Sam Raimi must really hate going to the dentist. Every time someone opens his or her mouth in Drag Me To Hell – Raimi’s return to the kind of gleeful splatstick that made/sullied his name back in the ’80s – ugly things happen.
If it’s not something being vomited up (maggots, blood, embalming fluid, a cat), it’s something being rammed down (spade, ruler, an arm). To the fans, of course, such outgoing spatter and ingoing splatter will be a shiver-shudder treat: talk about oral pleasure.
Neither as (video) nasty, scary nor inventive as BBFC-bothering The Evil Dead but a whole lot of fun anyway, Drag Me To Hell delightedly rolls in clichés like a pup in a red patch of sunshine. It tells the hoary tale of Christine (Alison Lohman), a pretty young loan officer who evicts a gypsy (Lorna Raver) from her clapperboard home only for the cloudy-eyed crone to retaliate with an obligatory curse.
Christine has just three days to live – each of them haunted by a goat – before a fiery gateway will yawn open to claim her. We know this because it happened to some Mexican kid in the prologue.
The kind of movie that actively invites yet more clichés from those reviewing it (the director himself has called it a trip on a ghost train), Drag Me To Hell is a spine-tingling thrill ride; it’s Night Of The Demonmeets- Thinner on acid. It’s also classic Raimi: seesawing camera, wild shadowplay, crash zooms, guts, guffaws, and a soundtrack that squeaks and shrieks.
Lob in a couple of recreations of iconic images from Raimi’s own back catalogue (grasping hands, flyball eyeballs) and you’ve got the 49-year-old filmmaker casting off suit and tie to reveal his inner imp, eschewing both the screw-turn tension of J-horror and the callousness of torture porn for something more innocent and playful.
Gaudy, ghoulish, this particular creepshow plugs into the EC Comics of the ’50s, laughing uproariously in the face of death. Forgettable, but groovy while it lasts.
Sam Raimi returns to his roots to deliver a faintly fearsome frolic. Here’s hoping he revs up that fourth installment. And we don’t mean Spider-Man.