DRAG ME TO HELL (Dir. Sam Raimi, 2009)
There's a not-so-inside joke not too far into this movie that fans of Raimi's past work will definitely appreciate.
Bank loan officer Allison Lohman gets a curse put on her by a old one-eyed gypsy woman (Lorna Raver) when she denies a third loan extension on the mortgage on the hag's home. Lohman's life gets angrily assaulted from every angle by a demonic force that only she experiences resulting in one bloody trauma after another.
Her perpetually nice boyfriend Justin Long tries to console her and suggests they take a trip away from it all. "The cabin?" She asks as her face lights up. "Yeah, if you're up for it, the cabin!" he good naturedly suggests. "There's trees and it will be private."
Yeah, right! It's no Spoiler to tell you that they never make it to that cabin in the woods. That was a shout out and not-so-subtle sign that Raimi is back to his old gruesome game; a head first trip into EVIL DEAD territory after years of SPIDERMAN spectacle (albeit retaining the CGI) but this time there's a meaty moralistic story behind all the gore. With her wide eyes, golden locks, and school girl clothes, Lohman is not one you'd expect would fare well against the forces of darkness and that's precisely the point.
We feel for her as she's being usurped at work by a new conniving co-worker (Reggie Lee) and is down about the damning disapproval of her boyfriend's parents. Then her boss (the always reliable deadpan David Paymer) tells her to get the assistant manager position she desires, she's going to have to show that she can make tough decisions.
Unfortunately the before mentioned one-eyed gypsy lady happens to be next in line and Lohman makes that potentially fatal error in judgment. Later after a violent parking garage confrontation, the crazy crone grabs a button off Lohman's coat and with it places that calamitous curse.
Lohman desperately tries to shake the curse, turning to a storefront psychic (Dileep Rao) who identifies the invisible evil entity who is tormenting her as the Lamia - an ancient powerful demon beast who, unless she finds a way to reverse the curse, after 3 days will indeed drag her to Hell.
It has a sweet balance between nightmarish bombast and down-time scenes with Lohman and Long that resemble rom com fodder (most folks know though that such scenes are there to trick not comfort us).
It's a welcome reminder that modern horror movies don't always have to be wretched remakes or SAW sequels, there can be actual thought to the terror and the narratives too. It's great to see that despite swimming in the mainstream for so long Raimi still has enough blood and guts gusto to pull off a project like this - a PG-13 one at that. It also speaks to the times that all this torture comes from the actions of one's ambition at the cost of another's life.
Even if it is too simplistic to truly make any serious ethical statement, the idea that a seemingly decent person has to painfully pay the ultimate price for a selfish in-the-moment mistake - the kind a lot of us make every day - now that's horror.