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A return to form for Raimi
on 5 September 2009
After a brief foray into the mainstream with the decent but not outstanding Spiderman franchise, Sam Raimi makes a very welcome and long overdue return to the horror genre with `Drag me to Hell', a chaotic shock-fest so entertaining that it sits right up there with his two 80s classics; `The Evil Dead' and `Evil Dead II'. Like `Evil Dead II', Drag me to Hell is one of those rare beasts in horror cinema; a film that is intentionally funny and manages to be quite terrifying at the same time. It is a total blast from start to finish.
Refreshingly, the subject matter could be considered rather simple and old-fashioned at a time when horror cinema releases are littered with those of the `torture-porn' variety. The plot concerns Loans Officer Christine (Alison Lohman) who turns down a request for a mortgage extension to an old, feral, one-eyed gypsy woman, a firm stand intended to impress her boss and increase her chances of promotion to assistant manager. Enraged, the gypsy woman attacks Christine in the car park and snatches a button from her coat, uttering a gypsy curse. From here, events take a turn for the worse for Christine as she discovers that she is to be taunted and bullied by cloven-hoofed demons for three days before being dragged down to hell to burn for eternity. Support for Christine in these dark times comes from Clay (Justin Long), her sceptical yet highly supportive boyfriend, himself a high flying academic from a wealthy background and whose mother disapproves of their relationship. In one of the most memorable scenes, Christine attempts to subdue the forces of evil while dining with Clay's posh parents for the first time.
Today, too many films of the horror genre are made almost solely with shocking the audience in mind; limbs are hacked off, entrails are spilled, character development takes a back seat. But part of what makes Drag me to Hell so enjoyable is the utter likeability of its two leads. Lohman commits herself fully to a hugely physical role as she is bullied, thrown about and vomited upon. She is innocent enough for us to care for as a character, but feisty enough to be believable as she starts to fight back against her tormentors.
This is the kind of film that Raimi was born to make, and it has his stamp and particular brand of chaotic and bizarre black humour all over it. Raimi is an absolute master of manipulation, and the scares and laughs come thick and fast, with plenty of gross-out moments. Projectile nose-bleeds, talking possessed goats, cat sacrifice and flying eyeballs are all on the agenda. Drag me to Hell is a film that has been skilfully created to make you jump, giggle and cringe in equal measure, and turns out to be one of the most enjoyable films in its genre for many years. 9.5/10.