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  Drag Me to Hell So Play Nice!
Year: 2009
Director: Sam Raimi
Stars: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, David Paymer, Adriana Barraza, Chelcie Ross, Reggie Lee, Molly Cheek, Bojana Novakovic, Kevin Foster, Alexis Cruz, Ruth Livier, Shiloh Selassie, Flor de Maria Chahua, Ted Raimi, Octavia Spencer
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Forty years ago, a young boy was rushed to the house of a medium to cure him of what his parents believed was a curse after he had stolen a silver necklace from a gypsy. That had been three days ago, and the boy was seriously ailing, but the medium was not able to do enough as shortly after he was taken inside the spirits called up by the curse descended upon them all and he was dragged to Hell. Left helpless, she vowed that she would do her best never to allow such a thing to happen again, but now, in the present day, there is someone who needs her assistance: bank worker Christine Brown (Alison Lohman)...

If there is such a thing as the comedy of embarrassment, and the first decade of the twenty-first century assured us there was, then why not the horror of embarrassment as well? Take Christine in this, trying to keep her head down and secure that all-important job promotion, then forced to go against her principles when her rival for the position is more ruthless than she feels she could ever be. She's a nice girl, and in this morality tale worthy of EC Comics, betraying her better nature proves extremely costly with the message that you'd better be a decent person - or else - coming through in a puritanical fashion.

Or it would be puritanical if we were not asked to indulge director Sam Raimi and his co-writing brother Ivan Raimi and their gleeful whims at creating as much chaos for their Christine character as they possibly could. After spending much of the decade conjuring up blockbusting Spider-Man movies, it was a source of great pleasure for the Raimis' fans to see them return to what from some angles could have been Evil Dead IV. Many saw it as either that or a tribute to the classic British horror film Night of the Demon, which they borrowed a plot thread from although with a different result, but as the eighties Universal logo hinted, Drag Me to Hell was more a hark back to the decade that brought them to our attention.

So not only was this reminiscent of the Evil Dead movies, but also the era which saw such works as The Entity, Poltergeist, and noticeably less well thought of efforts like Witchboard, as if this was played a little straighter and with less enthusiasm it could easily have supplied the narrative to any number of horrors which clogged up the video store shelves all those years ago. Fortunately Raimi is more savvy than that, and nudges you in the ribs to indicate that you should not be taking this too seriously, so when Christine feels she has to deny an extension on a mortgage to an old lady (Lorna Raver) or else that promotion goes elsewhere, he wants you to be rubbing your hands together in anticipation of what happens next.

If Raimi and company seem like hypocrites, in that it's all right for them to visit Hell itself on a poor soul like Christine but not all right for her to damn the old lady to a life of poverty (which could be remedied) for the sake of a moral misstep made in desperation, then they would argue that it is we in the audience who are the judgemental ones, and fully expect some kind of revenge or other. For Christine is the stand in for us, who see ourselves as people who do the right thing, and we fear being led down the wrong path because of the dire consequences: the fact that the consequences here are way over the top and out of proportion to what she did is merely an amplification of our unease. Therefore when she is humiliated time and again, yes, we are expected to jump and laugh, but also feel that there but for the grace of God go us, and that God is an Old Testament deity who thinks little of punishing our souls with eternal torment. All for trying to get a better job: like the plot, this warning is best seen as a black joke, and it's a good one. Music by Christopher Young.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Sam Raimi  (1959 - )

Precociously talented American director with a penchant for horror/fantasy and inventive camerawork. Raimi made a huge impact with his debut film The Evil Dead at the tender age of 22, a gory, often breathtaking horror romp made on a tiny budget with a variety of friends from his hometown of Detroit. Follow-up Crimewave was a comic misfire, but Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness were supremely entertaining, while tragic superhero yarn Darkman was Raimi's first time wielding a big budget.

Raimi showed a more serious side with the baseball drama For Love of the Game, thriller A Simple Plan and supernatural chiller The Gift, before directing one of 2002's biggest grossing films, Spider-Man. Spider-Man 2 was released in summer 2004, with Spider-Man 3 following two years later. He then returned to outright horror with the thrill ride Drag Me to Hell, and hit Wizard of Oz prequel Oz the Great and Powerful after that. On the small screen, Raimi co-created American Gothic and the hugely popular Hercules and Xena series. Bruce Campbell usually pops up in his films, as does his trusty Oldsmobile car.

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