DRAG ME TO HELL

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Overall Impression – An entertaining horror that’s creepy, hilarious, ridiculous… and manages to pull it off.

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Who’s your main character? – Christine.

What’s she trying to accomplish? – Professional: break Mrs. Ganush’s curse before the Larnia demon drags her to hell.  Personal: succeed in life (score that promotion at work, impress her fiance’s parents, etc.) Private: figure out whether or not she’s a good person.

Who’s trying to stop her? – Mainly, it’s the Larnia.  We also have lesser antagonists such as Reggie, Christine’s underhanded competitor for a promotion, and Christine’s fiancé, who doesn’t believe in the supernatural.

What happens if she fails? – She’ll spend eternity in fiery hell.

THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan – Following Mrs. Ganush’s curse, the down-to-earth Christine is thrown into the world of the supernatural.

Wanderer – Christine visits Rham, a mystic who explains that she’s been cursed with the Larna, a demon that takes three days to manifest before it drags her to hell.  As the Larnia escalates its torment of Christine, she comes to believe in the curse.  Christine thinks she can get Mrs. Ganush to lift the curse, but upon learning she has passed away, Christine is forced to seek Rham’s advice on how to break it.

Warrior – As the Larnia steps up its game and threatens to ruin all aspects of Christine’s life, she fights to break the curse: she sacrifices her pet cat, visits a seer who calls the Larnia into physical form, but when all else fails, her last option is to pass the curse to someone else… living or dead. Throughout everything, Christine tries to win that work promotion and live a normal life with her fiance.

Martyr –  Christine could pass the curse to Reggie, sending him to hell in her place, securing her promotion and making her life perfect again. Instead, she does the right thing… which also turns out to be the grossest: Christine digs into Mrs. Ganush’s mud-filled grave and returns the curse once and for all… or so we think.

AND, IN THE END…

I’m always a little cynical before seeing a horror movie.   Rarely do I find them genuinely scary, and the most they seem to aspire to are sudden loud BANGS! to make you jump.  These are cheap scare tactics, and they used to work, too.  Unfortunately, they’ve become so overused that I can see them coming a mile away.  I know that when the scared woman goes into a kitchen, pots and pans will fall CLANGING to the ground.  I know that when something unseen turns the doorknob, it’ll be followed by a CRASH that splits the wood.  Most modern horror movies don’t even make me jump anymore, and I HATE that!  I LIKE being scared outta my mind!

That’s why I enjoyed DRAG ME TO HELL so much.  It felt like the filmmakers were having a great time playing within the horror genre, to the extent that cliches are embraced, turned on their heads and pushed to the limit!  In addition to getting creative (having a toothless gypsy gumming on Christine’s chin… EEEEUUUGHHHH!), it felt a little like a celebration of horror itself.

Structurally, DRAG ME TO HELL does its job.  THE FOUR QUESTIONS are clearly answered and consistent throughout, and Christine’s growth from ORPHAN to hardcore MARTYR at the end had the audience cheering!

Point of intrigue: in many MARTYR segments you’ll see the hero/heroine undergo a metaphorical rebirth, often through submersion in water, and even more frequently in a cave-like location.  It’s here that our hero/heroine makes their final transition into the character they need to become and/or finally displays the traits they need to display to achieve their PROFESSIONAL/PERSONAL/PRIVATE goals.  In DRAG ME TO HELL, it’s when Christine seemingly drowns in Mrs. Ganush’s grave (cave-like and watery!), only to burst out a true warrior who’s willing to die and be reborn in order to win the day.

Can you name other movies with a comparable MARTYR moment?  Think of Jack cuffed to the pipe as the TITANIC sinks.  Think STAR WARS trash compactor scene.  Both of these scenes feature submersion in a cave-like place, and the trend emerges in a surprising number of flicks.  Keep an eye out for them!

Dan Pilditch

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