It's A Harvest Cake: Drag Me To Hell (2009)

It is really hard to say how I come to get certain films in my Netflix queue, however, I am sure when I push them into the top ten I have likely read an article about them or have had them highly recommended by a friend or fellow blogger, at least that was the case with Sam Raimi's 2009 film Drag Me To Hell, which I was up until now completely unaware existed.  Yet, while wasting hours away reading articles on Cracked.com, I discovered one about crazy hidden messages within films and they made particular note of this film.  Knowing that I could not keep my curiosity at bay I had to see if it was truly the huge metaphor on eating disorders that everyone seemed set on commenting.  While this is clearly a means of study within the narrative, to relegate the movie to nothing more than that is quite unfair, because what Raimi offers in this special effects laden and visually striking horror film is an absolutely perfected bit of genre work, perhaps his best since Evil Dead 2.  Unlike many horror films that pace their jumps over spaces and gaps, Drag Me To Hell often layers jump scares throwing multiple ones within a matter of a few seconds, to the point that by a few minutes in I found myself on the edge of the sofa pacing my breaths as to not become to shocked by any unexpected scare.  Of course, since this is a Raimi film one can expect a considerable degree of schlock to emerge, however, knowing this going in it becomes bearable and quite acceptable, lending way to quite a few moments of  noticeably stellar cinematography and editing, all causing viewers to deeply question what value and validity they place on the reality portrayed.  Furthermore, Raimi is a clever director and throughout Drag me To Hell viewers of his cult series The Evil Dead will pick up multiple references to his well-known works, whether they be extended trips to tool sheds, cabin vacation plans, or a particularly familiar car.  Combined together, Drag Me To Hell becomes an exceptional bit of genre filmmaking, one that deserves more consideration and may well inspire me to revisit some of my favorite works from 2009 to see where I would place this on the list.

Drag Me To Hell begins in with a Mexican family bringing their young boy to a seance woman with the hopes that she can cure him of a curse he has received after stealing a necklace from a gypsy, yet failing to do so the boy's body is literally pulled through the ground by demonic hands, to what viewers can assume to be hell.  This then cuts to our main character Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) as up and coming bank lender who is vying for the position of assistant manager at her job, although her chances are growing worse with the competition of Stu (Reggie Lee) a shark of a loaner who is far better at making tough decisions with his clients.  Realizing she must step her game up to assure the position she takes a hard stance on her next appointment, the elderly gypsy woman Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) who has been late on her payments twice already, and even when the woman begs on her hands and knees Christine refuses as a means to make a statement.  This leads to the woman attacking her and yelling assumed gibberish before being hauled out by security.  Stunned but firm in her decision, Christine heads home from work only to be attacked by the woman in the parking lot, in a fight that seems to witness Mrs. Ganush pulling super human feats of strength and after knocking out Christine she grabs her button and places a curse on it, one that becomes a point of paranoia and fear for Christine, much to the demise of her loving boyfriend Clay (Justin Long) who is initially skeptical, particularly when she seeks help from a spiritual advisor.  Eventually though, no amount of denial or hope that she will sleep off nightmares allows for Christine to get better and after vomitting blood at work, she takes it upon herself to find a way to end the curse, which leads to some dark travels through black magic and satanic rituals.  Eventually following the demands to free herself from the curse, Christine obtains the promotion and is gearing up for a stress-free life with Clay, yet a last minute confession of her own greed and lack of concern for humanity quickly changes events and the film's closing takes a turn for the darker.

Much is made of the eating disorder commentary throughout the film and, believe me, it is certainly present.  Between the oral fixation and various amount of things leaving and entering mouths throughout the film it is clear the the psychological decaying is certainly related to consumption or the lac there of, which is reemphasized by Christine's not eating throughout most of the narrative, except for two moments in which she eats ice cream, something that she knows will upset her lactose-intolerant stomach.  This is of course tied to a horrible body image, something that is depicted in her moment looking at her life on a farm which is juxtaposed with a pig, as well as her abrasive interaction with Mrs. Ganush's granddaughter.  To simply pinpoint the film as concerning eating disorders seems to overlook the large commentary on the physical and psychological affects of stress, whether they be shown through the decaying sanity of Christine or the crippled body of Mrs. Ganush they clearly suffer.  Raimi seems quite content to blame many of these issues on financial failures, making particular note of Christine's failure to do the humane thing in response to assuring she receives a promotion, made all the more problematic by the fact that she is not seemingly hurting for money, especially since Clay seems to be doing well as a psychology professor.  The notion of being drug to hell takes on in this reading a very physical sense, the closing scenes are intended to suggest her punishment for doing the incorrect deed, however, it could also become an interesting commentary on her misguided efforts to deal with a problematic body image, which result not in her success, but instead in her eventual suicide.  Perhaps the button does not represent the curse, but a memory of her negative body image so internalized and damaging that it leads her to kill herself.  Of course this is all just conjecture, after all it is a Sam Raimi film, which means it could all just be moments of intense shlock violence with no sort of logical connection, but it is just too damn good for that to be the case.

Key Scene:  The first moment in which the fly factors in heavily is so slow paced and simple that it seems a bit out of place compared to the rest of the film's moments of suspense, yet it also possesses one of the cooler film tricks I have seen in quite some time, nearly breaking the fourth wall, or the dream world of the narrative as well.

This is a hidden gem and is super cheap on bluray, I added a copy to my wishlist to get in the next month and you should make similar plans.  Help me make this a more well respected film by passing it along to friends.

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