Director Raimi “drags” us smiling and screaming
A PG-13 rated horror film nowadays would seem impossible to pull off, let alone make successful. But the creepy camp on display in director Sam Raimi’s delightfully disturbing “Drag Me to Hell” proves that it can be done, but it requires a keen sense of how to scare someone and provoke glee at the same time. We’re not talking about those audiences that find a sick thrill watching someone else’s torture.
Raimi’s unique skill, honed in several cult classics such as “Evil Dead 2″and “Army of Darkness,” goes one step further in his latest. “Drag Me to Hell” is serious about its scare factor, but allows us to laugh at our own reactions to his often frightening, always entertaining images.
Granted, the graphic nature of this film would have received an “R” rating three decades ago, but the dearth of flesh, blood, and victims in “Drag Me to Hell” give it an old-fashioned feel without totally sugarcoating its classic influences like “The Exorcist” and “Halloween.”
Christine Brown (Alison Lohman, with features that suggest a young Jessica Lange sans the veteran’s acting chops) is a pretty young blond working as a loan officer. After denying a mortgage extension on the house of a rotten-toothed, one-eyed gypsy (Lorna Raver), she is smitten with a curse that not only will haunt her incessantly but also promises to send her to Hades in three days.
Christine enjoys the support of her loving boyfriend Clay (Justin Long), and the two solicit the help of a credible mystic (Dileep Rao) to battle the evil spirit. Two sub-plots involving Christine’s desire for a bank promotion and Clay’s uppity mother’s disapproval of his girlfriend’s rural background keep the non-horror scenes interesting.
The acting here certainly won’t win any awards, but it’s nice to have a female victim who’s not a helpless Screaming Mimi. And the supporting cast of B-list actors fit the budget and tone of the film quite nicely.
There is a twist toward the end that even once figured out does not ruin the ending. The point here is to creep out non-cynical moviegoers. Even if you have a sense for what’s coming, few can make you squirm with delight like Sam Raimi.
Oh, and he knows his way around a camera, something he demonstrated while making superhero blockbusters.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of horror violence, terror, disturbing images and language.