Published May 28, 2009Welcome back, Sam. Horror films have been sorely lacking that playfully warped sense of humour while Raimi's been off filming the money-printing adventures of that famous webslinger.
Drag Me To Hell is Raimi's most enjoyable horror work since Army of Darkness, easily eclipsing his uneven ghost story The Gift. This isn't simply a retread of Raimi's campy gore stomping grounds but a confident evolution of style that revisits the ludicrous potential of genre lampooning that made him famous.
It's pretty amazing what Raimi is able to accomplish under the guidelines of a PG-13 film. This tale of a loan agent cursed by an old gypsy crone after refusing to give her a third mortgage extension is flooded with more laughably delightful filth and legitimate jolts than the vast majority of hard R horror flicks.
There isn't much more to the story's set up; it's how Alison Lohman's Christine Brown deals with being cursed while vying for a job promotion and trying not to freak out her boyfriend Clay (Justin Long, playing it straight) that gives the film weight. The supporting cast, including Lorna Raver as demented gypsy Mrs. Ganush and Dileep Rao as a seer Christine turns to in attempts to overcome the dark spirit tormenting her, are spot-on playing the tricky mix of hilarity and terror demanded of them, but seldom is it so clear that the star of the film is the director.
Raimi has strings rigged directly to the viewer's jump trigger, relishing every opportunity to startle the shit out of the audience, even while telegraphing certain scare tactics and pulling a successful bait and switch with others. There might be a little too much reliance on quick cuts and harsh sound effects, in places, but the dynamic and comical cinematography, and unsightly gross-out gags balance Raimi's masterful tightrope walk over the horrible and the absurd while mediating on the hell of selfishness threatening to swallow the average human heart. (Universal)