Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver
What with all the web-slinging, people sometimes forget just who Sam Raimi is - or was. He directed, of course, the Evil Dead (and, indeed, Evil Dead II), genre-shaking low-budget messy movies, with a unique taste for humorous horror. But as Spiderman 3 lolloped its way into cinemas, even the die hard Raimites couldn't help but wonder: had he forgotten too? This is Raimi's resounding answer: hell, no.
A simple story of greed and retribution, Drag Me to Hell sees the nice, kind and all-round lovely Christine (Lohman) being all nice, kind and lovely in her job as a loans officer. But, in a single moment of ambition, she refuses an extension to the poor old Sylvia Ganush (Raver). Big mistake.
For that one selfish act, old Sylvia corners her in the car park, cursing her soul with the Lamia. Cue three days of spooky spirits, haunted houses, and general spectral carnage. On the third day? She gets dragged to hell for all eternity. That's a bad thing. As time races forward towards her eternal doom, Christine begins to break down - so much for her promotion at work. Watched by her supportive boyfriend, Clay (Long), she turns to a medium to save her soul.
A medium? A job? A boyfriend? It all sounds so old-hat. That's because it is. Revelling in its old-school mechanics, the formula has that extra bit of spark thanks to its seasoned director and his distinct style. Only Sam could make a horror film that's funny, not because it's laughably bad, but because it's meant to be funny. From false teeth to gushing nose bleeds, the mix of the grotesque and the grim is perfectly judged. Equally alarming and hilarious, this is Sam Raimi back where he belongs: up to his neck in eyeballs, worms and fake blood. It's a visceral experience, all right, and Christine gets the brunt of it. Mostly in the face.
Things are even more effective with such a genuine cast; Lohman's lead is engaging in her endearing innocence, Long's supporting role (which could have been a cardboard bit-part) feels fleshed out and believable, and Raver's raving gypsy nails the hard task of biting someone without dentures. The only thing missing from the line-up is Bruce Campbell. All of it unfolds with a hurtling sense of inevitability. Shuttling the camera up, down and all over the place, Sam's shock tactics never fail to pay off - even the predictable close is an unsettling kick in the guts.
Scary, silly, and absolutely terrifying, Drag me to Hell is a great horror movie. You'll laugh out loud, you'll bite your lips off - this is terrific stuff. Ignore Spidey 4: Sam's still got it.