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Drag Me to Hell Shows Raimi Unleashed from SpiderMan

Drag Me to Hell
Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by Raimi and Ivan Raimi
Universal, 2009

The evidence is clear from Sam Raimi’s new film, Drag Me to Hell, that he was extremely happy to be making a film not titled Spider-Man.  Raimi pretty much knocked it out of the park with the first two films in the franchise, but with the extremely-rushed Spider-Man 3, Raimi produced one of his most listless productions since 1999’s For Love of the Game.  During this era from 2002-2007, Raimi also offered producer credit to some of the worst horror films of the decade: Boogeyman, The Messengers, and The Grudge 2 (I’ll forgive him the “original”), a movie I still think might be one of the worst the decade in a time period filled with the works of Uwe Boll, Jason Friedberg, and Aaron Seltzer.

Raimi was once best-known for his Evil Dead trilogy, a series that began with the straightforward original which led to the classic sequel, which combined horror and comedy in a deft way and led to the perhaps too-daffy Army of Darkness that completed the series.  What Raimi understands and exploits to great effect in these movies is the thin line between comedy and horror.  In a darkened auditorium, when scares lead to screams, what follows is laughter.

In Drag Me to Hell, Christine Brown (Alison Lohman, still looking 16 even though she’s 29) is a loan officer up for a big promotion against her co-worker Stu Rubin (Reggie Lee) to be decided by their manager Mr. Jacks (David Paymer).  Her moment to show her stuff comes when an old gypsy lady Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) asks for an extension on her loan for a house she has lived in for years.  Knowing that denying her the loan could make the bank a bunch of money, Christine decides to deny the loan.  After Mrs. Ganush pleads on her knees for mercy, Christine’s negative reaction leads to the old shame blame, and a wait outside in the parking garage…leading to our first big mix of horror and comedy and oh yeah, the gypsy curse that propels our story forward.

Christine gets attacked by an unseen spirit at her house, and her boyfriend Clay (Justin Long) is forced to be the disbelieving but understanding boyfriend as she enlists the help of a psychic, Rham Jas (Dileep Rao).  Jas can see the evil that has begun to take root in Christine and offers many suggestions to help her.  Of course, these don’t work, leading to another John Edwards type, Shaun San Dena (Adriana Barraza) trying to expel the curse, and leading to some of the craziest imagery you will ever see in a horror or comedy.

This is the type of movie that watching with a giant crowd will enhance the experience as the jump-scares and goofiness escalates.  Raimi is clearly enjoying himself here; the movie filled with technique and no care whether the movie is going to make $100 million in its opening weekend like the poor guy probably had to suffer ever since Spider-Man opened.  Could May 29, 2009 be the best one-two punch of films ever?  Up and Drag Me to Hell, not like you’d watch them in the same day, certainly can stake a claim.  What fun.

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