Drag Me to Hell (2009)

(In theaters, June 2009): After the indulgent and bloated Spider-Man 3, one could justifiably wonder what happened to Sam Raimi, and if ever the champion of such films as Evil Dead, Army of Darkness and Darkman would ever find his way back to the kind of superlative B-grade movies that made his reputation. Well, all of those doubts can be laid to rest with Drag Me to Hell, a convincing throwback to the core of old-school horror. Relentless to the point of seeming mean-spirited, Drag Me to Hell has a lot of sadistic fun pitting its blonde heroine against a dark curse that will not stop until she’s gone. The mechanics are unsubtle (everything worth understanding is highlighted about three times), the heroine isn’t distinctive and the stereotypes are rough-hewn, but the jumps are plentiful (the cell phone one is particularly effective) and the pacing seldom slows down. A mixture of occult traditions, shlocko movie-making and over-the-top wackiness, it’s a film that feels reinvigorating not only for Raimi, but for horror fans in general. The third act is marred by an obvious set-up, but most of the film is pure horror gold: Fans will be delighted, and not only because it’s such a refreshing change from the dross passing itself off for horror these days. Just don’t look for a moral message.

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