Drag Me To Hell is a film that lives and dies by its jump scares. If you enjoy them, you’ll have a good time here. If you’re like me, and you get tired of them quickly, you’ll end up napping whenever we get to a silent point, because you know exactly what’s going to happen, and you know that there’s no point in paying any attention to the scene anymore; you’re aware that at some point, a loud noise will occur, and something will appear on the screen.
The reason I dislike these types of scaring effects is two-fold. To start, it’s not real terror. Secondly, it doesn’t really matter what happens on-screen; the combination of the loud noise and a quick-cut to something is enough to make you jump. For all you care, a toilet, kitty cat or terrifying leaf could be shown, but you’d still jump because of the manner they’re presented in. They just don’t appeal to me, and as a result, I got tired every time Drag Me To Hell tried to scare me.
Our story opens up in 1969, where a young boy is brought to a psychic’s house. He’s been cursed, and then he gets eaten by a demon. Fun. We then flash-forward to present day, where bank loan manager Christine (Alison Lohman) is lusting over the Assistant Manager’s position, which is currently unoccupied. An old woman named Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) comes into the bank, and asks for an extension on her mortgage. Since she’s already had two, it wouldn’t be in the bank’s interest to approve. Christine, who desperately wants a promotion, declines Mrs. Ganush, who ends up on her hands and knees begging.
Security is called, Mrs. Ganush is escorted off the premises, and the day goes on. At the end of it, the old woman manages to find her way into Christine’s car, and a small scuffle ensues. For a person who has lost one eye and looks about a day away from death, she can sure put up a fight. At the end of it, she grabs Christine’s button from her shirt, and puts a curse on it. Why she didn’t open with that move is beyond me — she didn’t even attempt it at the bank or during the fight — but we’ll chalk it up to senility.
Of course, Christine has no idea what happened to the button, so she goes to a fortune teller (Dileep Rao) to find out. He tells her that she has three days before she’ll be dragged into the abyss, and it’s all because she was doing her job. If I ever end up working at a bank, I’ll be sure not to decline an old woman, because apparently that’s enough of a sin to be sent to Hell. Makes sense, right?
Multiple attempts end up being made to avoid the inevitable, including a visit to Mrs. Ganush’s granddaughter’s house (she’s now lost her own). But, no matter what Christine seems to do, the demon torments her because that’s what is fun for them to do. Pots clang together, shadows move and throw her against walls, and bugs seem to have found the back of her throat a nice place to make a home. Oh, and jump scenes are the most popular choice of this demon, because they definitely don’t get old after you’ve seen them dozens of times. Nope, not a chance.
As a matter of fact, Christine might just be a demon herself. At her office, she ends up with the worst nosebleed of all time. Blood can’t leave her nose fast enough, so she ends up shooting some out of her mouth too. It looks like more blood than you actually have in your body, and even after that, she just runs out without anyone doing anything about it. And then she gets thrown into walls and doors, but gets up like nothing’s happened. At one point, I wondered if she was imagining it all, and while it’s possible, I think that this is a film you take just at face value.
There are points in Drag Me To Hell that are funny. There are even more points that were supposed to be funny, but end up falling flat. I imagine that the fight scene between Christine and Mrs. Ganush was supposed to be more comedic than frightening, but it drags on for far too long, and left me just wishing for one of them to die. There’s another where an anvil falls on someone’s head, and yet another where Christine fights with a corpse. The last one is probably the best, and possibly funniest, fight scene of the film, and no, I’m not going to tell you how it works.
The ending is also something that seems to think that it will surprise you, but is incredibly predictable if you’ve seen any move before that uses a similar one. It just seemed silly to me, and while it doesn’t exactly end on a happy note, it probably would have been more surprising if it did, and was allowed to just walk into the sunset peacefully. But it doesn’t get that opportunity, and instead has to end in the way everyone sees coming, and without any true surprise (just like whenever a jump scene is about to come up).
In terms of the acting, everyone was bland except for Lorna Raver as Mrs. Ganush. Christine Taylor, Justin Long, and everyone in the supporting cast all phoned it in. I know that great performances are few and far between in horror movies, but this is one that might have benefited from some. Or at least ones that didn’t seem like the actors felt awkward through the entire production.
Drag Me To Hell is the type of horror film I rarely enjoy. It relies too heavily on jump scenes, which I just don’t find fun. The twist ending didn’t work, the comedic elements fell flat, and the actors looked awkward and wooden. There are moments where it’s a decent ride, but in the end, it’s too reliant on loud noises and quick cuts to truly terrify me.