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Drag Me To Hell

June 1, 2009

Where were we? Oh yes, Lesbian Vamp-…no, not that. That was awful; I mean, I could tell what they would have liked to do, and all, but it was just painful. Sorry, I know I’m unpicking an old thread here, but it’s important. LVK failed badly, to some extent because it was colon-cloggingly shit from titles to credits, but mostly because it didn’t understand the genre it was trying to parody (and that is such a high-minded term for what they ended up doing). If you don’t actually ‘get’ that which you want to go after, you’ll never manage it. There is a moment in the film where the fat one is sat there, covered in goo, trying to espouse this clunking po-mo drivel about the whole vampire mythos, and it’s supposed to be funny and erudite and cutting, and it fails utterly. It’s not even particularly ham-fisted. It’s just wrong. And if you get that wrong, then you have no right to be there.

Now, what the clueless idiots should have done, was save all their money and had a big night out watching Sam Raimi’s rollicking ride, Drag Me To Hell. Had this come out 9 months sooner, that first film would never have been attempted. Drag says more about horror, and with more passion and more…dammit…authority, than pretty much anyone (including your Rodriguezes and Yuznas and early Peter Jacksons) can manage. He grew up in the fucking briar patch, man.

Drag Me To Hell (what a determinedly B Movie title that is) opens in a storm, and more or less continues in that vibe until the very end. A cursed boy is, well, dragged to Hell, and then the title (in mahoooosive white on black ) thunders onto the screen behind the earth-moving soundtrack. Aaaarrgh and, indeed, Grrrrr! Bathos intervenes, and our next stop – of course – is a bank, where pretty loan manager Christine (Alison Lohman) is in the hunt for a promotion against her creepy co-worker Stu. Her boss says she has to toughen up, so she does, by refusing to grant a mortgage extension to hideous old hag, Mrs Ganush (Lorna Raver, spectacularly gross and over the top). In her despair and growing disgust at the young woman’s hardline, the crone curses Christine with an ancient spell, totemising a button from her coat, which will in three days lure a violent demon towards her, which will drag her, you guessed it, to Hell.

I know, I know, enough with the Hell dragging. We get it already.

So, obviously, you won’t need to be told that for the next three days Christine’s predicament gets worse and, with each attempt to extricate herself, she just hauls herself further and further into abyss.

And, yes, you’d be right. That is just what happens, but it’s the way that it’s done which so thoroughly entertains. Raimi hasn’t done this knockabout horror for ages, but he’s not lost an ounce of his verve and dynamism. The trick is that he knows his roots, he knows what works. He understands what his audience are expecting, and manages to give them it and so much more besides. I would think that the last time I winced and laughed all at the same time and in such doses, was the last time I watched Evil Dead II. Raimi is great at the horror, but he’s great at the gags, too, and when he’s really on a roll the horror is the gag. The gumming scene alone attests to that, but there are many more examples, my personal favourite being the perfect illustration of what not to do at an open casket wake.

His medium is always going to be the pitch perfect physical comedy. If there’s such a thing as slapstick horror, then this is it, but what lifts this to be something really special is the extraordinary way in which he can invest the most mundane objects (a handkerchief, a slice of cake) with nail-splintering tension. Alison Lohman helps hugely, of course, in fact all the crew here put in smart, knowing performances (Clay Dalton’s baffled rationalist boyfriend is so splendidly sensible) and play it straight almost up until the end. Joyously, there is just enough time for Christine to pull out an almighty Grand Guignol grave-robbing faux finale, rammed with thunder and Ash-like posing, backlit by the lightning. She doesn’t quite grunt, “groovy”, but she’s not far off.

Raimi is clearly a huge fan of legendary horror movie Night of the Demon, for it is referenced constantly, and the climax of the film is almost a steal. But, look, if you’re going to have the shit go down backed up by a booming great orchestral score, then there can be no finer homage to make than to Tourneur’s awesome 50s classic. It just puts into extra relief how the guys who made Lesbian Vampire Killers never had a bloody clue.

The posters say that Drag Me To Hell is a Masterpiece. It’s not, that accolade belongs to Night of the Demon, but it is a masterclass, and as a companion to that earlier film, it’s very nearly as worthy as it gets. And that’s saying something.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2009 2:48 pm

    I am going to see Drag me to hell today…i hope its good…

  2. June 25, 2009 2:56 pm

    I enjoyed the deamon at the end of the movie who was brought about by a sayance and who floats around the room, clearly suspended by wire and harness. Nice touch.

    Also.. the jaring and un-nerving use of sound was ace.

    Best movie this year… most enjoyable anyway.

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