Drag Me to Hell (2009)

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*. Drag Me to Hell. Is that a terrible title for a movie, or does is it work because it’s so bad it sticks in your head?
*. I’m not sure. I do know that there’s almost no chance I would have bothered with this one but for my hearing that it was a re-working of the 1957 Jacques Tourneur classic Night of the Demon. I signed up for that.
*. It’s 2009, so the subprime mortgage crisis has just hit. This makes the incident that gets the plot rolling seem timely (the gypsy being evicted from her home by the bank). But despite this the economy must be doing fine. Our heroes are a pair of twenty-somethings: he’s a professor of psychology and she’s just made assistant bank manger. Despite her poor rural roots, she lives, alone, in a hilltop mansion. Uh-huh.
*. It’s 2009, so things are speeding up. In the M. R. James story “Casting the Runes” the curse would take effect in three months. In Night of the Demon it was down to two weeks. Here, Christine is given three days.
*. Sam Raimi must have seemed a good fit for the material. He’s known for his turns at comic horror, and the humour of Night of the Demon is often underappreciated. Here, however, the laughs are quite a bit broader. There’s a talking goat, and even some Bugs Bunny stuff that makes use of rope, a pulley, and an anvil suspended from the ceiling.
*. There also seems to be a running gag revolving around the film’s oral fixation. Throughout the movie we see things either spewing out of people mouths or being jammed into them. I honestly lost track out of how many times this occurs, and I’m not sure if it had any larger point.
*. So now the psychiatrist who doesn’t believe all this occult mumbo-jumbo isn’t the target of the demon but is instead the boyfriend. Boo! Another threatened cutie with an otherwise perfect boyfriend who can only try to understand her. Wouldn’t it have been more interesting if, like Dana Andrews, he’d been the one being hunted? Alas, Justin Long is no Dana Andrews.
*. You never see CPR being done properly in a movie, but here it’s laughable when Rham Jas tries to revive Shaun San Dina. He just sort of leans on her shoulder. I don’t know what good that’s supposed to do.

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*. I get the sense of a movie made in haste. Some of the effects are poor, and there are huge continuity errors throughout. Perhaps the worst is when the gypsy’s corpse vomits (CGI) embalming fluid all over Christine, only to have her pop back up a second later without any sign of it on her.
*. The ending bothers people because the moral calculus doesn’t balance. Christine is a decent person and she doesn’t “deserve” her sticky end. It’s nice that we still carry such beliefs into a film like this, but to be honest by the time things got to the train station I didn’t care any more.
*. I was more upset that the ending didn’t make sense. Shouldn’t Christina have been dead before then? Didn’t everyone at the train station see her being dragged to hell? Why didn’t the train fall into hell?
*. That said, I did like how they took seriously the question we’re left with at the end of Ringu/The Ring: who do you pass the curse along to? Is it right to pick on the old man who doesn’t look like he has much time left? Isn’t the point here that you’re damning the victim to an eternity in hell? Why would it matter then if they’re at death’s door?
*. I wonder what the point of the introduction is. We never find out what happens to the boy, and Shaun San Dina’s lifelong mission to get him back is snuffed out later.
*. The Evil Dead came out nearly thirty years earlier, but how much has Sam Raimi developed since then? He still seems stuck in comic book mode, and the séance scene here is almost like a replay of something from that cabin in the woods. Shouldn’t Raimi have moved on? A Simple Plan is seeming more and more like a one off.
*. You can’t argue with success though. For some reason this did good box office, and, even more inexplicably, scored well with critics. I find it sloppy, repetitive, and unoriginal, but that’s just one vote.

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