Melissa Moseley
May 27, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

Drag Me to Hell

Current Status
In Season
99 minutes
Wide Release Date
Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Reggie Lee, David Paymer, Lorna Raver
Sam Raimi
Ivan Raimi, Sam Raimi
We gave it an A

Drag Me to Hell, Sam Raimi’s delirious psych-out of a horror film, is a candy-colored ghouls-gone-wild nightmare that treats every shock as a joke — or, at least, as an invitation to crack up at your own gullibility. Raimi, like Roman Polanski in his classic Repulsion (1965), surrounds a comely blond lass (Alison Lohman) with demons that seem to be erupting right out of her head. He gets into our heads, too; he scares the unholy living bejesus out of you. Raimi’s operating model is the fun house, with its jack-in-the-box terrors, but he doesn’t just toy with the audience. He plays it, like a maestro. He orchestrates a tongue-in-cheek symphony of fear.

Lohman, with her slightly dazed, rabbit-toothed sensuality, plays a bank worker who refuses to renew the mortgage of a one-eyed, rotten-toothed old gypsy woman (Lorna Raver). Lohman then spends the rest of the film fighting off the curse the gypsy has placed on her. She’s assaulted by flash-cut visions of baroquely grotesque and evil things, starting with the gypsy herself, a hideous crone ?who has a way of taking out her false teeth and, well, doing stuff without them. Their first encounter in a parking garage is like ?a slasher showdown crossed with a wrestling blowout; it unites the audience in a collective moan-laugh-shriek. The bedroom nightmare that follows is so gross it redefines the phrase in your face, and from then on we’re clamped into a state of tingly anticipatory anxiety.

Raimi directed all three Spider-Man films, but in the ’80s, before he went Hollywood, he made The Evil Dead and its sequel — splendid exercises in slapstick mutilation and whooshing-camera dread. Drag Me to Hell marks a return to their spirit — even if it’s only PG-13! — but it’s also a deftly unified freak show that keeps intensifying as its wormy-devil images keep spewing. Going back to his roots, Raimi has made the most crazy, fun, and terrifying horror movie in years. A

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