We’ve missed you, Sam Raimi. Not that you’ve been AWOL; we know that you’ve spent the past decade making a few keep-a-straight-face attempts at mainstream entertainment (For Love of the Game, The Gift). Plus, there were those mondo blockbusters about a web-slinging superhero—the name escapes us—and you’ve kept megabusy producing remakes of Asian ghost stories. But we hoped that you’d eventually return to the gonzo-gory horror flicks that you pioneered. Y’know, the kind with Gypsy curses, copious bodily fluids and specters that aren’t afraid of a little soft-shoe.
Drag Me to Hell has all of that and more: Raimi’s return to Evil Dead territory is proof that, respectability be damned, he can still whip up a slapstick splatterfest—albeit a PG-13 one—when the mood strikes. Refusing to extend an old crone’s mortgage loan, a bank clerk (Lohman) is destined to suffer demonic retribution (see title) in three days. Which leaves plenty of time for eyeballs popping out of desserts, high-pressurized nosebleeds and a sance that ends with an animatronic possessed goat.
You can practically hear the director and his sibling cowriter, Ivan Raimi, nyuk-nyuk-nyuking to each other as they put the film’s working-stiff heroine in harm’s way. They’re having so much fun laying on the vintage scare tactics that you can forgive Lohman’s lack of screen presence and the frequent patches of narrative slackness. When Raimi lets his freak flag fly at full mast, as he does during an attack-by-rotten-dentures sequence, you’re simply happy to bask in the unadulterated pleasures of his fun-house horror.—David Fear
See also “Dead again”