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Film / Drag Me to Hell

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"Baby, hang on!"
You... shame me....
Sylvia Ganush

Drag Me to Hell (2009) is Sam Raimi's long-awaited return to the horror genre. The movie stars Alison Lohman as Christine Brown, a loan officer who forecloses on an old woman's home for the sake of a promotion. This proves to be a big mistake, as Sylvia Ganush, the woman in question, proceeds to lay a curse on her that sets a horrendous demon against her to terrorize her for three days, after which she will be Dragged Off to Hell. Now Christine must find a way to break the curse before she suffers this most awful of fates.

Features a lot of Sam Raimi's signature styles.

This film provides examples of:

  • Airplane of Love: Exaggerated and enforced in the second-to-final shot. Clay watches the train and its tracks pass over Christine - whom he will neither see nor love again - as Hell drags her down.
  • And I Must Scream: Nothing much is elaborated other than the typical "burning in Hell for all eternity" shtick, but this trope is still present. Twice.
  • Anvil on Head: As Christine searches her garage for novelties that can be sold quickly to a pawn broker, an apparition of Mrs. Ganush attacks her pushing her against a pillar and shoving its fist down her throat. From where she stands, Christine sees a taut rope holding an anvil in place above the apparition's head, which she then severs with the blade of one of her ice skates: the anvil crushes the apparition's skull, shooting its eyes into Christine's mouth.
  • Battle in the Rain: Christine finally faces the source of her strife by driving to the cemetery where Mrs. Ganush is buried. After she arrives, the rain starts. She digs out Mrs. Ganush's grave, opens the coffin, and shoves the cursed button inside the corpse's mouth. However, she is deep in the ground, and the rain is heavy: the grave begins to flood, miraculously allowing the corpse of Mrs. Ganush to grab her hair in an attempt to pull her under. Christine successfully subdues the corpse and escapes the grave. The rain stops.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: In spite of getting knocked around for much of the film's runtime, Christine always looks presentable.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Christine is carrying the button in an envelope while Clay gives her a ride in his car while he has a bunch of paperwork in the backseat, plus at the same time, he also has there a rare quarter dollar coin in a blank envelope. Sylvia's spirit briefly influences Clay to drive into a bump, sending papers flying everywhere, and, of course, Christine and Clay accidentally mix up the envelopes. However, Clay having this improbable and plot-convenient baggage that allows for the mixup in the first place seems to just be pure coincidence.
  • Cool Car: Sam Raimi includes his 1973 Oldsmobile in all his movies. Here it is Mrs. Ganush's.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Along with the Oldsmobile mentioned above, Christine discovers plot-crucial information from an article in a newspaper near the climax. This also occurs in Spider-Man and A Simple Plan, all directed by Sam Raimi. What makes this plot device so specific to Sam is that, after each protagonist reads the relevant article, they act with the belief that their situation will improve because of the information they read; every time it deteriorates. Likely, this reused plot detail references his original cult horror film, Evil Dead.
  • Creepy Changing Painting: Christine sees the corpse of Mrs. Ganush staring straight ahead, directly at her; after she talks to Mrs. Ganush's granddaughter while standing to the side of the coffin, she looks at the corpse again to see its eyes looking at her sideways; again, when she digs it up from its grave, its eyes are looking upwards, at her.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Indeed. The end reveals that Christine is not quite lifted from the curse, and is dragged off to Hell all while her boyfriend Clay can do nothing but tearfully and helplessly watch in utter horror.
  • Cultural Cringe: Christine is ashamed of having grown up in a rural community and has tried to reinvent herself as an urban professional. She's introduced practicing her pronunciation to get rid of her rural drawl.
  • Curse Escape Clause: Discussed and invoked. Christine can pass along the cursed button to someone and they will be dragged to hell in her place. And ultimately subverted. She considers passing it to her loving boyfriend, but changes her mind; she tries to Take a Third Option in giving it to Madam Ganush's corpse. However, she unknowingly put the wrong button in the grave, the curse is not lifted, and she is dragged to hell.
  • Demonic Possession: When the Lamia possesses the old woman, the goat, and the young guy.
