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Hell is for Chumps

By Dustin Rowles | Film | May 29, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | Film | May 29, 2009 |

There is nothing I can write that would better convince you that Drag Me to Hell is inarguably the best horror comedy since Evil Dead 2 and, arguably, the best horror movie of the decade than this simple fact: Rex Reed hated it. Yes: The New York Observer critic who thought Batman Begins was “the worst Batman movie ever made,” who wrote that Memento was “despicable,” that Being John Malkovich was “abominable,” who opined that Oldboy was a “noxious helping of Korean Grand Guignol as pointless as it is shocking,” who suggested that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was “one of the greatest films ever made” and who once got caught shoplifting Mel Tormé albums absolutely loathed Drag Me to Hell. Is there a more forceful stamp of approval short of a boot heel imprint of “Go See It, Asshole” to the back of your head than Rex Reed’s disdain? Is there any better reason to see it than to spite that cantankerous old shit?

Yes, there is. And it comes, perhaps, in this line from Reed’s DMTH review: “Seeking the help of a loopy carnival medium, Christine finds herself up to her pierced ears in corpse vomit, animal sacrifice, violent séances and open graves.”

Corpse vomit? Sign me up, you curmudgeonly old bitch. Forget Spider-Man 3. Hell, forget the Spider-Man series and For Love of the Game while you’re at it. Drag Me to Hell represents a complete return to form for Sam Raimi, who hasn’t made a movie this good since he kicked Ashley J. Williams to the curb. Take an adult diaper, folks, because when DMTH isn’t making you piss yourself with laughter, it’ll be scaring the shit out of you, which makes for an awfully messy movie-going experience. But it’s worth a few Depends undergarments and half a pack of wet wipes. And only a director as talented as Raimi could force a series of X-Rated exclamations out of you while you’re watching a PG-13 movie.

What’s even more remarkable is that Raimi is working from the flimsiest script he’s ever had. Co-written by Sam and his brother Ivan, the storyline is layer-free and straightforward, nothing more than a framing device for a series of shock-your-balls-off sight gags and shock-cut jump-scares that will put you in the lap of a theatergoer sitting six rows in front of you, begging him to hold you. Alison Lohman stars as Christine, a loan officer who is forced to foreclose on the house of an old milky-eyed gypsy woman who looks eerily similar to the comically gnarled Possessed Henrietta at the end of Evil Dead 2. The gypsy hag takes umbrage and puts a hex on Christine, and she spends the rest of the film trying to remove it, all the while aiming to convince her yuppie boyfriend (Justin Long, perfectly cast) that the funhouse of horrors that’s following her around isn’t a sick delusional joke being played on her by a demented Jack-in-the-Box with a twisted sense of humor popping phantom weasels into her life. Christine eventually finds her way to a psychic (Dileep Rao), who reveals that — in three days time — a goat demon (yes! A goat demon) will pull her down into the bowels of hell for all eternity.

What ensues is a series of maliciously hilarious gross-out visuals, each more amusingly repulsive than the other before: Christine fights off the gypsy with a stapler to the head; she sprays from her nose a geyser of blood on her boss; and her face accepts more projectile vomit than a sidewalk outside the Viper Room, including — yes, Rex — corpse vomit.

Drag Me to Hell is as rapid-paced a film as I’ve seen in years. Raimi goes elephantine balls to the wall, completely for broke, attacking the material with a feverish insanity of a pimple-popping teenager fucking his pillow. It’s frantic — gonzo even — but completely controlled. There’s no subtext to the story; Raimi isn’t trying to tell you anything. There’s no big metaphor; there’s no connection to real-world events; and there’s no cultural commentary. It’s just campy, over-the-top, off-the-hook, over-the-backboard, and through the net with a gloriously bloody squish.

Rex Reed has it all wrong, folks. He writes that “the true test of any successful horror flick is how wretched it makes you feel.” That’s the most boneheaded retarded statement I’ve ever seen a critic write. No wonder print journalism is dying. You don’t watch a horror flick so you’ll feel wretched afterwards. Sometimes, you watch them because it’s fun. Because you want to laugh so hard you embarrass yourself releasing a rectal tremor on the guy next to you. Because you want an honest excuse to cling to your date’s arm with all your might. And because nothing is more satisfying than telling the world that a movie was so scary that your tattooed, 6’2” metalhead music editor shrieked like a 12-year-old girl who’d espied a protuberance in the crotch area of a Jonas Brother. Hell, I didn’t leave this movie feeling wretched; I left reinvigorated, giddy, and absolutely sure of one thing: That Drag Me to Hell is as successful a horror film as you’re likely to see for a long time.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. You can email him or leave a comment below.

The Best Horror Comedies | 2009 MTV Movie Awards

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.