‘Drag Me To Hell’: Killing Jokes, By Kurt Loder

Director Sam Raimi reconfirms his evil cred.

They don’t make movies like [url id="http://www.mtv.com/movies/movie/376474/moviemain.jhtml"]“Drag Me to Hell”[/url] anymore. Or at least they haven’t since Sam Raimi unleashed his bloody-disgusting “Evil Dead” horror satires back in the 1980s. Now Raimi has taken time out from the money-gushing “Spider-Man” franchise to return to his gore-logged quickie-flick roots, and he hasn’t lost his touch. You want flying eyeballs? Face-chewing fiends? Projectile worm-spew? You got it.

The story, devised by Raimi and his brother Ivan, concerns an L.A. bank-loan officer named Christine (sunny Alison Lohman, made to be menaced). Christine is bucking for a promotion. When an old woman (Lorna Raver) comes into the bank begging for an extension on her mortgage payment, Christine attempts to demonstrate a merciless bankerly nature by turning her down. Since the woman has one dead eye, long demon nails, and the sort of snaggly teeth that suggest decades spent gnawing on drainpipes, any infant might have advised Christine not to get on this hag’s to-do list. But she does. Such a bad move.

Soon there’s a wild attack (and not just by the deliriously brassy soundtrack score). A curse is pronounced. Christine decides to consult an oily Indian psychic (Dileep Rao). “Perhaps you’ve been cursed,” he helpfully observes. Christine’s boyfriend, Clay (Justin Long), is skeptical but supportive. They go back to her house, where we note that Christine likes to keep the windows open. (Again, any infant … ) An evil fly puts in an appearance (a pricelessly icky scene). The psychic has suggested an animal sacrifice might help. Christine has a cute kitten. The movie grows ever more hilarious.

Soon we learn that our gal has been targeted by a lamia. (“The black goat,” says the psychic, for those who may have no idea what he’s talking about, and still won’t after he says it.) There’s an eruption of corpse vomit, a wonderfully crushed head, and a visit to a medium whose spooky old mansion is disconcertingly situated over the Gate of Hell, or some such. An actual goat enters the scene, this one of the talking variety. The medium says, “You must allow the dead to mingle with your soul.” (Or I think she does — there’s a lot going on at this point.) Soon enough the dead arrive, with more than mingling on their minds.

The movie’s shocks are for the most part delightfully cheap (Don’t look in the rearview mirror!), but they still shake you up; and Raimi is of course a gross-out virtuoso. (There’s a dinner with Clay’s parents that, shall we say, doesn’t go well at all.) And almost as entertaining as the nonstop abominations are the script’s fond salutes to the sort of old schlock-movie plot details that have no bearing whatsoever on the plot. Christine used to be a fat girl. Clay collects old coins. He wears a flower in his lapel even in the daytime. Why? Whatever. At one point, Christine, in a rare moment of mental clarity, says, “I’m scared!. Is she cracking up? We are.

Don’t miss Kurt Loder’s reviews of “Up” and “Big Man Japan,” also new in theaters this weekend.

Will the vampires grab more trophies than the slumdog? What was the year’s ultimate onscreen WTF moment? It’s up to you to decide the winners of the 2009 MTV Movie Awards. Vote now, and tune in on May 31 at 9 p.m. ET, when the big show airs live from the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, California.

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