  • Designated Victim: Sam Raimi has explicitly stated in an interview that Sylvia was the victim of the story. While it most certainly doesn't appear that way at first, closer watching suggests that it wasn't the old woman who attacked Christine, while Christine's behaviour becomes more typical of a horror protagonist as the movie progresses to avoid her fate.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: The trope driving the plot for the entire film, and the reason the movie can be difficult to watch. Christine attempts nearly every practical and physical method within her reach to escape Hell and fails because of a mishandled Jump Scare.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: A theme of the movie, and part of the horror; you don't have to do much wrong for something awful to happen to you.
  • Downer Ending: Despite all attempts to cancel out the curse and save herself from eternal damnation, Christine ends up being pulled down into the burning flames of Hell all the same. And Clay can only watch helplessly.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: The theme of the movie, as the title suggests.
  • Easy Road to Hell: Apparently, being sent to hell is so easy that a single curse can do it regardless of how good you've lived your life or what you've done.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The movie is called Drag Me to Hell. Guess what the curse does? And guess what happens to Christine at the end?
  • Eye Scream: Staple to the eye! Fork to the eye! Also the anvil scene.
  • Facial Horror: As she's being dragged to hell, the flesh on Christine's face starts melting.
  • Fauxtivational Poster: The Baby, Hang On cat poster in Christine's bedroom.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Cursed to be dragged into hell and told she deserves it because she wouldn't give a third extension.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: According to the ending and Rham Jas's book, this is what Hell looks like, and Christine ends up being dragged there. Her skin starts to melt off as a result.
  • Flies Equals Evil: When a fly is present, it portents the Gypsy Curse: when the parents of the ten-year-old boy reveal to Shaun San Dena the necklace he stole from the traveling Gypsies, a fly escapes from between the necklace and the blanket covering it before it hovers over the necklace and harasses Shaun San Dena (she shoos it away); after having been told by Rham Jas that someone had cursed her, a fly interrupts Christine's sleep - having entered her room through her open bedroom window - by crawling up and into one of her nostrils and out the other, then crawling into her mouth, subsequently waking her; the next day, while Christine attempts to compose herself during work, she hears the fly moving within her stomach before succumbing to a very powerful hallucination and a huge amount of blood loss from the orifices of her mouth and nose (these being the entry points the fly took the previous night); finally, after sacrificing her cat to the Lamia (the goat-like demon tormenting her), Christine meets her boyfriend's parents at their house with him, and she brings a home-made cake that, she having bitten into a piece of it, causes her to cough the fly out of her belly - her boyfriend's parents connect the dots, spit portions of cake from their mouths, and allow the entire lunch experience to sour.
  • Formerly Fat: Christine is ashamed of the fact that she used to be a chubby farm girl. In her Establishing Character Moment montage, she glances longingly at some sweets in a store window. When she hits rock bottom, she gorges on ice cream.
  • Fortune Teller: This is Rham Jas's job; he deduces that Christine has been cursed.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Christine realizes that she has arrived at Mrs. Ganush's funeral about twenty steps from the final stair to the basement. Then she sees the corpse and falls face-first on top of it; then a pedestal holding the coffin snaps, causing it to fall - Christine and contents included; then, as she rolls off the coffin after impact, she pulls the corpse off with her (it having clasped her hair), after which it lands on top of her and pours the digested and congested contents of the deceased's last meal and inner infection out of her open mouth and into Christine's.
  • Gonk: Mrs. Ganush's immediate impression with her false teeth and filthy fingernails at the bank.
  • Gypsy Curse: The focus of the movie.
  • Hell: It's where the curse drags you. Specifically, the aforementioned and spoiler-tagged example.
  • Hero Killer: The Curse has yet to fail.
  • Heroic BSoD: Christine has one at the sight of the envelope carrying the cursed button - which she thought she retrieved from Clay's car - in Clay's hands at the train station.
    • The very last shot of the film shows Clay in a MASSIVE one. After watching Christine get dragged off to Hell, he can only look at the train tracks and the cursed button with a mix of horrified disbelief and heartbreak.
  • High-Pressure Blood: A high-pressure nosebleed.
  • Hope Spot: An absolutely merciless one.
  • If You Taunt Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: Why did you laugh at her, Christine?
