Sam Raimi has made a killing this past decade with the Spider-Man series, though true fans recall his roots in the horror genre. Drag Me to Hell is a return to Raimi's previous haunts, and if you've followed him since his Evil Dead days, you'll see the man's flair for the diabolical and disgusting hasn't weakened. With less horror films emphasizing true quality, Drag Me to Hell, starring Alison Lohman and Justin Long, presents a real rollercoaster of a flick worthy of snatching a seat.
Christine Brown (Lohman) would never hurt a fly. But as part of her job as a loan officer, she often has to let a folks down. With a possible promotion on the line, Christine denies a loan extension for poor old Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver). However, she's no ordinary coot. Mrs. Ganush descends from a long line of gypsies who really know how to hold a grudge. The old bat places one mother of a curse upon Christine, in which supernatural forces will torment her for three days before they – well, you know. Christine quickly races to remove the curse, yet even with the support of her boyfriend (Long) and a kindly mystic (Dileep Rao), it may not be enough to save her from damnation.
The movie is scary but in a funhouse sort of way; half the enjoyment is wondering what terrors will pop out next. I usually hate movies that go for the easy jolts, but it fits here because of the lightened mood. Raimi shows just what I like to see in a horror film: effective scares and a sense of humor about itself. One scene will have you gasping, while the next will have you in stitches. Drag Me to Hell is all done for laughs, though there's enough respect so as not to feel like it's mocking its ancestors.
Drag Me to Hell is more about the experience than anything else, which is cool, but a second viewing left me with as much of an empty feeling as the first. The idea is to take the "bad things happen to good people" mindset to the extreme, but Raimi's delivery is disappointingly matter-of-fact. But he gets good frights out of it, and his cast rolls with the punches.
Lohman knows when to be a scream queen and when to josh the audience, and Long is suitably noble as her doting boyfriend. But the show is easily stolen by Raver, a kind soul in real life who undergoes a transformation into what's easily one of the freakiest villains in modern horror.
Though not quite the next cult classic, Drag Me to Hell is the perfect party horror flick. Gather up your closest comrades, dim the lights, and prepare to see at least a few bowls of popcorn soar into the stratosphere. Part horror show and part "Looney Tunes," Drag Me to Hell needs little coaxing to get viewers to come along for the ride.
• Drag Me to Hell – an unrated cut which contains a bit more blood but otherwise has the same running time as the theatrical version.
• A 30-minute series of video diaries featuring stars Justin Long and Alison Lohman that covers various aspects of the production, from make-up to how they pulled off some of the flick's gnarliest scenes.