Though he's a familiar name to cinemagoers across the globe as the director who brought Spider-Man to thrilling life on the big screen, Sam Raimi has been a cult legend for decades, thanks to his scary, side-splitting and hugely influential Evil Dead trilogy. Drag Me to Hell is his eagerly-awaited return to horror after more than 20 years.
Eager to demonstrate a cutthroat attitude at work as she bids for a promotion, loans manager Christine Brown (Lohman) rejects an application from a desperate elderly woman (Raver), even when the old crone begs for help. But Christine's messed with the wrong pensioner and having been cursed by a terrifying demon called the Lamia, has a matter of days to right her wrongs before she's dragged down to the underworld...
With nostalgia buttons pushed through the appearance of the old Universal logo and the Oldsmobile familiar to devotees of Raimi's book of the dead, and enough A-grade horror thrills to result in a long night of popcorn cleaning for cinema employees, Drag Me to Hell is a glorious return to the genre in which Raimi found his feet. With old-fashioned icy strings, dramatic lighting and a camera that skits about as if in the midst of a sugar rush, there's enough shock and awe on show to both raise hopes for Spider-Man 4 after the cluttered mess of the webslinger's third outing but also provoke a nagging wish for Raimi to scratch his horror itch sooner rather than later.
It's a terrifying and grimly hilarious ride throughout - Ivan Raimi's screenplay commendably combines ghost train chills with gross-out horror and high-minded discussions of destiny, psychology and personal responsibility, yet never leaves the next jolting and demonic attack too far around the next corner. The intense and frequently stomach-churning visits of the demon are offset with Raimi's beloved blend of gleefully ghoulish humour and while its furious pace is driven through the dictums of the gypsy's curse, fine work from Lohman - and Long, as her bemused other half - help find a human angle in a fantastical chiller, providing a welcome change to the recent mean-spirited slant of modern horror.
Not that there's anything nice about Christine's ordeal, with her careerist ambition leading to a gruelling ordeal that pushes her to unimaginable extremes - she'll do far more than just spit on your grave if it keeps her from the clutches of the Lamia. Running with the devil's never an easy race, however, and you'll be hard pushed to find an audience who won't be slyly hoping for this greedy bank worker to get her comeuppance, even if it does involve ingesting flies, involuntarily colliding with upholstery and uncontrollable nosebleeds. This is a funny, frightening return to form from a master of the genre returning to his roots with exhilarating relish to create the horror film of the year. Drag Me To Hell is a hellish trip you'll want to take again and again.
• Review supplied by Inthenews.co.uk
EXTRAS * Some production diaries. And, er, that's it – no commentary, no deleted scenes, nothing. We can sense a "special edition" somewhere down the track. On another note, the US DVD release (and the UK Blu-ray) both feature a stronger cut than was released theatrically. Not so for the UK DVD release. Hmmm ...this is a vanilla release of the worst kind.