The Evil Dead. Not that any of us begrudged Raimi his mainstream mega-success with the Spider-Man pictures or denied that A Simple Plan (1998) was one mother-trucker of a psychological thriller. But many of us secretly yearned for the uncomplicated thrills and chills of deadites and boomsticks. We felt cheap, but we just did.
Drag Me to Hell is an all-screaming, all-damnation, all-time romp through the fires of Hell in which ambitious young loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) back-burners her better impulses in hopes of a promotion, and in so doing mortally offends a proud but indigent gypsy hag whose hell-juice is no match for the sheer, unrelenting evil of the financial services industry.
Chris has done her best to put the past — the one where she was a chubby farm girl with an alcoholic mom — behind her. She’s made herself over into a sleek, upwardly mobile vegetarian with a spiffy significant other — brainy rich boy Clay (Justin Long) — and a bright future in banking… as long as she’s willing to park her conscience at the door.
Forced into a head-to-head battle with amoral, brown-nosing co-worker Stu (Reggie Lee), Chris takes a hard line with destitute Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) when the old woman comes looking for a mortgage extension. And then her troubles begin. Mrs. Ganush, a gypsy, wallops Chris with a ticking-clock curse: If she can’t undo the old hag’s malevolent mojo in three days, she’s looking at an eternity of hellfire. Harsh.
The good and the bad of Drag Me to Hell are pretty much the same: Raimi may be pushing 50, but it’s a young man’s nightmare movie, a bold, brash, unsubtle bogey tale full of buzzing hell-flies, repellenet effluvia and black-and-white moral lessons: One step off the path of virtue and everyone knows where you’re going, missy. It’s creepy, kooky and and all together ookie, and for all the talk of Raimi’s more mature outlook, it’s super gross besides. If you have a thing about maggots, phlegm, projectile nose bleeds or falling into coffins already occupied by stinky corpses, well, you’d best take your business somewhere more refined.
But while Drag Me to Hell serves up some righteous shocks — including the kind of uncompromising ending of which we don’t see enough these days — there’s something lightweight about the whole business. Perhaps it’s just that Hell is scarier when half the world doesn’t seem to be living in it.