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“Drag Me To Hell, A Loud, Goo-Filled House Of Horrors”

“Drag Me To Hell,” is a rollickingly fun nightmare that will have terrified dates leaping into their beau’s laps. Director Sam Raimi, after years of big budget bonanzas like the “Spider-Man” series, returns to his shock cinema roots with a visceral morality play.

 

Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), a mousy young woman-child, feels insecure about her relationship and her job.  She slinks away when her boyfriend’s society mother attempts to introduce him to “marrying material” woman, and she cow-tows to her boss and co-worker at the bank where she works as a loan officer.  In a mismanaged moment of self-empowerment, Christine rejects an old lady’s plea for leniency on her eviction. Ignoring the woman for career advancement, she seals her fate, as the creepy gypsy woman curses Christine to damnation during a violent altercation. 

 

A hulking demon, seen only in shadows, stalks Christine, planting brutal images in her head and invisibly assaulting her in the middle of the night. A medium (Adriana Barraza) and a psychic (Dileep Rao) attempt to exorcise the beast before it can drag Christine to hell, but her only chance of survival may be to pass her fate onto another unsuspecting victim.  Does she have the moral bankruptcy to condemn another?

 

“Drag Me To Hell” harks back to the savage 70s cinema of Toby Hooper, Wes Craven and films like “The Legend Of Hill House.” Much of the violence is implied, with shadows and loud jolts to startle the audience. This is not to say the film doesn’t ooze with bodily functions, burrowing insects and other acts of terror.

 

Unlike the slasher films of the 80s, where sex and drugs led to topless victims’ demise, Christine DOES wrong this woman for purely self-aggrandizing motives. She knows that by speeding up the eviction, her chauvinistic boss (David Paymer) will slide the assistant manager role her way.  Though she doesn’t warrant a one-way ticket to brimstone and hellfire, she’s no innocent lamb.

 

Unlike Raimi’s early “Evil Dead” films, this parable is partially rooted in reality.  While the kids in his first film, “Evil Dead” discover a Book of the Dead and unleash a tree beast, Christine moral dilemma is common-place in our foul economy and toppling housing market.  Though the punishment is extreme, audience members who have had their credit shattered in this recession would relish imagining those who have shredded our credit cards and kicked us out of our homes getting their just deserts instead of large bonuses.

 

Typical in a Raimi film, gallows humor, including jokes at the expense of a slaughtered beloved pet, will have audiences shamelessly tittering.

 

Lohman, a talented actress who made a splash in “White Oleander” and “Matchstick Men” has a youthful innocence that works perfectly for the role.  Her girlish voice and meekness give way to desperation and animalistic self-preservation as her options vanish. Because of the ridiculous premise, a lesser actress would have sunk the character’s credence, particularly as Christine becomes more frantic. Lohman’s sense of both panic and morbid humor is never lost amongst the special effects.

 

As the primal woman shamed by one she sees as a little girl in a business suit, Lorna Raver is magnificently macabre and ferocious as a barely human beast, an almost mythical creature with one cataract eye and green-puss filled fingernails, who hacks brown phlegm and attacks her prey like a rabid dog.  The woman’s frail frame only makes her assaults most outrageous.

 

The haunting presence is enhanced by Christopher Young’s spine-tingling score that pays homage to “Amityville Horror” and “Rosemary’s Baby.”

 

A smorgasbord of both haunting and repulsive images, “Drag Me To Hell” is a ride to Hades that anyone hankering for a fright will gladly climb aboard. Grade: A-

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