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|DRAG ME TO HELL (director/writer: Sam Raimi; screenwriter: Ivan Raimi; cinematographer: Peter Deming; editor: Bob Murawski; music: Christopher Young; cast: Alison Lohman (Christine Brown), Justin Long (Clayton P. Dalton), Lorna Raver (Mrs. Ganush), Dileep Rao (Rham Jas), David Paymer (Mr. Jacks), Adriana Barraza (Shaun San Dena), Chelcie Ross (Leonard Dalton), Molly Cheek (Trudy Dalton), Reggie Lee (Stu Rubin); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Rob Tapert/Grant Curtis; Universal Pictures; 2009)|
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Sam Raimi ("Darkman"/"The Gift"/"A Simple Plan") directs this Exorcist-like hokey supernatural thriller that returns him to his cult-horror fanbase. He's the man behind the three "Evil Dead" Grand Guignol classic B-films, who took the big bucks recently to do the blockbuster Spider-Man trilogy. Along with his brother Ivan, Sam cowrites the screenplay. A screenplay that calls for his usual type of supernatural cheesy scares: spewing vomit, fetid corpses, animal sacrifices, oozing body fluids, maggots, a possessed goat and a knock down séance scene. It's all mindlessly entertaining, as the contrived scares are just as much comical as scary.
An ambitious and attractive young Los Angeles bank loan officer, Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), to please her officious watchful boss, Mr. Jacks (David Paymer), who dangles before her a much coveted promotion to assistant manager, shows him she can make tough decisions by evicting an ill-mannered and malevolent old woman gypsy, Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver), from her home even after she begs her not to. Christine soon finds herself the recipient of a supernatural gypsy curse from Mrs. Ganush, as the crone grabs one of Christine's coat buttons and chants: "Soon it will be you who comes begging to me."
Christine's sole support in her time of need comes from her earnest Freud-loving psychology professor boyfriend, Dr. Clayton P. Dalton (Justin Long), who is so attracted to her that he defies his stuffy upper-crust parents to date the low-born former farmer's daughter and then abets her when she desperately seeks the services of Rham Jas (Dileep Rao), a Jung loving clairvoyant, to get rid of the curse that's making her life hell. The doubting boyfriend, even though he thinks that Jas is either a charlatan or in over his head, still helps her pay the pricey fees he demands. Jas informs his client that there's a three-day process to this curse and if she can't get rid of it by then, a Lamia (a Satanic demon) is sent to steal her soul and drag her to eternal damnation. At that point Jas connects the perplexed and nearly crazed Christine with a revenge-minded medium, Shaun San Dena (Adriana Barraza), who it turns out faced off with the same Lamia some 40 years ago with bad results and wants another crack at it no matter how dangerous it might be for herself.
The PG-13 film signals a welcome return of Raimi to his horror film roots. But this is not a good film, even though it's an entertaining one. Its story is slight and it relies solely on gross-out sight gags to work (like the crone losing her dentures as she sucks on her vic). How likable it is, depends on how much the viewer responds favorably to Raimi's cheeky tongue-in-cheek style.
REVIEWED ON 6/2/2009 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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