Sam Raimi Proved That PG-13 Horror Can Still Terrify With This 2009 Movie

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The Big Picture

  • Drag Me to Hell is a ridiculously intense horror movie that defies its PG-13 rating with terrifying sequences, disturbing images, and a sense of total paranoia.
  • The film’s villain, Mrs. Ganush, is a comically evil antagonist who relentlessly terrorizes the main character, Christine, in increasingly brutal ways.
  • Director Sam Raimi’s mastery of atmosphere and signature horror-influenced slapstick style are on full display, creating a fun and effective horror ride that proves ratings don’t always accurately measure a movie’s scare factor.


Earlier this year, genre movie vet Sam Raimi let it slip that a sequel to Drag Me to Hell is early in development, a film that, despite its PG-13 rating, is ridiculously intense. That’s right, somehow, a Sam Raimi-directed horror movie landed a PG-13 rating for sequences of horror violence, terror, disturbing images, and language. This movie has all of those factors, but in execution, feels ripe for an R-rating. That’s where Raimi’s skills as a filmmaker come into play. Raimi cranks up the terror and atmosphere to such a ridiculous degree that it becomes fully apparent that ratings never truly tell you how effective a horror movie will be. Now that Drag Me to Hell has landed on Netflix and a sequel is apparently on the way, there’s never been a better time to go back and experience what made the original so great in the first place.

Starring Alison Lohman and Justin Long, the story revolves around Lohman’s Christine Brown, a bank loan officer who, in order to look tough in front of her boss, refuses an elderly woman’s request for a loan extension. In return, the woman curses Brown to be taken to hell. Now, Brown has to find a way to break the curse before it’s too late. The movie is an absolute blast. It’s got great scares, a pitch-black sense of humor, reeks of atmosphere, and sports a great cast. Rarely ever are movies this determined to entertain their audiences, but for a Sam Raimi movie, this is par for the course.

Image Via Universal

Drag Me To Hell

A loan officer who evicts an old woman from her home finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse. Desperate, she turns to a seer to try and save her soul, while evil forces work to push her to a breaking point.

Release Date
March 15, 2009

Director
Sam Raimi

Cast
Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, David Paymer, Adriana Barraza

Runtime
99

Main Genre
Horror

Writers
Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi

Sam Raimi’s Is One of Horror’s Greatest Filmmakers

Sam Raimi is a filmmaker all too familiar with putting scares to film. By 2009, He had become best known for his Spider-Man trilogy, but what originally put him on the map in the first place was his original three Evil Dead films. These movies all pushed the boundaries of what was allowed to be shown on screen, with excessive amounts of blood and gore filling just about every frame. Evil Dead II, in particular, is about as frightening as it is funny. For every scare that movie throws at you, the next second it provides a laugh. Upon release, that movie won itself an X rating (and has since been rated R) due to its excessive violence. Regardless of the original X rating that it was slapped with, Evil Dead II still proves that a film can be hilarious, no matter what its rating may indicate. 20 years later, Raimi proved that he could jam-pack a movie full of thrills and chills, even while rocking a PG-13 rating.

Drag Me to Hell is a mean-spirited horror ride that beats its main character down relentlessly, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a blast. The movie has a nice campy touch to it, the kind where you can feel the filmmakers having fun behind the scenes. It’s constantly trying to one-up itself, with each scene churning out a more fun set piece than the last. The movie only follows Christine Brown, so it doesn’t really have much room to be a gore fest like Raimi’s previous horror projects. Instead, the movie makes up for this by delivering gross-out moments and a sense of total paranoia for its entire runtime.

‘Drag Me to Hell’ Has a Terrifying Antagonist

This is all at the hands of its villain, Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver). She’s the best kind of horror antagonist, not just because she’s comically evil, but also because we see somebody wrong her at the beginning of the film. The curse that she puts on Christine in return is about as out of line as anything can be, but it all comes in the wake of Christine’s actions. Ganush is just around the corner in every scene of the film. Just when you think that she might be cutting the cursed loan officer a break, Ganush shows back up to vomit all over Christine, destroy her car, terrorize her in her sleep, and make her look like she’s lost it in front of her boyfriend’s family.

