Sam Raimi’s up to his old tricks in ‘Drag Me to Hell’

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, May 28, 2009 5:40pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Sam Raimi has a legion of fans who wonder why he’s been wasting his time making a billion dollars with the “Spider-Man” franchise when he could be creating freaky little thrillers that would fit the bottom half of a drive-in movie bill.

That’s because Raimi cut his teeth on “The Evil Dead” and its sequels, and the faithful love him for it. His new one’s for them.

“Drag Me to Hell” is the demure title, and it won’t be confused with a “Spider-Man” film.

“Drag Me” combines a straightforward supernatural plot with eruptions of Raimi’s particular brand of horror-comedy. It isn’t elegant, but it works.

The film’s heroine is a loan officer, which somehow rings true. This is Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), who wants nothing more than to snag the assistant manager position at her bank and be with her boyfriend, Clay (Justin Long).

Of course, when an evil-eyed, toothless hag (Lorna Raver) puts a curse on Christine, making it likely that in three days’ time Christine will be (how shall we put this) dragged to hell, things get complicated.

The first 10 minutes of the movie, including a supposedly grabby opening sequence, are so pedestrian you might think Raimi has lost his feel for this kind of nonsense. Then comes a hand-to-hand battle between Christine and the spooky lady inside a car, and you know the old Raimi is back.

In short: Expect eyes popping out, projectile nose bleeding and large amounts of disgorged slime. Raimi is obsessed with things going in and out of people’s mouths, most of which look extremely uncomfortable to swallow.

The film springs to life whenever the horror happens, which happily is quite often.

The script, which Raimi wrote with his brother Ivan, includes traditional goodies like digging up a grave during a rainstorm at midnight and a seance involving a sacrificial goat.

Adriana Barraza and Dileep Rao play a medium and a fortune teller, respectively.

It’s enjoyable claptrap. Oddly enough, there’s something kind of sad and awful about the main character in this film, which lingers beyond the goofy stuff.

Christine is looked down on by her boyfriend’s upper-crust family, is not taken seriously by her peers, and makes some very bad decisions along the way. And with Alison Lohman (“Big Fish”), a skilled but remote actress, the character seems even more unusual for a big multiplex picture.

Of course, when Christine is knee-deep in the muck of a newly dug grave, we’re with her all the way. All the way to you-know-where.

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