Drag Me To Hell (Raimi, 2009)

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Disavowing your true self might be the most destructive horror of all, and Sam Raimi’s thrilling Drag Me To Hell unabashedly examines such a desperate realization. Christine Brown (Allison Lohman), successful Loan Officer and stunning girlfriend to newly minted professor Clay (Justin Long), seeks advancement in life while hoping to forget her country upbringing. In an early scene, Christine drives through cramped L.A. traffic practicing enunciation in an effort to eliminate her Southern drawl, as if already hindered by some God-given hex. At her workplace, Christine competes aggressively for a promotion against a male co-worker, which ultimately leads her to deny an old gypsy woman a reprieve on her failed mortgage in order to please a penny-pinching boss. Acting out of character? We’re never sure, but the consequences are dire nonetheless. Angered by this lack of compassion, the gypsy femme puts a deadly curse on Christine – in three days her soul will be dragged down to hell! 

This set-up crackles with intensity, and the first act of Drag Me To Hell gleefully reminds how strategically placed scares and potent sound effects can generate endless unease within a character on the brink of madness. But the superb genre aesthetics soon take a backseat to the film’s astonishing achievement; Lohman as the conflicted heroine who shuffles from sweetness to rage, then back to panic with scary ease. The film begins with her identity basically dissolved, Christine caught between an idealized life and a past she can’t stand. But faced with the curse, and an outward enemy, Christine’s inner demons take a backseat to the visual and audible horrors of the dark arts. But those doubts, those ruminations of inadequacy, linger in Lohman’s eyes, and this characteristic drives Drag Me To Hell toward a stunning final reversal of fortune. Obsessed with issues of greed, self-worth, and image, Drag Me To Hell roots these themes in an incredibly personal and haunting place, where a women’s descent from one hell to the next provides plenty of economic and emotional subtext.

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