This all culminates in one of the bleakest endings that you’ll find in any horror movie. If you haven’t seen Drag Me to Hell yet, then seriously, you don’t want to know what happens. While Mrs. Ganush is the ultimate antagonist, Christine is the best kind of sympathetic protagonist. She’s down on her luck at work, can’t win over her boyfriend’s parents, and on top of all of that, now she has this supernatural curse ruining her life (and possibly her afterlife). We’re rooting for her the entire movie, and eventually, she seems to have ridden herself of this curse. Just when we think Dalton (Long) is about to propose to her at a train station, we realize that they never actually lifted the curse. Christine then falls onto the train tracks, where the ground opens up into a pit of fire, with hands reaching out and dragging her burning body down to hell. A train speeds over the scene, so all Dalton can do is watch. You won’t find a meaner ending than this anywhere, folks. Raimi gives you a real feeling of security at the beginning of this final scene, only to savagely rip it away from you and fulfill the film’s title. It’s brutal.

Creepy Atmosphere Is Key in ‘Drag Me to Hell’

Justin Long in Drag Me to Hell
Image Via Universal

Drag Me to Hell is not just a fun and effective horror movie because of its fast-paced editing, grossness, or the fact that it’s led by a compelling villain. Raimi is one of the supreme horror filmmakers for being able to provide those elements to his works, but he’s most underrated as an atmospheric filmmaker. Atmosphere, more than anything, affects a film’s mood. A movie can feel funny, intense, terrifying, or exciting, but it all depends on its atmosphere – and at the cost of nothing, at least in terms of ratings! Of course, a giant, cobwebbed mansion is easy to make creepy, especially when the film sets two séances in it. Much like the Evil Dead cabin, Brown’s big, empty, fog-swamped house has many rooms and corners that Ganush and supernatural forces could be hiding in. This movie has a number of awesome eerie settings, even ones that you wouldn’t initially expect to be creepy. Raimi is such a killer director that he even knows how to make banks, diners, and parking garages, in particular, feel nightmarish.

Sam Raimi’s Signature Trademarks Are on Full Display in ‘Drag Me to Hell’

Poster of

The scene that best encapsulates every kind of scare that Drag Me to Hell is great at is one of its earliest. Its most relentlessly “Raimi” set piece takes place in a shadowy, quiet, empty parking garage, of all places. Christine is heading home from work a few hours after turning down Mrs. Ganush’s loan extension request. As she walks through the garage, it starts to feel like somebody is going to pop out and get her, but she eventually makes it into her car. Just when you think she’s made it out okay, Mrs. Ganush appears in her back seat and starts going ham on her! The scene is full of Raimi’s signature horror-influenced slapstick. Mrs. Ganush knocks Brown’s head all over the car, Brown puts a few staples in Ganush’s face, I mean it’s gnarly… but it’s great.

Things get real when Brown drives her car into another, rocketing Ganush up into the front seat. Her face collides with the dash and sends her false teeth skyrocketing. The nastiest moment of all comes next, but it’s better to see than read, so if you haven’t checked it out yet, go fire Drag Me to Hell up. This scene has the atmosphere, fun Raimi camerawork, gross-out gags, and dedicated performances that make Drag Me to Hell such a great horror ride. All with a PG-13 rating. It really is quite impressive.

Given Drag Me to Hell’s ending, it’s going to be interesting to see how Raimi intends to follow up his original film. It’s a terrifying and bleak moment that feels perfect for an R-rated horror movie, yet its actual contents don’t really need to lean past a PG-13. More than being a fun, brutal ride, Drag Me to Hell proves that a rating can’t always effectively measure how scary a movie is going to be. With the right filmmaker, a cast of well-thought-out characters at the center, and effective, creative sequences to fill the runtime, you can toss your ratings out the window and expect a great horror ride no matter what label is slapped on it.

Drag Me to Hell is available to stream on Netflix

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