Bag of tricks. Director Sam Raimi often shoots the horror of Drag Me to Hell in daylight, with the exception of a few nighttime scares. This supernatural potboiler goes head-on with Christine, a comely bank loan officer played by Alison Lohman. Heroine Christine is in every scene of the movie following an opening set-up and for most of the time she is rattled by a curse 24/7. She regrets that she ever crossed a one-eyed gypsy with drooling dentures and hideous warts. This is a film made with considerable technical prowess that is propelled by some nimble camera tricks but for some reason doesn’t have any mystery or depth or restraint, and without restraint, there can build no suspense.
Raimi is working in a campy style (he co-wrote with brother Ivan), and he does find humor in both the over-the-top goo as well as Christine’s at-work dilemma where she competes for a promotion. As a silly and inane lark, Raimi has made a movie that makes “jolts” into a routine, a tactical masquerade for a shallow story.
All-out brawl with the gypsy inside a moving vehicle aside, Christine is hectored most often by whirling leaves, floating handkerchiefs and maybe a hallucinatory vision or two. She only has two resources to run to. Justin Long, who makes his sweetness into something sincere (his character is opposite of his unremittingly snobbish parents), is Christine’s boyfriend Clay Dalton. And Dileep Rao, as palm reader Rham Jas, is Christine’s spiritual advisor who pleads her to sacrifice an animal. Maybe a $10,000 exorcise the demons ceremony will do the trick. Absurd! Overpriced!
Indeed a master at over-the-top hellraising, Raimi (off-duty from directing “Spiderman” movies) piles on the synthetic horror tricks with gleeful abandon. But by the time Christine vomits blood all over her boss, Raimi shatters all sanity. Especially when boss (David Paymer) forgets about the vomit incident, like a day later. Raimi, in his cult horror roots, got started with the “Evil Dead” movies, and that’s where he should have returned: third dimension horror fantasy. The “Evil Dead” phantasmagoria didn’t need to explain itself, but the explanations behind the supernatural occurrences in this movie are laborious.
Unapologetically, Raimi unleashes the same tricks onto Christine over and over again. There is spewing and more spewing in this movie. Christine becomes no stranger to mucous and barf. Repetition gets tiring, but I loved the final scenes of the movie that depend on bury-alive tactical evil. For a two-star movie you don’t need, you might giggle at its over-the-top quality here and there.
99 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
HORROR / SUPERNATURAL / SATURDAY LATE NIGHT SHRIEKS
Film Cousins: “The Exorcist” (1973); “Evil Dead 2″ (1987); “Prince of Darkness” (1987); “Dead Again” (1991).