Sam Raimi, Herding Audiences Merrily To 'Hell'

Alison Lohman in 'Drag Me to Hell' i

When It Rains, It Pours: To end a gypsy curse, Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) has to climb into a muddy grave. Melissa Moseley/Universal Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Melissa Moseley/Universal Pictures
Alison Lohman in 'Drag Me to Hell'

When It Rains, It Pours: To end a gypsy curse, Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) has to climb into a muddy grave.

Melissa Moseley/Universal Pictures

Drag Me To Hell

  • Director: Sam Raimi
  • Genre: Horror
  • Running Time: 99 minutes

PG-13: Horror violence, terror, disturbing images and language.

With: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver

(Recommended)

Lorna Raver as Mrs. Ganush in 'Drag Me to Hell' i

Hello, Complaints Department? When Christine's bank declines to extend her home-loan credit, Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) registers her displeasure with something stronger than a letter. Melissa Moseley/Universal Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Melissa Moseley/Universal Pictures
Lorna Raver as Mrs. Ganush in 'Drag Me to Hell'

Hello, Complaints Department? When Christine's bank declines to extend her home-loan credit, Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) registers her displeasure with something stronger than a letter.

Melissa Moseley/Universal Pictures

Ticket prices are soaring, quality is suspect, there's smarter stuff on TV and that yahoo in front of you at the movie theater is text-messaging nonstop. But then you find yourself at Drag Me To Hell and all is forgiven: The pleasures of collective moviegoing just reasserted themselves with a demon-vomit vengeance.

Waiting for DVD on this one is not an option, folks. Spiked with dizzy shocks and manic gross-outs, this shamelessly silly horror flick has been designed to maximize audience freakouts. It might as well have been called Oh No She Didn't! or Look Out, Girl! or — as the hyperventilating gentleman sitting behind me at an uproarious preview screening kept yelping, at the top of his lungs, every 10 minutes — THIS MOVIE IS SO AWESOME!

He's not far off the mark.

Director Sam Raimi takes a break from his bloated, gazillion-dollar Spider-Man franchise to toss off this tight, crackling little B-movie about a yuppie plagued by a gypsy curse. A return to the slapstick yuks (and yucks) of his Evil Dead movies, Drag Me To Hell is probably half as fun to watch as it was to make, but that still qualifies it as one of the year's most lively and enjoyable movies.

Alison Lohman stars as Christine Brown, a loan officer jockeying for a promotion at a Los Angeles bank. To please her boss, and against her better judgment, she turns down an extension on the home loan of a batty old woman (Lorna Raver) with filthy nails and a head full of dark magic. Bad move, lady.

Raimi's own misstep is to keep the subsequent gory mischief tame enough for a PG-13 audience. If ever a movie needed to fully let rip with the nasty, it's Drag Me To Hell, and satisfying though it is, Raimi might have had a minor classic — and a huge hit — on his hands if only he'd taken things to the next, utterly disgusting level.

Functional, if not especially memorable, Lohman lacks the charisma of Bruce Campbell, screwball hero of the Evil Dead movies — but then who doesn't? Justin Long (Mr. Hi-I'm-a-Mac) co-stars as our heroine's hapless boyfriend and the instigator of a gotcha ending that audiences will see coming from a mile away.

What's ultimately most surprising about Drag Me To Hell is how generous it feels. That may seem like a funny thing to say about a movie completely devoted to its own disposable cheesiness. (A gypsy curse? Really?) But then this is one awfully funny, even joyous movie, a blast of showmanship and cartoon pyrotechnics.

That it also functions as a timely parable for our cursed economy tickles all the more.

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