On Sunday night, thanks to an ICA membership and quick thinking by Dan, I got to see an advance screening of Sam Raimi’s new horror film Drag Me To Hell starring Justin Long and Alison Lohman. I have never been a huge fan of Raimi’s films, with the exception of enjoying the quick-paced, big budget fun that is Spiderman. It’s not that I’ve actively disliked films like Evil Dead but I’ve found that the gross, slap-stick factor outweighs the scariness with the result of constantly reminding me that I am watching a film. I’ve never been able to get lost in them.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Drag Me To Hell. The trailers make it look like a straight up horror film. I was pleased to find that it was much more than that.
The plot isn’t complicated. Christine (Alison Lohman) works at a bank and is looking to get a promotion. Her boss gives her the impression that she may not get it because of a perception that she is unable to make the hard decisions that are required in the position. One day a weird (disgusting) old woman comes in. She’s had two extensions on her loan and is asking for a third. If the request isn’t granted, she will be evicted from the home she’s lived in for decades.
Initially our girl tries to help her but then, acutely aware of her manager’s disapproval, she denies the woman the extension. The old woman gets down on her hands and knees and begs but Christine calls security and, feeling shamed, the old woman curses her. From that point on Alison Lohman’s character is trying to out run a very creepy curse, which will drag her to burn in hell for all eternity after three days of torment.
At first read, this might not sound funny but it really, really is! There is a fight scene towards the beginning of the film between Alison Lohman and the old woman that manages to jump between being full of scares that actually made me jolt in my seat to being completely ridiculous as the old woman keeps coming and coming, spewing all kinds of nasty body fluids in the process.
There were other, much more subtle moments that managed to move easily between terror and hilarity. In one scene a psychic advises her to make a blood sacrifice to the demon by killing an animal. Although she is initially horrified by this idea, after a particularly brutal (and scary) altercation, Raimi cuts to Lohman tip toeing through the house looking for her kitten, a butcher knife in hand calling out, “Here kitty, kitty!”
My favourite moment happened during a séance when a possessed goat suddenly began talking in the voice of the demon – a wicked expression on his face. Funny and horrible!
I don’t know how Raimi achieved this balance. The problem I had with Evil Dead is that the comedy yanked me from the horror and I couldn’t get back to a place of feeling afraid. In contrast, Drag Me To Hell felt like a roller coaster ride where I was thrown between being genuinely scared and laughing my ass off from one moment to the next. I felt outside of myself but still trapped inside my senses, which is really the most one can hope for when seeing a good film.
I won’t tell you what happened at the end because I genuinely hope you go and see it yourself. Even if you don’t like horror, even if you aren’t an Evil Dead fan boy, it’s a very fun way to spend an hour and a half. There were some minor moments of discontinuity in the story but they were small and this ride isn’t really about the plot anyway.
Following the screening we were treated to a Q&A with Raimi, Long and Lohman. Shallow though it may seem, I was immediately struck by how much better looking Long and Lohman were in person then in the film. Raimi and Long were easy, interesting and really funny and engaging to listen to. They had a natural rapport with the audience and like the film itself, didn’t take things too seriously. Lohman was just kind of there - a vacuum taking up space. She has always been one of those actresses who are a bit of a blur for me. I know I’ve seen her in films, but until now I couldn’t name one. She didn’t make much more of an impression in person.
The thing I will most remember about her from now on is all the disgusting goo Raimi poured on her (and in her) during the film.
Go and see it.
Hell Hath No Fury…