FILMS IN REVIEW: Drag Me To Hell (2009)

I love Horror Comics. Along with buckets of bones and supernatural revenge from the grave, they are rife with moral tales of culpability. Their authors look at our World as corrupt, and add a layer of fantasy where unstoppable justice is meted out. In the dark-sided world of the Pulps, people consistently get what they deserve.

Getting what she got coming is the film’s protagonist Christine, well-stiffly played as a vanilla corporate jerk by Alison Lohman. Her character is a common young person, torn between making either the good choice or opting for the easy-path of selfish gain. Justin Long plays it straight as her boyfriend, a well-meaning ding-a-ling who although he wants to help, lacks the conviction or understanding to make a difference. Dileep Rao also tries help as a Deepak Chopra-inspired mystic who soon learns he is way in over his head.

The gem of the movie though is Lorna Raver. A longtime soap opera fixture, her role as the old gypsy woman Mr. Ganush lets her acting chops out of the box, and runs them at full throttle. Her portrayal of a person wronged who will not be denied chews on the audiences’ heart with her rotten dentures. Her performance makes this film work. The character she creates is so terrifying, so committed, so insinuating in your consciousness, that she deserves a spot alongside Karloff, Lugosi and Chaney. Like them, she is just that good enough of an actor to make you sometimes empathize for the “evil” monster.

Director Sam Raimi pull out his best bells and whistles too. Gags come flying out from both sides of the screen when you least expect it, and even when you do, keeping the viewers heart pumping at full speed. The camera work varies from dreamily other-worldly, even sublime, to harrowing. Sound effects, sadly neglected element in many horrors films today, are also given their due, keeping your skin crawling with subtle touches at one moment, then shaking your soul pieces with orchestrated bombast when required.

Although Horror as a film genre today is in an upswing of production, so much of the movies coming out these days are fetid junk. They are blood soaked nonsense; full of sadism and devoid of thought or art. For Horror fans, and fans of Sam Raimi, “Drag Me To Hell” is the film we have long deserved. It is a roller coaster ride into the land of ghosts and unspeakable horrors. Other filmmakers have tried to put the aesthetics of the Horror Comics onscreen and met with varying degrees of success. This time to the audiences’ delight, Raimi hits the skull out of the park.

Four Stars

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