  • Jerkass: The underhanded Stu and Clay's condescending mother are both rather shitty people.
  • Jump Scare: The movie has a total of thirteen jump scares.
  • Large Ham: The Lamia absolutely devours the scenery when it's summoned at the seance.
  • Meaningful Name: Christine means "Follower of Christ"; brown is the colour of her first jacket, from which the cuff button was taken and whose possessor was cursed with eternal damnation.
  • Mood Whiplash: As the film ends, Christine, who had been condemned to Hell for most of the plot prior, happily greets her boyfriend, Clay, at the train station, having disposed of her cursed jacket button the night before. Before they board the train, she admits to him that the old lady who cursed her to Hell was right to do so because she had done wrong by her to refuse to extend her stay in that house. Clay wonders how she could be such a good person, then asks her why she left the button of her old jacket in his car. Down she goes.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker:
    • Christine's boss is motivated purely by profit. He excitedly notes that kicking Mrs. Ganush out of her house will result in a big windfall for the bank. When Christine refuses the loan extension, he tells Christine that she handled the issue perfectly.
    • Christine's rival, Stu, is prepared to steal, cheat, lie, professionally slander, and flatter to advance his career. He's even so petty as to accuse her of screwing up his lunch order to make her look less competent.
  • Nice Guy: Clay, who destroys superstitions for a living as a teacher, comforts Christine by paying Shaun San Dean her ten-thousand-dollar fee to treat Christine without any evidence of supernatural happenings to support Christine's assertion that she's been cursed.
  • Not Worth Killing: Christine was considering passing the cursed button onto her weasel of a co-worker Stu Rubin, but after seeing him as a Dirty Coward groveling and begging to her, Christine felt he wasn't worth it.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Most of the glimpses of the Lamia are its shadow and split-second shots of its face.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Well, more like Boyfriend's Obnoxious Mother.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Christine realizes that she used the first envelope.
  • Ontological Inertia: The curse set upon Christine by the old woman is still in effect even after the old woman dies.
  • Orifice Invasion: The fly that ends up going into one of Christine's nostrils while she is sleeping audibly buzzes around inside her nasal cavity for several seconds, then crawls out her other nostril. And she doesn't wake up!
  • Poor Communication Kills: Evidently, the following is Clay's thought pattern before he meets Christine on the platform: "Why is there a coat button in this envelope? Oh, that's from Christine's jacket. I'll return it when I see her." The first day of their holiday also happens to be the final day in the cycle of the curse. In the end, the trope is Played Straight.
  • Redemption in the Rain: When Christine finally emerges from the old woman's grave in the rain, it montages into her taking a shower. Subverted in that the rain stops pouring the moment after the deed is done.
  • Rubber Orifice: Most supernatural activities involve something entering or leaving someone's mouth. At one point Christine is attacked by a demonically possessed old hag who shoves her entire arm into Christine's mouth. At another, a living cat leaves a man's mouth.
  • Rule of Funny: The only explanation for why Christine has an anvil hanging on a thin rope in her garden shed.
  • Rule of Three:
    • Ganush pulling out Christine's hair.
    • There's also the fact that the Lamia torments its victims for three days before actually coming to drag them to Hell.
  • Running Gag: Literally: a gag. If something gross and scary turns up on the screen, rest assured it's going to end up in Christine's mouth. Though instances of Mrs. Ganush grabbing and tearing locks of Christine's hair out - even while dead - occur more frequently are protested against by Christine on the third occasion.
  • Sadistic Choice: Offered to Christine by Rham Jas the night before the final day: while the owner of the button will inescapably be pulled into eternal Hell, its owner is changeable, provided the benefactor willingly receives it; this means that Christine can give the button to another as a gift, and then the recipient, having accepted it, will become the button's owner and thus the target of damnation. Essentially or apparently, either she burns or someone else does.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: So off, it must be intentional. Lamia are Greek, female, (usually) half-serpent demons that either eat children or young men in the vein of succubi. The Lamia in the movie is a goat (the fortune-teller used an illustration of Baphomet while explaining everything to Christine). They must've been keeping the real Lamia in mind because during its first visit to Christine, its silhouette is first a shapely woman, which then changes into a goat.
