Inside a mock-gothic pile, all hell breaks loose as female medium Shaun San Dena (Adriana Barraza) struggles to save a young boy from the malevolent force unleashed by a gypsy’s curse. This brilliantly staged prologue seems to herald the Second Coming of Sam Raimi, but the film as a whole never quite lives up to its throat-grabbing opening.
With one eye on the vacant assistant manager’s job, ambitious loans officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) refuses to extend the mortgage of an old gypsy lady, Mrs Ganush (Lorna Raver). Christine blames her boss (David Paymer), but the gimlet-eyed crazy lady sees all. Shamed by having to beg on bended knee, Mrs Ganush fixes Christine with her beady peeper and warns: ‘Soon it will be you who comes begging to me.’ The slighted woman’s campaign of terror involves the projectile vomiting of blood, maggots and green slime, a slice of cake with a swivelling eyeball implanted in it and the summoning of a black goat.
A late replacement for ‘Juno’ star Ellen Page, the sparky Lohman seizes the lead role with both hands and confidently makes it her own. As does the aptly named Raver, whose vengeance starts with cackling laughter, then spirals upwards into imaginative spitefulness. The flashy pyrotechnics make up for a plot that is riddled with holes, and there is a wickedly funny gag about the possibility of ameliorative kitten-sacrifice. But the crude ‘eye for an eye’ morality recalls an average EC Comics story, and you don’t need a crystal ball to predict the wicked twist in the tale.