Friday, May 29, 2009

In 3 Days, Christine Brown Is Going To Hell

Drag Me to Hell:
4 out of 4

After director Sam Raimi's disappointing "Spider-Man 3" he desperately needed something to redeem himself with. And so, he's returned to his origins of horror because before he hit Hollywood back in the 80s he made the slapstick, gross-out horror-comedy, "Evil Dead," and its sequel. It was a risky and bold move returning to that, but damn, it sure did turn out in his favor. The perfectly titled "Drag Me to Hell" is purposely campy, a delirious, freak-out horrorfest that delivers everything an audience could want in a terrifying, exciting, and oftentimes hilarious time at the movies. It's a throwback and Raimi definitely intends it to be viewed that way; just watch the Universal logo at the movie's start. He's pulling out his old tricks, but man do they work.

Alison Lohman plays Christine Brown, a loan officer at a bank who, while trying to impress her manager to acquire the assistant manager position, denies a decrepit old gypsy woman named Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) yet another extension on her loan. Poor choice. This one-eyed, rotten-looking woman places a demonic curse on Christine, a curse of which she will spend the rest of the movie desperately trying to rid herself. It's an ever-unfolding nightmare that never ceases to have shocking jump-out-at-you moments and even more than that. The ideal blend of comedy and terror comes into play during an initial brawl in a parking garage with Mrs. Ganush that'll have you clenching your armrest while at the same time howling with laughter. It's amazing what this movie does to you as your heart will be racing in your chest from the anticipation but all the while you'll be laughing, which creates a feeling of pure hysteria, and it's an absolute blast.

As much as acting usually doesn't play a part in horror films these days, Lohman is a good sport here and her performance works wonders. She is persistently shown in close-ups to show her face always at unease. Even before terrible things start happening to her, she looks entirely paranoid even about appearing impressive at her bank job. Even through all of the absurdity she gets tossed into, Lohman plays Christine completely straight and throws on a face that is perpetually perturbed. And glossed over that is her bunny-toothed, innocent appearance of looking slightly dazed as she sinks deeper and deeper into doing anything she can to dispose of her curse. Even Christine's boyfriend, try as he may, can't help Christine, and he is played by Justin Long who also pulls it off totally straight-faced.

The movie is perfectly crafted where even the smallest details of the story have a big significance and eventually tie into something important. It's a roller coaster ride full of gooey, slimy, dripping, grotesque, disgusting moments that come at full-speed and really push the PG-13 rating to its limit. In one scene there's a nosebleed that'll have you cringing and scoffing at the same time. And there's the fitting playfulness to everything that unfolds, a requirement in this genre. It allows itself to not be taken too seriously and leaves room for an abundance of tongue-in-cheek fun. Keep watch, especially, for the scene where even the adorable little kitty isn't safe anymore. This cuddly little animal shows up and inevitably creates an audience proclaiming "Awww," and then, just like that, all cuteness is stripped away. Would Christine, the animal lover, really go to such extremes?! As a way of the movie winking at the audience, why yes, yes she would. It's always great to come across a damned fine horror flick. "Drag Me to Hell" is one, and it is unlike any we've seen in years. Consider yourself redeemed, Sam Raimi.

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