Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Drag Me to Hell (2009)

A bank robber has nothing on a gypsy

"The Evil Dead" series filmmakers return with a long awaited horror feature that includes some throwback hints to older, more basic horror/thrillers, though with some modern touches such as frequent use of CGI and the convenience of cell phones. "Drag Me to Hell" still feels its own movie than just a token homage film. It's a PG-13 feature in its theatrical run that dodges sex and gore and replaces it with built up shocks combined with a gross out factor that's enough to make one buy mouth rinse afterwards due to all the nasty things landing in the lead actress's mouth. This skirts the edges of an almost whimsical tone between seriousness and tongue-in-cheek humor similar to Raimi's earlier pictures that makes the atmosphere both fun and frightening. It's nearly popcorn entertainment all the way through except with a few of life's little road blocks to make the story more relating and personable.

Some 40 years ago in California, a Spanish boy stole a necklace from a gypsy and is being followed by a spirit. His parents bring him to a young psychic who gets defeated by what turns out to be a powerful demon. In the present day, a young and upstarting career woman with a tubby, tom boy past now handles loans at a bank and is competing with a co-worker for a higher position. In an attempt to become a go-getter, Christine turns down an extension for an elderly woman with an east European accent named Sylvia Ganush. Ganush is shamed and wants payback in the form of attacking Christine in a woman vs woman parking garage rumble that leaves the younger one laying on the concrete dazed and with a wrecked car to show for it. Soon afterwards Christine feels she is being followed by something unexplainable after some mysterious words were spoken by Ganush over a personal item of hers and she seeks out help in the form of a new age psychic to her practical boyfriend Clay's protests. Christine tries to get her life back in order with Clay now warming up but can't explain the random occurrences that come in the form of hallucinations and haunting nightmares. This is a curse that gradually builds up and torments the person, only to consume their soul unless something is done about it...but at what sacrifice?

"Drag Me to Hell" is a story about the damning of an innocent young woman who has to prove she has spirit in her to stay afloat above the ordeal with the supernatural element as well as with the human interaction in her day to day life. She doesn't exactly deserve it but it goes to show it can happen even to the nicest of us. The message being: once you play with fire, you best be ready to take the heat that follows. This did well by incorporating elements for both the believer and non-believer of the uncanny: coincidence in some areas, to outright show-and-tell in others. The story itself isn't the most original but the experience on the other hand unfolds with a share of memorable and inventive scenarios that are over-the-top enough at times to make this more movie than actuality but still engrossing nonetheless. Some of the moments of seriousness and humor clash at times to be almost cartoonish in contrast, though a large share of this was spot on and managed to still have a sinister atmosphere during certain scenes while at it. Think of something along the lines of "The Frighteners" but still not the exactly the same.

The lead actress, Alison Lohman, manages to keep up with the flow of the script that calls for both the gentle and courageous. Not to mention she also takes a beating in some areas like something you'd see on "Fear Factor." Lorna Raver made the movie as the elderly gypsy villain who you'd rather see hit by a car than help her across the street. The facial expressions she does that contort her already hideous mug gives this film an iconic symbol to remember in the back of your mind. The music unfolds with traditional strings that come with some melancholic melodies mixed with grating high notes to translate the uncomfortable creep-ups and sudden shock. The wind and shadows become another character here the way they animate the walls, floors and ceilings to give that trapped feeling that's at every turn.

Rating: 7.5/10

Director: Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Darkman, Spider-Man)
Stars: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver
Link: IMDB

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