Drag Me to Hell (15)

Just wake me up when there's something to squeal at
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Taking a break from directing Spider-Man blockbusters, Sam Raimi has come home to the gloriously tasteless, lowish-budget horror comedy he pioneered in The Evil Dead trilogy. In Drag Me to Hell, his heroine/victim is Alison Lohman, a loans officer at a Los Angeles bank. With a promotion in the offing, she's keen to convince her boss that her soft-hearted sweetness won't stop her making tough decisions. So when a toothless crone begs her for a mortgage extension, Lohman refuses, even though said crone is just a cat and a broomstick away from being an archetypal witch. Overreacting somewhat, this dissatisfied customer summons a demonic spirit to harass Lohman for three days before, yes, dragging her to Hell.

The film shares its plot with The Unborn, which came out in February, but with one key difference: The Unborn didn't realise how daft it was, whereas Drag Me to Hell has the knockabout tone of a Tom & Jerry cartoon (or rather The Simpsons' gory Tom & Jerry pastiche, Itchy & Scratchy).

There are no Wikipedia gobbets about ancient Jewish texts or Nazi eugenics here. From its title onwards, Drag Me to Hell revels in its Hallowe'en hokeyness, sticking to the hoariest of horror standbys (seances, storm-racked graveyards) and turning them all into the stuff of gross-out comedy. This is a film in which the charmingly straight-faced heroine has an anvil suspended from a pulley in her garage, just in case she needs to cut the rope and squish anyone who happens to be standing directly beneath it.

It's a treat for those of us who don't like our horror to be too horrifying. There's not much in Drag Me to Hell to give anyone nightmares, but as eyeballs fly across the room, and witches spew tidal waves of insects, there are plenty of moments which will have the whole cinema squealing in revolted delight. The only problem is that there's not much going on in between those moments. Each exuberant set piece is like a spin on a roller coaster, but the rudimentary story and dialogue are like the queues you have to stand in before the next ride. Raimi and his brother Ivan must have knocked out their bare-bones script over the course of a long weekend.

There's still half an hour of tremendous fun to be had, but Drag Me to Hell is ultimately a quick, trashy B-movie, rather than the unhinged masterpiece that Evil Dead fans were crossing their fingers for. Considering that Raimi has now started work on Spider-Man 4, it could have been subtitled "What I Did on My Summer Holidays".