Saturday, August 29, 2009

Drag Me To Hell [movie review]

* Released theatrically in May; available on DVD October 20th

Drag Me To Hell is director Sam Raimi's first movie that doesn't have "Spider-Man" in the title since 2000's The Gift and marks a return to the horror cheese genre he put his stamp on with The Evil Dead trilogy. His latest effort made a respectable $42 million dollars during its North American theatrical run, eclipsing the modest $30 million budget that is woefully obvious on screen. The movie attempts to function as a horror movie with elements of comedy, but the laughs overwhelm the scare tactics, resulting in a thoroughly unfulfilling viewing experience, save for the unintentional humour.

The story revolves around aspiring banker Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), who has a curse put on her by a gypsy (Lorna Raver) she has to screw over by not extending a loan and then fighting throughout the rest of the movie to keep her sanity and have the curse lifted. The plot is threadbare and some of the scenes and characters present themselves as being the brainchild of complete rookie writers and filmmakers instead of respected veterans (Raimi also co-wrote the script with his brother Ivan). Lohman is completely unbelievable as even a young banker, done in by her petite figure, baby face and lack of emotional range. The actress is almost 30 years old yet struggles to convincingly play characters 10-12 years younger than that. David Paymer, as her bank manager, further adds to his dubious repertoire of forgettable second fiddle "oh, it's that guy" roles. Fellow typecast victim Justin Long plays Brown's boyfriend, resurrecting his clean cut, nice guy boyfriend role once again. If these types of roles don't make him reevaluate his career somewhere down the road then surely the prospect of also being known the rest of his life as "the guy from the Mac ads" will. Sure enough, we see well-placed iMac computers and an iPhone in a couple of Long's scenes.

The title proves prophetic, dragging its ass to the 99 minute mark when probably a good hour would have proved sufficient to tell the story. Unfortunately, 60 minute feature films kind of don't exist. Raimi wrings as much as he can out of the 14-A Adult Accompaniment rating (PG-13 in the U.S.), with a few decent scares involving bodily fluids and regurgitated kittens (I won't elaborate). As with his previous horror work, Raimi works with an obvious tongue-in-cheek, sly wink nod to his audience, but too many of the scares in Drag Me To Hell overshoot their mark and land with an unintended comic thud.

Rating: 3/10