Drag Me to Hell a return to form

Drag Me to Hell is a return to the energetic horror-comic style Sam Raimi helped innovate.

The lasting cult of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy leads to Drag Me to Hell, a return to the energetic horror-comic style the filmmaker helped innovate. It's weird in execution: Not an Evil Dead movie, but it frequently behaves exactly like one: The gore-gags were edgier before CG was involved. And though Drag Me to Hell (from the late-'80s Universal logo that opens it) is a throwback rather than the next wave of horror it's hyped as being, it's an enjoyable reunion.

Bank loan officer Christine (Alison Loham) makes the acknowledged faux-pas of not granting a mortgage payment extension to an elderly gypsy with one glowing eye. She is instantly cursed. The buckets of blood that established the first two Evil Deads as ultra-violent slapstick are complimented with other bodily grue. Raimi's delirious setups (the best of them set in a parking garage) follow jump scenes with sights like a toothless woman biting Christine's chin. Drag Me to Hell delivers the predictable jumps, and then always a punchline.

It's outside of the giddy scare moments that Raimi doesn't keep things elevated. His dialogue scenes are as routinely shot as they were in Spider-Man 3. This movie has a simple story to its favour, but it would have been more fun if Sam andbrother/co-writer Ivan Raimi had more fully developed their lead. Lohman's approachable charm (deep eyes, toothy smile--a nerd's fantasy) makes up for her not being much of an actress. Yet Drag Me to Hell is missing the backstory to give her infernal struggle deeper conflict and payoff. Calling this a morality tale about career ethics is stretching things.

Like others who spent chunks of childhood browsing video stores, Evil Dead 2 awakened something in my junior high-aged mind (in the early '90s, the VHS wasn't available for sale, but I rented that tape repeatedly). Drag Me to Hell hasn't the inspiration or freshness to have that kind of impact. Still, it should become a Halloween staple. Raimi replaces the sadistic wave of torture in recent horror movies, giving Christine's torment the spook-show spirit missing from the genre for years. If it's not a classic, it's at least the most rewatchable Tales From the Crypt episode.

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