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Brown Tweed Reviews: Drag Me To Hell

June 13, 2009

“Did you blaspheme the dead in a graveyard?  Did you consort with those who practice the Dark Arts?”

Normally, you must commit one of these heinous acts for the bipedal, goat-headed Lamia demon to pursue you relentlessly.  Unfortunately for Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), all it takes is denying an old gypsy woman a third extension on her mortgage payment.  If current foreclosure rates stay this high and the list of credit repair bureaus keeps growing, besuited young loan officers being dragged into the fiery pits of Hell will become so common that passers-by will simply mutter, “Hmm. Must have worked for Countrywide.”

Hollywood hasn’t churned out a good gypsy-curse movie in some time, and there’s no one I’d rather see do it than Sam Raimi.  From the outset he makes clear, by showcasing a glass-eyed elderly Romanian woman taking out goo-covered dentures and coughing putty-like phlegm into a handkerchief, that this movie will not be an intellectual thriller.  If you expect subtlety, nuance and adherence to “what you don’t see is scarier than what you do see,” you will be disappointed.  What you will get is vintage Raimi: quick close-ups and jump cuts, flying rotty-faced broken-toothed cackling demons, violently blowing curtains and creaky gates, and lots of maggots and worms.  Essentially Evil Dead 2, but 22 years later and in suburban California.

Everything is gloriously over-the-top, including the suspiciously strong, fast, and resilient old lady, who loves to barf bilious nastiness on our protagonist (and gums her face.  Twice!).  Raimi creates a great, if not terribly original, horror ambience—creeping shadows, ominous string music, disorienting camera cant.  But he was the guy who popularized a lot of those things for horror buffs my age, so can he really plagiarize himself?  What some viewers see as a done-to-death cheap shot, like a fast camera pull-back to reveal a fanged grey corpse fixin’ to chomp a mofo, is just good, solid horror to me.

Yeah, there are some lapses: the “meet the boyfriend’s parents” scene is pretty unnecessary, although it does let Christine stab a twitchy eyeball that appears in her harvest cake.  (I don’t know that I’ll be eating raspberry sauce again.)  And why a young mortgage loan officer has an anvil hanging by a rope from the ceiling of her shed, I don’t know.  But hell, I wasn’t expecting The Blair Witch Project or even The Grudge 2.  I expected, and got, an honest horror movie that made my feet sweat a few times, even though I knew what was coming.

So keep it up, Sammy.  I’ve missed your floating, moldy-faced, clouded-eyed, belligerent old ghost ladies.  And by including perhaps the best goat possession scene ever, you have done your penance for Spider-Man 2.  Give me more movies with exorcisms involving livestock, shoe-horn in Bruce Campbell, and I’ll consider forgiving you for Spider-Man 3.

  1. June 14, 2009 9:03 pm

    best movie review i’ve read in like forever. and i write my own movie reviews. i need to start putting in a little more effort.


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