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Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) works in the loans department in a bank, but is hoping to bag a promotion and become assistant manager; she has stiff competition for the job, so in an attempt to show her boss she's cut-throat enough to make it, she makes a tough decision and we know immediately that she’ll regret it.
Sylvia Ganush (Lorna Raver), an unattractive old woman with a dodgy eye, a really grotesque pair of dentures, and the worst manicure I’ve ever laid eyes on, shows up at the bank pleading for a third extension on her loan. Christine would love to help the old lady, but the materialistic, ambitious side of her really wants that promotion. Hmm, what a predicament - sell the old lady down the river, knowing she’ll lose her house and be homeless, but you’ll get your promotion, or help her out and watch as your promotion is given to that bastard at the next desk. Christine goes for the promotion and the foul looking old lady is furious, she is hauled out by the bank’s security and Christine lets out a huge sigh of relief.
Later, in the car park Ms Ganush is back, and she’s ready for action! A fantastically over-the-top fight which includes the first of many gross-out scenes is followed by Ms Ganush putting a curse on the Christine.
Christine returns home to her boyfriend Clay Dalton (Justin Long) and it isn’t long before the penny drops and she realises she’s in trouble. The rest of the film sees Christine trying to escape the evil curse before her time is up and she is dragged into the bowels of hell.
The major problem with Drag Me to Hell is the fact that Raimi cast such a poor actress in the lead role. Unfortunately this does affect the film hugely, if a leading actress in a horror film cannot portray fear and pure terror, how can we viewers feel strongly about their predicament? Take Shelley Duvall in The Shining, she acted terrified so well that it was impossible not to feel tense even if she was the only thing on the screen. Alison Lohman, even after being terrorised and physically attacked by an unseen demon seems only slightly bothered, I’ve seen women break a nail and show more emotion! From the outset, we cannot share her terror, because she has none.
There isn’t much gore in Drag Me to Hell, in fact there’s only one real bloody scene, the rest is drool and goo which is intended to make us feel ill rather than scared, and the CGI effects are so bad they actually detract from the film rather than enhance it. The insane goo and drool is something you can get away with if the script is mad enough, like in Raimi’s earlier films, but here it seems out of place, B-movie scenes in a film which looks so well produced don’t meld well together.
The script tries to develop Christine’s character so she has our sympathy, but it’s wasted. She made a bad choice, choosing to put an old lady out of her home for the betterment of herself; she lost my sympathy at that point and did nothing to earn it back.
The film relies very heavily on its musical score to achieve an atmosphere that any good actress could have created, and in some scenes it’s laughable. A handkerchief blowing in the wind isn’t scary at all, but if a violin is playing at the same time the viewers are suddenly expected to be cowering behind their cushions!
I don’t want to write this off as a dreadful film, because it isn’t actually that bad. Loran Raver is brilliant as the grotesquely mad Ms Ganush, and the film - aside from those dodgy effects, looks very good. People will remember it because of those cringe worthy scenes, but unfortunately the foundations weren’t laid properly, memorable scenes have to be built on a good sound story and in Drag Me to Hell they aren’t. The end result is a film that is worth watching - but given that the editing and continuity aren’t always brilliant, if you fast forwarded from one good scene to the next, you could watch the film in half the time and wouldn’t really have missed anything.
DRAG ME TO HELL (2009). Director: Sam Raini. Writer: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi. Cast: Alison Lohman, Lorna Raver, Justin Long
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