DRAG ME TO HELL - 2009
Ghost House, Universal Pictures
Rating: USA: PG-13
As you'd expect from director Sam Raimi (also co-wrote with his brother Ivan), DRAG ME TO HELL doesn't waste time, it jumps right in. In 1969, an apparent immigrant couple rushes to a well kept mansion in Pasadena, California. In the father's arms is his young son who is very sick. A woman comes out of the mansion at the desperate behest of the Mother. She does a quick once over of the child and demands to know what the child stole. The Father and Mother exchange glances, but the woman of the house reaches into the blankets and withdraws a silvery necklace. The parents admit that their young son stole it.
Into the house they rush, for the boy is cursed for his theft and it's up to the woman of the house to save him. Merry Mishaps occur.
40 years later and we see a young woman working behind a desk in a bank. Her name is
Christine Brown (Alison Lohman: KRAA! THE SEA MONSTER, THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR) and she is up for a promotion. But there is only one chair for the Assistant bank manager and Stu Rubin (Reggie Lee: FRANKENFISH, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END, STAR TREK) is competing with her for the job. Their boss, Mr. Jacks (David Paymer: NIGHT OF THE CREEPS) seems pleased by the competition and encourages both to "make the hard decisions".
For Christine, that hard decision comes through the door in the person of Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver). She's an old lady, sickly, blind in one eye, and has a strange accent. She is also two months behind on her mortgage payment and about to be evicted. She has come to ask for another extension.
Old, ugly, and seemingly helpless, Mrs. Ganush is both sympathetic and repulsive. Christine wants to give her that extension, and could, but it might jeopardize her chance to get the promotion. Stu is constantly peering over her shoulder, ready for a slip-up, and playing politics behind her back. Mr. Jacks, meanwhile, refuses to make her decisions for her. In regards to Mrs. Ganush, he wouldn't recommend an extension, but it's Christine's call. Christine swallows her pity and denies Mrs. Ganush the extension. The old lady will be thrown out of her house. Merry Mishaps occur again and Mrs. Ganush is escorted out of the bank.
That evening, all is not well as Christine goes down alone into the underground parking. Mrs. Ganush's empty car is there and in one hellacious fight scene, Mrs. Ganush manages to tear a button off of Christine's old coat, and deliver a curse.
Now the hell begins.
Christina's boyfriend, Clay Dalton (Justin Long: JEEPERS CREEPERS [all]) wants to set her mind at ease, but is uncomfortable in accompanying her to a street corner Psychic. The Psychic, Rham Jas (Dileep Rao) is uncomfortable with her curse. Apparently it's a doozy!
Throughout the rest of the movie we watch Christine ... well, as the movie poster says, "...in three days she is going to hell".
In the beginning, Sam Rami's first feature film was THE EVIL DEAD. In that, he took an old worn out Horror Thriller plot of teens / young folks going to a cabin in the woods and getting attacked by varmints. Raimi goes back to the old plots again with this Gypsy Curse movie. As usual in these movies, the Gypsy, for whatever reason, will not lift the curse. It is up to our heroine / protagonist to rescue them self or die trying.
As is also to be expected, DRAG ME TO HELL is in turns, cringingly funny and horrifically scary. Gross and bloody but at least, over the long decades, Sam is much better at directing people in relationships. Not just loving relationships, although that's well done here too, but all relationships. Christine's competition to get her promotion approaches Raimi's comic-book style, but never goes so far as to get ridiculous. We dislike Stu even though his reasons for trying to get the promotion are probably just as valid as Christine. The scene where Christine meets Clay's parents is as bad as it wants to be.
I loved this movie, so why don't I give it a four or five? It's just the way I grade. As much fun as DRAG ME TO HELL is, it doesn't bring anything new to the table. I pretty much saw everything coming all the way to the very end. And unlike greatly influential movies like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, JAWS, ALIEN, TERMINATOR, THE MATRIX, or FINAL DESTINATION, DRAG ME TO HELL is not so damn original that it will be inspiring or influencing a new direction in Horror Thriller movies*. So why did I like it at all? Because the Raimis did something with this worn out plot I'd never seen before: They made it great! This is the best Gypsy / Witch Curse movie I've ever seen (and I've seen plenty)!
But like BLADE (which I also love and also gave a three) DRAG ME TO HELL is riotous fun and grotesquely hilarious! I loved every minute of it, and I'm buying the disc when it comes!
Three Shriek Girls.
* except perhaps to show, still again, how a Horror Thriller movie doesn't need an R to be scary or good.
copyright 2009 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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