At the end of the first scene of DRAG ME TO HELL (spoiler alert!), a 10-year-old boy gets thrown off a balcony onto a marble floor. He does not die, but the floor opens up and sucks him into hell anyway. I turned to my movie companion and said, "Here we go, this is no joke." Except with Sam Raimi, it always is. He is a moviemaker who loves making films for movie lovers. Don't get me wrong -- Drag Me To Hell is not for everyone. If you love Raimi for Spiderman, be cautious. If you love him for Evil Dead, go to the theater RIGHT NOW. Many scenes had audience members coughing and gagging from disgust, including myself, but it turns out that laughing is a good cure for nausea. I lost track of how many times I screamed then followed it promptly with doubled-over belly laughing.
Alison Lohman (the poor man's Amy Adams) plays a sweet, pretty, and well-meaning loan officer who decides to channel mean Mr. Potter for the sake of impressing her boss for a promotion. As a result of her callousness towards an elderly Romanian woman, all hell breaks loose, so to speak. Sam Raimi takes contemporary foreclosure fears, adds in some classic takes (and twists) on gypsies and curses and pretty blond white people getting terrorized by the Other, and most importantly makes great use of shadows and sounds and make-up effects. There's certainly the use of CGI as well, but the Evil Dead director luckily doesn't lean on it to provide the frights or the gore. The movie is part-Exorcist, part-Grindhouse's Planet Terror, and I didn't care one bit that I figured out the twist well in advance of its reveal -- like an old wooden roller coaster, knowing what hills and turns are coming up doesn't take away from the fun of racing through them.
-- A. RAYMOND JOHNSON