When I first heard about Drag Me to Hell, Sam Raimi's long-awaited return to his horror roots after years of adequate studio pictures and of course Spider-Man, it was from my friend William Lebeda, who directed the movie's (very fine) title sequence. Bill had sighed back then, claiming that Drag Me to Hell was – because of its PG-13 rating – a Goosebumps-level creepshow. "You know, for kids." I interpreted that to mean that it was going to be kind of spooky but not really scary. You see, readers, although I myself have made a slasher flick of sorts, I avoid horror movies – not because of the violence or gore, but because I positively hate jump scares, the sudden loud noises that the genre thrives on. Anyway, now having seen Drag Me to Hell, I figure Goosebumps must be terrifying, because Raimi (who also wrote the script with brother Ivan) giddily packs this film with jump scares, to the tune of one every three or four minutes. It's relentless. But somehow I survived to enjoy the ride, and so will longtime fans of Raimi's nutty aesthetic.
The plot revolves around a Los Angeles bank's meek loan officer (Alison Lohman, heading up an appropriately B-level cast) who, in a bid for a promotion, decides to get tougher with the customers and picks the wrong woman to try it out on: a decrepit old gypsy who's asking for a third extension on her home loan. After being turned down, the gypsy launches a number of horrific (and increasingly disgusting) attacks on Lohman, placing the poor girl under a curse in which she will be stalked by a demon for three days and then finally, yep, dragged to hell.
Although the story's solid, it's mostly a clothesline for Raimi to hang a series of wacky, scary set pieces. Drag Me to Hell takes the best of Poltergeist and The Exorcist and cranks it to the top – and then waaay over the top, as anybody who's seen Raimi's legendary Evil Dead 2 might expect. This isn't quite up to par with the insanity of that earlier film, but there are lots of funhouse shocks to be had, not only with the aforementioned jump scares but with an array of gross-out gags involving corpses and, uh, fluids.
Drag Me to Hell is a true popcorn movie. See it with a loud, raucous crowd in a theater or with your drunk buddies at home and you'll have a swell time.