world and the world of ghosts and demons. (Notice the film avoids the term good vs evil – because Christine is guilty too, you know, the loan etc.)
Let’s start with the good news: Drag Me To Hell gave Raimi a chance to return to the gore of evil dead and the liquid comedy of Crimewave. The bad news is that the film doesn’t dare to go all the way. Some scenes may be nasty, the film in general is still quite clean.
A friend and I had a lively debate about Alison Lohman. While my friend found her too much of an all-American girl, I found this made her good for the film. The film does pretend to go for some depth: the cursed Christine ponders whether she should conceal her rural past for her boyfriend’s parents. Eventually, she decides not to be someone she isn’t and she bakes a rural cake for a family dinner. Yes, that’s what Drag Me To Hell sees as ‘depth’.
Anyway, I found Lohman well cast, a thing that can’t be said for Justin Long. Long looks nothing like a young professor: he seems like an man-sized experiment by Mattel or a long lost cousin from the cast of Friends. In literally zero scenes Long could convince me he would have the capacity to become a professor.
Long, sadly, becomes a symbol for the film: despite good intentions, the film doesn’t manage to convince. There may be splatter and gore present, enough to scare the wits out of Spiderman fans, but not enough to please the fans of Evil Dead or Crimewave. There may be excess of mud, flies will be swallowed and demons will spin Alison Lohman around the room, but during the credits you’re already starting to forget parts of the film. It’s bubblegum horror: you watch it, you enjoy the funny or scary scene but it doesn’t linger. Neither fish nor flesh and so it’s 5 out of 10. Enough for the film to pass, but for someone like Raimi it’s seen as a failure.