Drag Me To Hell (PG-13)
Most people know director Sam Raimi for his blockbuster Spider-Man movies—or perhaps from A Simple Plan, his underappreciated tragic tale of greed. But he first burst onto the scene in the ‘80s with the Evil Dead series—over-the-top campy horror films that were large on both gore and laughs. Well he’s come back to mine that same vein in his latest film, Drag Me to Hell. Most teenagers won’t be familiar with, or care about, his previous horror films; they’ll only know that this is a horror film that’s only rated PG-13.
Make no mistakes: This is not the torture-porn horror that’s (unfortunately) been so prevalent in recent years, as seen in films such as Hostel and the Saw franchise. Nor is it another American remake of a better-done Japanese horror film. Raimi’s horror makes you cringe and laugh at the same time—it’s quite a feat.
The film opens with a bang, as a couple brings their young son to a medium. He’s stolen a gypsy necklace and been cursed. The poor child is thrown over a balcony, and the ground literally opens up and spectral hands reach out of the depths and drag him down to “hell.”
Fast-forward a few years and the main story revolves around Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), a sweet young loan officer who’s dating college professor Clay Dalton (Justin Long) and trying to move up in the world. Clay’s family is very wealthy, and they don’t approve of him dating a “farm girl” when he could do so much better. So Christine listens to speech CDs on the way into work to get rid of her drawl, and she says no to sweets because she used to be heavy as a teenager. She’s doing everything she can to “better” herself and win the approval of Clay’s parents.
She’s also up for a big promotion at work, but she’s got competition in the form of sleazy Stu Rubin (Reggie Lee), who also wants the job. Trouble begins when Mrs. Ganush comes in looking for an extension on her home payment. She’s one of the most hilariously gruesome old ladies I’ve ever seen in film. Christine is forced to make a choice between the compassionate thing for this woman and the best thing for the bank. She sides with the bank.
This leads to a well-done, disgusting, and funny fight between Christine and Mrs. Ganush in a parking garage. When all is said and done, Mrs. Ganush has managed to curse Christine, using a button from her coat.
What’s interesting is the moral dilemma Raimi (who co-wrote the film with his brother), gives Christine. She’s just doing her job, and it’s neither her nor the bank’s fault that Mrs. Ganush can’t pay. So is it wrong to disallow the extension? In an interview, Raimi said, “This is a young woman who thinks she’s a good person, but she acts out of greed….At the moment she has to make her choice, I want the audience to make that choice with her. They sin with her.”
So now she’s tormented by a Lamia, an evil spirit that will make Christine’s life hell for three days before pulling her down to the real thing. So she decides to visit a shaman to help her get rid of the curse. His suggestions include blood sacrifice (not Christ’s, mind you, but an animal), and attending a séance complete with human and animal possessions.
When none of that works, she finds out she can give the curse to someone else by turning over ownership of that cursed button. [Spoiler alert.] She has an opportunity to give the curse to Stu, the bank rival who did her wrong. But she chooses not to do that, and seeks another way. I won’t ruin the saw-it-coming-from-a-mile-away ending, but it does fit the tone of the film well.
I’m not recommending you or your teenagers see this, despite how well done it is. But we know teenagers will see it, and there’s so much wonky theology here that it would be irresponsible of us to just let it float out there, unanswered and unaddressed. If you’re dragged to this film, at least be prepared.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of horror violence, terror, disturbing images and language.
- What would you have done in Christine’s place at the bank? Explain.
- Was her decision a sin? Why or why not?
- Is it possible to “better ourselves” by changing the way we talk or our appearance? Explain.
- Do you believe that hell exists? Explain.
- Is it possible for someone to curse you to hell? Why or why not?
- Why do people go to hell? Is there any way to escape that fate? Explain.
- Would you have given the button to Stu? Why or why not?
- Do you think Christine “deserved” what she got? Why or why not?
Scott Firestone IV is the associate editor for Group Magazine, online editor for youthmindev.wpengine.com, and a huge fan of music and movies.
This review first appeared on ministryandmedia.com. Go there. Take the tour. Sign up.