Sam Raimi made a Sam Raimi movie about a loan officer during the great recession being cursed to burn in hell for eternity for basically no reason. Drag Me to Hell is the 2009 scratch for the Raimi itch, and if you haven’t seen the movie we recommend that you definitely do that before continuing on to our spoiler-filled review or listening to our spoiler-filled podcast, but I think it’s safe to say this one definitely packs a specific kind of wallop. If that doesn’t get you fired up then I don’t know what will, dear reader.
Reviewed by: Jake
The movie opens on a flashback sequence to a seance-gone-awry where a child is sucked into the fiery abyss. Two minutes in and a kid has already been pulled into the gaping maw of hell. The stakes are set. Fast-forward to present day LA and we’re introduced to Christine (Alison Lohman). Christine is a loan officer at a bank and is vying for a promotion to assistant manager. She’s in the running but competing for the role and her manager (David Paymer) encourages her to help her chances by making “the hard decisions.” Almost immediately, an elderly woman comes to her asking for a third extension on a home loan that she does not seem to have any plans to actually pay. Christine denies the loan extension and the woman flips out on her before being taken away by security. Later that night, the old woman just happens to be in Christine’s car and an epic fight ensues, showing the first true indications that this is a very Sam Raimi movie. Before leaving, the woman pulls a button from Christine’s jacket and gives it to her while cursing her.
Soon thereafter, Christine begins to be pursued by some unseen, malevolent force in the shadows. At first no one believes her, including her professor boyfriend Clay (Justin Long). She begins to seek help from the typical crackpot sources like a fortune teller named Jas (Dileep Rao) who gives her the typical crackpot advice like “sacrifice a chicken or something”. Needless to say it doesn’t work and Christine’s situation and torment grows. She botches a dinner meeting Clay’s parents for the first time but they are pretentious rich assholes anyway, she vomits blood on her manager and appears to lose out on the race for the promotion, she even tries to track down the old woman to apologize but finds out the woman has died. Things are not going well for her...
So she returns to Jas aho now demands $10,000 to help get her out if it. Totally broken, Christine agrees and begins to sell everything she owns in an attempt to come up with the cash. It’s not even close to enough however and when she’s given up and succumb to her fate over a tub of ice cream, Clay busts in and says he’s paid for the help Jas mentioned. The group goes to the same woman from the opening scene to conduct a seance and rid Christie of the demonic curse. More Raimi things ensue, like this:
The woman leading the seance appears to exorcise the demon but dies and Jas tells Christine the only way to rid herself of the curse is to pass it to someone else, giving her the button in an envelope. She digs up the old woman’s grave and shoves it down her throat, seemingly ridding herself of the curse.
The next day, Christine meets Clay at the train station for a trip but upon arrival, they realize the envelope she gave to the old woman’s corpse wasn’t the cursed button but one that housed a rare coin Christine had given Clay, who is a collector. She is swept off the platform and before Clay can act, she is sucked into hell underneath a passing train. The end.
What the Movie Does Right
Being a Sam Raimi movie, there is a certain flair for the absurd in this one. It’s manifested in the visual effects with numerous scenes of wholly over-the-top grossness and Loonie Toon-level insanity, and for the most part it works. Seriously, this movie is pretty fucking disgusting and it will make a lot of people cringe. Turns out, watching an old woman lose her dentures and gum a young woman’s mouth is really weird. On top of that, the sound effects are pretty great. While the movie is pretty high on the jump scare scale, they are varied enough and utilize sound well enough to not wear entirely thin.
The combination of good visual (with a few exceptions) and audio effects and the ridiculous tone set up an overall mood for the film that is weirdly captivating and it works from both a tension/scare and a humorous standpoint surprisingly well.
This may be a polarizing choice, but I also think the sheer ridiculousness of the inciting incident and series of events it sets off is pretty great. Christine is cursed to eternal damnation for making a business decision that she honestly should have made (don’t @ me) and it actually happens. Wow.
What the Movie Does Wrong
Remember how I mentioned a few exceptions to the good visual effects thing above? Yeah. There is some gobshite CG in this one. Like, truly heinous. And the worst part of it is that the most important and impactful scene of the movie is totally hamstrung by horrifyingly bad effects that fall squarely in this camp. Bad choice, y’all. Look at this shit:
We discuss this at length during the podcast which you should totally listen to and like and review (I’m not schilling at all) so I’ll be brief with this last bit, buuut there are maybe some problematic things in this movie about certain groups of people and it doesn’t leave a great taste in the mouth. Yes, the old woman falls into this category, but so does Christine as a female character. She never really stood a chance. It’s a whole lotta bleak outlook and yeah it’s part of what is being critiqued here but damn this movie will piss some people off. Know that when choosing for watching with friends.
Story: 6 - At its core this is a movie about a demonic curse which isn’t a ton to write home about, but what pushes this over the middle ground is that it chooses to finish the job in what is a surprising finale.
World-Building / Immersion: 7 - This will probably be quite enjoyable or really off putting for you. Everyone on team A-Z Horror found the Raimi signatures to be helpful in their absurdity and it retained our attention well enough. Additionally, the acting in the movie isn’t going to be a cause for concern. If you don’t like weird, this might have you scratching your head a bit but it’s Raimi so you kind of know what you’re getting.
Scare-Factor: 3.5 - While the Raimi touches helped the movie from an immersion standpoint, the spookiness suffered a bit. Though the film is able to keep tension relatively well, there’s only so much scare you can squeeze out of a scene where an old woman/demon appears out of nowhere and has an anvil dropped on her head which causes her eyeballs to rocket out of her skull and go flying directly into the eyes and mouth of another character. If you don’t like gross, this might cause a lot of squirmy moments. So mileage will vary.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 7.5 - I said everything I wanted to already. There is a lot going right from an effects (both visual and audio) standpoint in this film. The problem is that it’s hampered by a couple of scenes with preposterously bad CG.
Overall: 7- This is a good horror film and it’s surprisingly unique for what it comes off as being from the two sentence plot synopsis. This might be the most Sam Raimi movie of them all and that is a bold statement but hey, it’s boring if we don’t say shit like that. Give it a watch.