Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #57
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: March 15, 2009 (SXSW), May 29, 2009 (US)
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $90,842,646
Running Time: 99 minutes
Director: Sam Raimi
Producer: Grant Curtis, Robert G. Tapert
Screenplay: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi
Special Effects: Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger, Jim Schwalm
Cinematography: Peter Deming
Score: Christopher Young
Editing: Bob Murawski
Studio: Ghost House Pictures
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Stars: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Dileep Rao, David Paymer, Adriana Barraza, Chelcie Ross, Reggie Lee, Molly Cheek, Bojana Novakovic, Kevin Foster and Lorna Raver as Mrs. Ganush
Suggested Audio Candy
 Christopher Young “Loose Teeth”
 Christopher Young “Drag Me To Hell”
A day doesn’t necessarily provide prior warning before turning to shit before your very eyes. Some mornings you awaken and shuffle down the stairs, only to place your foot in the cat’s water bowl or stub your toe on the door frame as you struggle to maintain balance. These days are damned from the offset and nothing you can do will be of any avail when attempting to steer the ship back on course. When faced with one such day, the best thing to do is dust yourself down, listen to Burning Heart by Survivor, and muddle through the minefield as best you can, knowing that tomorrow’s fortunes are surely destined to be kinder.
Other days, everything can seem to be going to form. No potholes or perilously placed banana skins, and plenty of reason to show your teeth to passing strangers and let fellow motorists pass first, even when yielding the right way. Then one instance can really throw a bag of rusty spanners in the works. In a heartbeat, rain clouds begin to form overhead, and the air suddenly grows frosty and unwelcoming. These days are the worst kind of offenders. At least when an apple looks rotten, you can choose whether or not to consume it, whereas that first sip of evening tea with perished milk prefers not to give you a warning to heed, dropping you in the deep end like an albino in a heat wave.
Speaking of rotten luck, Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) must have wished she refrained from setting her alarm clock the night before this particularly disheartening day at the office. Tricked into believing foolishly that today would be one of positive advancements in her job, romantic gestures from her besotted partner and oats before bedtime, Alison sits at her desk, glancing occasionally at her whip cracking boss with the smile which appears to have won him over. With promotion appearing a distinct probability; those Prada shoes she has been hankering after are polished and waiting at the next available payday.
Then Mrs Ganush (Lorna Raver) lurches in and all that changes in a heartbeat. While initially agreeable, if a tad unbalanced, one simple loan refusal has the worst kind of ramifications for the go-getting clerk as Ganush has every intention of punishing any wrong doers in such a potent and decisive manner that death would seem like the more attractive option. An ancient gypsy curse is Christine’s penance for acting without the requisite kindness and, realizing her day is taking a turn for the Raimis, she attempts every evasion technique possible to elude her impending appointment with a cloven-hooved aggressor, whom needs no further introduction.
Before long, Christine learns first-hand that Mrs. Ganush is one loan seeker she really should have accommodated when the opportunity presented itself. Instantly regretting her actions, her plight only worsens when the dotty old dear turns up dead, leaving no remaining choir to preach to. Despite every attempt to clear her name with the big man downstairs before her dubious date with destiny, her opposite number is clearly having none of her hollow apologies. Her cauldron is already simmering, Beelzebub has had his elbow in the tepid water and deemed it just the right temperature for her arrival.
Soundly shaken by her ever-looming judgement, Christine calls on her understanding and devoted boyfriend Clay (Justin Long) for assistance. Clay is desperate to understand his partner’s overnight neurosis and more than willing to fight her case with his family, who believe a bank clerk probably deserves her place in Satan’s citadel. His faith is tested to its breaking point and, to his eternal credit, he proves himself quite the catch by standing by his woman defiantly. However, it’s going to take a lot more than a dash of comprehension to save his significant other from her fiery fate and he’d be better served saving up for a nice headstone as Christine is going to need either a miracle or a dash of divine interception to halt her descent into the hell fires.
With a visit to spiritualist Rham Jas (Dileep Rao) throwing up no eleventh hour lifelines, Christine is more than aware that time is slipping through the hourglass and that her fate is all but sealed. Thus, it is time for one final attempt to escape her fast approaching punishment. Clambering around in a not quite shallow enough grave, she attempts the old last-ditch switcheroo.
However, the elements are against her once more and she ends up bathing in Ganush’s embalming fluids for her troubles. We move ever closer to our climactic scene, still unaware of the eventual outcome and the final twist, when it arrives, is really no less than we should have expected from the brilliant mind that created one of the most iconic movies of all time.
If you’ve watched Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, then you’ll be aware of the fact that this cantankerous swine is never more happy than when putting his heroes through every last one of their paces. Hapless Ash lurched from one dire set of circumstances to the next, particularly in the sequel, having his mettle tested with intense scrutiny and relentless regularity. Perilous parallels can be drawn with our heroine here also. Mouthfuls of maggots, unsolicited embraces minus dentures, sneak assaults at every turn and even a swift right-handler culminate to make this one very, very bad day for the hapless clerk and you can almost hear Raimi chortling to himself as he conducts one helluva shit storm from behind the lens.
The leads do well across the board. Lohman makes for a spirited and likeable lead, while Long once again shows his versatility in role choice as her exasperated beau Clay. Meanwhile, David Paymer puts in a priceless turn as her increasingly flustered boss Mr. Jacks and plays the spineless, sniveling creep to perfection. Fred Dekker’s glorious Night of the Creeps already provided proof that Paymer likes a little blood in his popcorn, although here he gets it all over the shirt his wife meticulously ironed hours earlier in one of the film’s numerous standout scenes.
The $30 million budget is on open exhibit and the pace (and our pulses) quickens with no forewarning. There is also the small question of a talking goat and never has a moment divided audiences so spectacularly. Some may reach for eject button at this precise moment but, if they do, then they will have conveniently forgotten Raimi’s past history. If you crave realism then you belong to the sense and sensibility crowd and therefore really shouldn’t be at his party in the first place as he has never been afraid to throw a cat amongst the pigeons and deliver his audience to the outer extremes. Meanwhile, the conclusion is every bit the spectacle we have hoped for and, while it basically boils down to does she/doesn’t she, most of us have guessed the answer to that conundrum in the opening act.
Raimi’s return to his horror roots is no ill-thought out affair. He and his fellow screenwriter brother Ivan actually penned the screenplay for Drag Me To Hell as far back as 1992 but placed it on the back burner while he looked to broaden his horizons. He has never once forgotten his roots, other more lucrative ventures may have sent him on a tangent, but here he is back on familiar and welcome territory and there can be no other outcome than embracing him with open arms. If nothing else, it has dissuaded me against ever taking a job as a bank teller.
Crimsons Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 2/5
For the Grue Guzzlers: My interpretation of the word “grue” suggests anything capable of turning your stomach so ignore the lowly grue rating as mine was on a rinse spin throughout Drag Me To Hell with precious little respite provided. Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger are a formidable pairing and here they revel in the grotesque, with no exploding heads or blood geysers required. A shitload of festering maggots and a dash of well done flesh is evidently all it takes and they serve both up with predictably magnanimous relish.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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