Since I don’t often review horror movies, let me first give you an idea of what I like and don’t like in horror flicks.
If I watch a horror flick, I want to be horrified. I don’t watch them to see barely dressed teenagers, or to drink in ridiculous amounts of gore. For my tastes, a good horror movie will be scary not just the first time you see it, but also the second and third. So “jump” scares do not win points with me, even when they scare me the first time through, because I’m looking for a movie worth seeing more than once. If I want to be scared by sudden, loud noises, I’ll give my 2 year old the car keys and see how long it takes him to set off the alarm. Doesn’t cost me a dime.
A good horror movie will stay with me and leave me unsettled even after the movie is done. I’m much more interested in something creepy, unsettling and disturbing than I am in something that is simply shocking or gory.
In my book, great horror movies include Saw (the first one at least), The Ring (also just the first one) and Event Horizon (that movie still messes with my head).
I really dig creature movies like The Thing and Jeepers Creepers, but I put these in a different category(Creature Feature/ Monster Movie) for the sake of this review.
Now to the review!
Before becoming a superstar director with the Spider-man films, Sam Raimi was best known for his tongue in cheek “Evil Dead” franchise of “horror” movies. If you’re a fan of these flicks, you’ll probably like “Drag Me To Hell”. This is all of my review you need. You’re welcome and enjoy.
If you’ve not seen Bruce Campbell in all his chainsaw/boomstick glory, or if you did not like the “Evil Dead” films, stick around with me for a minute.
“Drag Me To Hell”, like the “Evil Dead” films, takes some classic bits of horror and folklore and inserts some tongue and cheek humor to give them a new spin. This time around, the elements used draw heavily from gypsy folklore. Curses, evil spirits, that sort of thing. Throw in some childhood “fear of old people”, and you’ve got some concepts that are fertile ground for creepiness. Unfortunately, Raimi steals the power from these concepts within the first 40 minutes of the movie by playing them for laughs.
Now don’t get me wrong. Laughs are good now and then in horror flicks. Without them, unless the disturbing elements are paced very well, we will become numb to the horror. But the laughs should never be at the expense of the source of terror. (A movie like “Frighteners” is a good example of this. While far too humorous for a straight up horror film, it avoids making the bad guys “funny”.) When a bad guy becomes funny, you don’t fear them anymore. You may even start rooting for them to see what entertaining thing they will do next. (Freddy Krueger, anyone?)
In “Drag Me To Hell”, a young woman is cursed by an old Gypsy woman for not approving her loan. Sound like a joke? Actually, this plot point was ironically NOT played for laughs. The old woman is very creepy, for a moment, but soon little gags here and there turn her into a source of comedy. The same goes for the evil spirit haunting our leading lady. As if to compensate, the movie resorts to jump scares almost exclusively to provide its frightening moments.
As most bits of “danger” maintained a humorous touch, I quickly stopped fearing for anyone in this flick, hoping that at least some of the obviously CGI visuals would be interesting. And yeah, they were kinda neat. But nothin’ to blog about.
The script is pretty forgettable, as are all the performances in the cast. Not a third-dimensional character in sight. And Alison Lohman felt more like an actor making “choices” than a real person I could care about.
In terms of relevance to meaningful subject matter, you could probably strike up a conversation about concepts of hell or evil spirits and evaluate how we might validate or invalidate the various ideas floating around that feed into movies like this one. There is also an interesting moral dilemma near the end of the film that brings questions of judgment, punishment and justice to mind. But since the material is never quite treated seriously, you may not feel like any worthwhile dialogue after leaving the theater.
This isn’t a “bad” movie. If you enjoy jump scares, you may dig it. There are some images that may evoke a sense of Satanism for some, though I can’t verify any genuine connection to real religious practices. Still, if that sounds like a turn-off, you’ve been forewarned. I found the movie kept me emotionally engaged (intense music and sounds made it hard to relax much), but since my mind was incredibly bored and not invested, I found the jumps more annoying then fun and checked my watch often until the movie was over.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of horror violence, terror, disturbing images and language