Drag Me to Hell is not the movie to satisfy the kids with while they eagerly await director Sam Raimi's next Spider-Man installment. It's creepy and gory, not to mention theologically suspect, and will give all but the most stalwart horror fans an unshakable case of the screaming meemees. However, for those who enjoy a straight up genre thrill ride, Drag Me to Hell offers a satisfying experience and poses some intriguing questions.

A disarmingly pretty Alison Lohman (White Oleander) plays Christine Brown, a loan officer in a branch office of a small bank who dreams of being promoted to assistant manager. Her boyfriend Clay (Justin Long) comes from a wealthy family who'd prefer it if Clay could find a girlfriend with more ambition and more social connections. 

Alison Lohman as Christine Brown

Alison Lohman as Christine Brown

Christine's chief competition is misogynist Stu Rubin (Reggie Lee), a slimeball with no discernable code of ethics. Branch manager Mr. Jacks (David Paymer) lets Christine know that her Midwestern, corn-fed sincerity isn't going to get her anywhere: "Make the tough decisions." When Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) hobbles into the bank to ask Christine for yet another extension on her mortgage so she can keep her home, Christine steels herself and makes the judgment call that will win that promotion. She says no.

Unfortunately for Christine, Mrs. Ganush knows a little something about revenge. In a superbly edited fight sequence in a parking garage, Mrs. Ganush attacks. Christine fights back bravely, thanks to the stapler she conveniently brought home from work, but Mrs. Ganush is too strong and too mad. She seizes one of the buttons from Christine's tatty coat, and invokes an ancient curse.

When the furniture starts flying and the scary voices fill Christine's head, she heads to a psychic who confirms the worst. Mrs. Ganush called upon the Lamia, a soul-snatcher who torments a person for three days before—you guessed it—dragging them straight to hell for an eternity of suffering. Christine's only hope is to defeat the Lamia and break the curse.

Justin Long as Clay Dalton

Justin Long as Clay Dalton

What follows is a rollercoaster ride of shocks, scares, grossouts, and full-on action. Drag Me to Hell delivers on its title as a relentless, nonstop, inescapable journey into darkness.  It's truly heart-stopping at times, and plays the thrills completely straight. There's no postmodern revisionism or torture porn at work here. Drag Me to Hell is a straight-up B-movie horror film made by a director working at the top of his game.

Lohman plays Christine as an innocent, a goodhearted former fat girl who just wants the nice life she believes she deserves. Sure, she feels bad that Mrs. Ganush lost her home, but it's not like it was Christine's fault. She could've given Mrs. Ganush one more extension, but she didn't have to. Who wouldn't root for the young, pretty lass with everything ahead of her over the toothless, slobbering, foul mannered crone?

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It's in this complicated moral schema that Raimi shows his true artistry. In between directing the classically campy Evil Dead movies and the mainstream juggernaut Spider-Man franchise films, Raimi made a little film called A Simple Plan, based upon a bestselling novel by Scott Smith. A Simple Plan starred Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton as brothers who discovered a stash of cash in a crashed plan out in the middle of nowhere. They choose to keep the money, unleashing a downward spiral of moral depravity that tears them all apart from the inside out. It's a powerful study of the way that sin begets sin, of how one act of rebellion can destroy a person's soul.

Lorna Raver as Mrs. Ganush. Yuck.

Lorna Raver as Mrs. Ganush. Yuck.

Drag Me to Hell trods similar moral ground. Its genre trappings hide an effective morality play that implicates all of us who believe that we're "good enough" to earn salvation on our own. Christine never repents of her decision to sell out Mrs. Ganush for career advancement. Underneath all that prettiness lies an ugly heart, just waiting for the opportunity to prove John Calvin's first point: that all men have within them a core of total depravity.

Any orthodox Christian will agree that Christine, in fact, deserves what she gets. The Lamia is only a fictional device, but doctrine teaches that all human beings are doomed to be dragged to hell as a punishment for original sin. However, the rules set out by Raimi offer Christine only two options for salvation: foist the curse upon someone else, or triumph over the Lamia herself.

It's easy to see that the theology of Drag Me to Hell misses out on the glorious gospel truth that Jesus Christ triumphed over death so that Christine and the rest of us don't have to. And yet it's worth contemplating the false salvations offered, because in many ways Raimi's dichotomy shows clearly the two main categories of sin: those with which we harm others, and those with which we try to prove our worth to God. True freedom can only be found in the third way, through the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

Although Drag Me to Hell presents a part of the truth about the human condition, it's still a very scary movie, unsuitable for sensitive viewers. It also portrays an occult séance as part of Christine's battle to defeat the Lamia, and contains quite a bit of upsetting imagery. But moviegoers who can handle this sort of thing will find a treasure trove of moral and theological discussion fodder, but that doesn't mean that it's worth the ride.

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Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. What makes Christine's choice a sin? How do "small" sins keep us from God?

  2. What other sins does Christine commit in the film? How does sin beget sin? What way does the Bible offer us to break this cycle?

  3. Christine is also sinned against in the film. How does she respond? How does the Bible say we should respond? How did Jesus respond?

  4.   Does Christine deserve what she gets?

The Family Corner

For parents to consider

Drag Me to Hell is rated PG-13 for sequences of horror violence, terror, disturbing images and language. The movie is filled with graphic violence and terrifying imagery. There is lots of blood and several deaths, including of a young boy. The plot of the film deals with a demon and portrays an occult séance. The PG-13 rating may seem too mild.

What other Christian critics are saying:
  1. Plugged In
  2. Crosswalk
  3. Catholic News Service
  4. Past the Popcorn

Drag Me to Hell
Our Rating
3 Stars - Good
Average Rating
(37 user ratings)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for sequences of horror violence, terror, disturbing images and language)
Directed By
Sam Raimi
Run Time
1 hour 39 minutes
Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Ruth Livier
Theatre Release
May 29, 2009
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