Two and a half stars out of four
After 25 years of cranking out low-budget horror flicks and obscure art-house dramas, filmmaker Sam Raimi hit the literal and metaphorical jackpot with the three "Spider-man" blockbusters. "Spider-man" made Raimi one of the most powerful men in Hollywood and, in what some may consider an odd career move, he has returned to his horror roots.
Co-written by Raimi and his brother Ivan, "Drag Me to Hell" is an occult supernatural thriller that delivers everything hard-core horror fans crave. Unfortunately, it also contains everything that non-fans of the genre dislike. It's a great thrill ride but is sorely lacking solid narrative structure, is rife with gaping plot holes and contains far too much unintentional humor.
Even though it was written years ago, it is highly topical and provides a sly metaphor for the world's frail economy.
Stepping in for original choice Ellen Page is Alison Lohman as Christine, a once chubby farm girl who is trying to climb the corporate ladder working as a loan officer at a San Francisco bank. She's a candidate for the assistant manager's position, but is perceived by her boss Mr. Jacks (David Paymer) as being a little too soft.
In an attempt to prove she can make the tough decisions and fearful of losing the position to a sneaky co-worker, Christine turns down the request of a third mortgage extension to an unemployed and disabled senior citizen. She is Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver), an Eastern European immigrant who reacts to Christine's bad news with disbelief which leads to shameless begging and finally to uncontrolled rage.
With gnarled fingernails, worn brown dentures and only one working eyeball, Mrs. Ganush would be hard to take on a good day. Intent on making Christine woefully regret her decision, the elderly fireball lays a curse on her which will increase in intensity and severity over the next three days.
Almost immediately the curse takes hold with Christine suffering horrible hallucinations while on the giving and receiving end of various bodily fluids. She seeks the guidance of a soothsayer, who may or may not be a scam-artist, and gets inconsistent support from her alternately empathetic and sarcastic doctor boyfriend Clay (Justin Long).
The movie is at its peak in the shared scenes featuring Lohman and Raver which are spread out well and always supply the requisite jolts. While most of the live-action is convincing, too many of the accompanying CGI effects are not. The computer enhancement is often shoddy and obvious and borders on the cartoonish.
Anyone paying even fleeting attention to small details in the first act will figure out the story's final twist long before it's revealed, but the Raimi brothers deserve credit for ending the film in a jarringly unexpected manner. Presenting a flawed protagonist and occasionally portraying the antagonist as sympathetic constantly shifts the audience's allegiances.
For the millions of people who have recently tussled with their banks over financial issues, the movie will deliver huge guilty pleasures and a twisted sense of redemption. Sticking it to an industry with questionable ethics that has received our money in the form of government bail-outs is deservedly poetic, even if it is just fleeting and in a movie. (Universal)