Drag Me to Hell is a horror parable for the new millennium, or, more specifically, a horror morality play all about the Great Recession.
It doesn’t seem like that, maybe. On the surface, it’s pretty straightforward: girl shames gypsy woman, gypsy woman curses her to be plagued by a dark spirit known as the Lamia. She will endure three days of torment, at which point the torment culminates in her being cast into Hell.
Except, consider (and this is spoiler-free, unless you count some very, very tiny spoilers):
The main character, Christine, works at a bank.
She is a loan officer.
She wants to impress her boss so that she may claim the open assistant manager position so that she can make more money.
Her boss tells her, she better be capable of making the hard decisions if she wants that job.
The hard decision: an old woman can’t make her mortgage payment and wants her third extension.
Will the girl give her the extension and foreclose on the house (thus earning the bank its fees), or will she give the woman another extension?
Well, c’mon. You’ve seen the preview, right?
The Great Recession rears its ugly head. It is the curse. You might argue that we’re in the torment right now, and are slowly being dragged toward the gates of Hell — and, drum roll please, it’s all our fault.
Other economic signs ping the radar in the film: the boyfriend, Clay, comes from money. He collects coins. Christine does not come from money. She’s a farm girl trying to make her way in the world. She wears a pauper’s coat (and later in the film, will end up with a nicer coat that matches Clay’s own style and wealth) missing a rather crucial button.
Furthermore, the question of sacrifice rises time and time again. What are you willing to sacrifice to stop the Hell from breaking down your door? Will you throw somebody under the bus to save yourself?
Christine is the avatar of our bad choices. She is the Judas goat.
The old woman is the ghost of those choices come to haunt the unholy crap out of us. Her curse is our damnation.
On the surface, the film is very much an escapist horror ride: lots of scares, gross-out moments, cool effects, crazy sounds, and the like. Even cooler, this is the spiritual fourth Evil Dead film. Old hag. Witchy voice effects. Dead spirits. Zooming camera. Hovering evil. One character tormented to the ends of the earth and beaten to piss. Hell, I don’t even know that it’s a spiritual sequel. It might be intended as the very real thing.
Oh, but fuck that. That’s not the selling point. The selling point is, once more, we have a horror film that’s a mark of it’s times. It’s not dour, no, and it’s actually a big screaming Jack-o-Lantern of fun, but it has a very troubling message inscribed beneath the pumpkin’s skin. We’ve made some bad choices. Some greedy, self-preserving choices. Will that damn us? Can we save ourselves, before it’s too late?
I hope this does well. I hope this ushers in a new wave of horror. I hope this puts Sam Raimi back on the horror horse. It’s maybe not a perfect movie, but it’s holy-shit-close.