DRAG ME TO HELL — ★★★ — Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Dileep Rao; rated PG-13 (violence, gore, slurs, vulgarity, profanity, nude art); in general release
"Drag Me to Hell" proves two important points about the horror genre:
A horror movie can be rated PG-13 and still be scary, and a horror film can be every bit as fun as the big and loud, supposed "popcorn" movies.
And make no mistake about it, this modestly budgeted, supernatural thriller is one of the more fun films to come along this year.
While it might not convert any new fans to the genre, it will please those who are looking for something with some genuine scares and jolts, as well as some occasional laughs.
It will also please longtime fans of filmmaker Sam Raimi, one of the brains behind the "Spider-Man" movies. He's clearly having fun returning to his horror-movie roots — he first attracted attention with the goofy, gory "Evil Dead" films.
Raimi co-wrote and directed this tale about a bank loan officer, Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), whose eternal soul is threatened with damnation.
Hoping to impress her boss (David Paymer) and get a promotion, Christine refuses to help an elderly gypsy woman (Lorna Raver) who's about to lose her house.
When the old woman's pleas fall on deaf ears, she curses Christine. And then later, the woman accosts her in the parking lot.
Worse things await Christine, though. A demonic entity is stalking her, and her psychology professor boyfriend, Clay Dalton (Justin Long), remains skeptical.
The best, creepiest moments in the film come when Raimi lets our imagination fill in some of the blanks. There are lots of threatening sounds and shadows, and Christopher Young's moody score is pretty effective.
However, Raimi still can't resist throwing in some splattery, over-the-top elements — he tosses all sorts of viscous fluids around and at Lohman.
Speaking of Lohman, she's terrific in what's a pretty demanding role, especially in terms of physicality.
She's also a much more sympathetic presence than Ellen Page would have been. (The "Juno" star was originally cast in the lead part.)
"Drag Me to Hell" is rated PG-13 and features strong violent content and imagery (demonic attacks, vehicular mayhem, implied animal violence and violence against women), some gory and gooey elements (bodily fluids, including blood), derogatory language and slurs (based on ethnicity and obesity), some suggestive language and references (slang), scattered strong profanity, and glimpses of nude artwork. Running time: 99 minutes.