(2009, Horror, color)
Mike Nelson and Bill Corbett
Sam Raimi’s return to horror, if you don’t count Spiderman 3.
In a Nutshell:
An innocent young woman is dragged to hell.
The “In a Nutshell” section says it all, really. Alison Lohman plays Christine Brown, the innocent young woman in question. As a bank loan officer, she refuses to extend an old gypsy woman’s credit a third consecutive time—not the kindest option, but certainly the most responsible one—and is subsequently damned to hell. Apparently, the heaven/hell system isn’t performance-based as advertised. All it takes to send you downward is a prayer of complaint from a cantankerous old Romany.
Christine has three days to contemplate her fate, and director Sam Raimi fills it with ominous portents, demonic goat possession, squirting body fluids and insect inhalation. Of note: this is the second Rifftraxed film in a row to feature cat mutilation and eyeball ingestion. Also: a frustratingly obvious game of Button, Button, Who’s Got the (Magic, Curséd) Button.
The button is key. The old gypsy apparently cursed, not Christine, but one of her buttons. If Christine can give away the hell-bound clothing fastener before her time is up, the curse will strike its recipient instead. She puts the button in an envelope and hands it off to her chosen victim—the corpse of her recently deceased curser.
In a plot twist absolutely no one could have predicted the first time we saw multiple envelopes, it turns out she handed off the wrong envelope. Her boyfriend (Justin Long) innocently hands her the right envelope just as the curse’s three-day grace period expires. He has to watch as demons emerge from underground and drag his beloved to hell.
Before the thoughts, a caveat:
As I’ve stated before, I am not an especially objective reviewer or a serious film critic. I have some rather pronounced biases and tend to wear them on my sleeve. Just about anything fantasy, for instance, gets a free pass. A filmmaker really has to try hard to screw up that genre for me. I have a much more difficult time enjoying horror movies. Oh, I don’t mind bad horror, which can be a lot of fun for mockery purposes, but good horror—horror that actually accomplishes its goal of horrifying—perplexes me. People like being horrified? Why? Being horrified is no fun.
Drag Me to Hell is good horror. It has a simply and effectively told story, its revelations doled out at just the right pace. The genuinely creepy visuals don’t rely entirely (as too many horror films do) on half-seen creatures leaping into frame. It knows the mood it wants and builds it, pausing occasionally to let the audience catch its breath, with the odd bit of grim humor to keep the tone interesting and varied. As far as modern demonic possession films—indeed, horror films in general—it would be hard to find better. Thus, for all the reasons stated above, I hated it.
For the first time in years, the Rifftrax Triumvirate comes up one short. During the introduction, Bill reads a note from Kevin explaining the latter’s absence. (He’s been dragged to hell.) The commentary starts off with some funny comments about how the names in the opening credits are “made of book farts” (Mike), and how a shot of L.A. traffic means “we’ve already been dragged to hell” (Bill). Thereafter, I found the movie rather disgustingly distracting, which made it hard to pay attention to the commentary. The large number of FreeCell games I played while it was on may have had something to do with my distraction as well. Hey, I was desperate for distraction, okay?
So yeah, this is not an unbiased review. It is, in fact, about as admittedly biased as you can get. If horror isn’t your cup of tea, well, Drag Me to Hell is the real deal, so you’d be better off avoiding it. But if the movie I just described sounds appealing to you, by all means, give it a shot.
(2009, Horror, color)