Most directors who graduate from low-budget anonymity to Hollywood glory never look back, so it’s oddly rewarding to see Sam Raimi, who’s devoted most of this decade to the Spider-Man franchise, suddenly return to his schlock-horror roots. Drag Me to Hell probably boasts a larger budget than the first two Evil Dead flicks combined, but it’s been made in the same dementedly cheesy spirit, and its digital effects tend to be less memorable than its gross-out makeup, its sublimely silly supporting turns and its hilariously ironic plot twists—one in particular.
Bruce Campbell apparently having been otherwise engaged, the role of the beleaguered protagonist goes to Alison Lohman, playing a perfectly nice loan officer whose lust for the bank’s assistant-manager position inspires her to do one regrettably not-so-nice thing. “No,” she tells the wizened gypsy hag (Raver) begging for an extension on her mortgage, and promptly gets cursed, whereupon a shadowy form shaped vaguely like a goat begins filling her mouth with flies and her dinner plate with accusatory eyeballs. This is the Lamia, a medium (Dileep Rao) informs her, and after three days of booga-booga it will, well, drag her to hell, unless she can persuade the gypsy to lift the curse. Slight problem: The gypsy is already dead.
From the moment our heroine walks into the bank’s parking lot and sees a beat-up yellow ’73 Oldsmobile lurking in wait—the same car Ash drives in The Evil Dead—Raimi fans will be in hog heaven. (The knock-down, drag-out fight that ensues is all the funnier for being dramatically purposeless, since the gypsy could have saved a lot of time and energy with a quick curse-and-run.) And while the film is proudly tacky (and politically incorrect), it has a sharp moralistic undercurrent reminiscent of classic E.C. comics—adorable and plucky though Lohman’s Christine is, we’re hard pressed to feel too much sympathy for a bank employee who’s more concerned with personal advancement than with the possibility that her clients may lose their homes. Which makes the genuinely surprising climax all the more satisfying.