On Hell and Draggin'
So, how about that new Sam and Ivan Raimi flick? I know many of you Evil Dead diehards are just as thrilled as I am that Drag Me to Hell is as thoroughly frightening and relentlessly comical a movie as it is. The filmmakers did a fair job of scaring the bejesus out of us by employing the same complete silence invaded by loud noise tactic over and over again, making us laugh out loud repeatedly with a simple hair wrench gag, grossing us out with displays of various fluids, and possibly presenting us with a moral lesson.
For those of you who don’t know, the story follows a young bank employee who is cursed because she chooses not to allow a seemingly nice, but creepy and roguish elderly gypsy lady another extension on her mortgage loan for the sake of potential career gain. The bank employee is tortured by a demonic spirit and eventually dragged into hell.
Now, I became excited to see the movie after I listened to an interview with Sam Raimi on NPR. However, in the interview, the younger Raimi makes two claims which I later discovered to be as false as acrylic nails: 1.) He claimed to “never say [the old lady] is a gypsy”, yet the movie implies everything to the contrary by referencing gypsies—in word and image—from start to finish. 2.) He then claimed that the bank employee protagonist, Christine Brown, is the true villain of the story. He explained that it is her greed that leads to her downfall.
Barring potential commentary on the recent mortgage crisis, that’s not really what the movie shows. I’d say the story is premised more on the pride, sloth, and misplaced hostility of the old gypsy lady, Mrs. Ganush. Shortly after her introduction, Mrs. Ganush mentions that she’s a proud woman and has never begged for anything, but she quickly falls on her knees with hands clasped and creates a public scene. Then, she feels embarrassed and attacks Christine with nary a mention of the loan. That’s when we begin to discover Mrs. Ganush is quite an able woman; else, she would not be capable of so persistently attacking and effectively harming her future curse victim. Furthermore, I found it strange that a woman who can call forth demons from hell to torment bank employees can’t pay a home loan. She complained about her failing health. I say that heifer shoulda found a job as a cage fighter!
Later, when Christine visits Mrs. Ganush’s home in an attempt to make amends and have the curse lifted, she meets not just Mrs. Ganush’s bitter, soda-drinking granddaughter, but a houseful of people come to mourn (or celebrate?) over Mrs. Ganush’s embalming fluid filled body. Now, I just wanted to know who the hell those people were and why not one of them could have helped Mrs. Ganush pay her loan…or clean her dingy house.
Speaking of financial means, the story never explains how Christine, who is not even an assistant manager at her branch, could afford to live in a great big ole, well-kept home near downtown Los Angeles. (Christine does mention her deceased father once, but she goes no further.) I’ll wager it has something to do with the same way her hair affords to look so full and vibrant after having clumps of it ripped from her skull a dozen times.
In spite of all this, I am deeply thankful that I was legitimately horrified by the Lamia, the goat-demon persecutor. Never once are we allowed a lasting image of the monster. There is one scene in which the Lamia possesses two people and a goat, but the appearance of the possessed showcases disctinctly different (and freaky!) aspects of the demon. Then, there is one split-second image of the creature’s true visage, but while it is long enough to note, it is short enough to remain indistinct. The Lamia’s presence is marked primarily by its shadowy outline, terrible screeches, and ghastly cackle—the perfect terror to unsettle your summer season.
I say, get it while it’s hot—on the big screen!