Drag Me to Hell
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a review of the movie seen in theaters and not the unrated version available on DVD. Many of the scares, jumps, and jolts in this horror/action movie from Spider-Man director Sam Raimi are played for comic effect. Still, it's quite bloody, and along with the scary moments and gore, there's extensive discussion of curses, spells, ghosts, and spirits. Surprisingly, the film also has an ethical core, as the main character makes several tough decisions and tries to do the right thing despite implacable odds -- though she occasionally fails.
What's the story?
Loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) works at a L.A. bank; she's trying to earn a promotion to assistant manger, enjoying her relationship with her boyfriend Clay (Justin Long) and generally trying to get ahead. But when she denies a loan extension to an old woman (Lorna Raver) to prove thay she can make the "tough calls," the woman retaliates by attacking Christine and then by cursing her, shackling Christine's fate to the arrival of a spirit called "The Lamia," which in three days' time will pull her to eternal damnation.
Is it any good?
Quick, lively, and full of lighthearted (albeit bloody) mayhem, DRAG ME TO HELL deserves to be one of the sleeper hits of the summer of 2009. It traffics more in scares than gore (although it does have enough of an ick factor to have you squirming in your seat), and it's built around a sympathetic character and has an underlying theme about the costs of modern capitalism and getting ahead -- plus, of course, monsters, demons, and spirits.
Raimi has returned to his roots here, and the fact is that he's even better as a filmmaker -- more comfortable with effects, more skilled in his storytelling, more carefully calibrating the line between over the top and out of bounds that so few horror filmmakers know how to walk. Lohman's also terrific; she's scared and vulnerable, but she's also a decent person trying like crazy to get out of a serious problem. Lohman makes you buy Christine's emotional and moral journey as much as you believe the supernatural scares and action. Drag Me to Hell is a real pleasure -- a mix of old-fashioned B-movie ideas and great modern movie-making skill.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the choices Christine faces. What could her character have done differently? What would the cost of those decisions be?
Families can also discuss the tradition of horror films as cautionarytales; do the scares and startling moments make the message go downmore easily?