  • Scare Chord: Loads of it.
  • Schmuck Bait: The film's title, which becomes a nod to the genre.
  • Secret Test of Character: And she couldn't have picked a worse one to fail.
  • Shaky P.O.V. Cam: Most instances of the Lamia pouncing onto a character (as the Lamia - save for some Freeze-Frame Bonus/s - is an invisible entity) occur from its perspective and with this trope in play.
  • Shoot the Dog: More like stab the kitten.
  • Shout-Out: Several:
    • Evil Dead:
      • When the Lamia possesses people, it might as well be a Deadite. It even makes a call back to the classic line "I'll swallow your soul"
      • A further Evil Dead shout-out occurs in Clay's description of the cottage he plans to take Christine to for the weekend - "Lots of trees, private..."
      • The Anvil on Head: Eye Scream bit is a direct callback to Evil Dead 2, which has almost the exact same effect in different circumstances.
      • Evil Dead 2 has a blood fountain in the basement, Army of Darkness has one in the pit, this has one in Christine's office.
      • The cat scene is a direct visual callback to "YOU LOVED HER!" from the original.
      • When Christine emerges from the water in Sylvia's grave, she comes out with her right arm stretched out. This is a direct reference to the poster of the original The Evil Dead (1981).
      • The Running Gag of Christine having her hair pulled out of her scalp by Ganush is a nod to a scene in Evil Dead 2 where the possessed Ed rips out some of Bobbi Jo's hair.
    • Night of the Demon/Curse Of The Demon: Sam Raimi knew they were doing a retread of this classic British horror movie, right down to the manner of the Lamia's manifestations and the train station ending. Though, to be fair, that film didn't have a Downer Ending. If it weren't for the change of characters and location, it might as well have been a Remake.
    • Choke on it, bitch!
    • Christine's boss Jim Jacks is named after real-life movie producer Jim Jacks, the producer of Darkman and A Simple Plan.
  • Shower of Angst: Averted. Rather than contemplatively consider every action she took over the past three days after her visit to Mrs. Ganush's grave - deliberately condemning somebody else to hell, possibly taking the wrong envelope from Clay's car, Christine heads home and takes a nice, hot shower, only with the regret of refusing the old woman an extension.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: In the final two minutes of footage, Christine is dragged to Hell.
  • Taken During the Ending: After Christine believes she has finally beaten the curse and her life is about to go back to normal, she learns at the end that she failed to beat the curse and because it hasn't been lifted, she's literally Dragged Off to Hell by a bunch of demonic hands as her boyfriend Clay watches helplessly.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!!: "Choke on it, bitch!"
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: This is one possible interpretation of the film.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sam Raimi refers to Christine as this: here's the link, and it is a very informative read.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailers feature a part of the last scene of the film. It may not necessarily be seen as a major spoiler. Many viewers may see it as a snippet from a final showdown or something, as opposed to the last thing that happens. It's only when the climax occurs with that scene not yet happening that you realize that Christine is fucked.
  • Tuckerization: Sam Raimi named David Paymer's character after his long-time friend producer James Jacks.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Clay, Clay, Clay... why did you have to find give Christine back the button?
  • Uptown Girl: Gender-inverted: Christine is from humbler roots than wealthy Clay, and the whole romance plot is caused in part because she wants a promotion to measure up to his family.
  • Voice of the Legion: The Lamia speaks like this whenever it possesses someone.
  • Wicked Witch: Mrs. Ganush herself.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Christine actually gets two of these in the film. The first is after the ritual where it seems they successfully got the Lamia off her back. Only to be told they just banished it away for the moment and the curse is still in effect. If that wasn't bad enough, the only one who could stop it just died using up all her energy. So she's given the button in an envelope and told to give it away to another poor sap to save herself. After a few considerations, Christine actually makes a surprisingly smart choice and tries to give it to Mrs. Ganush despite the fact she recently died. After much struggle, it seems she finally pulls it off and everything is all peachy. Good things are happening to her and her BF and she are set for a romantic getaway. However, while waiting on the train platform, said BF pulls out the button, it having gotten mixed up during a near car accident. And well... the rest is history.

To err is human;
To forgive, Divine.
Alexander Pope