By the B-movie ethics of Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me To Hell,” the torments inflicted on poor Christine Brown are grossly (and grossly) unfair and yet, there’s no denying it, also at least a little bit deserved. Christine (Alison Lohman) is the bank loan officer who makes the fateful final call to kick a zestfully unlovable old lady out of her house for failing to keep up on mortgage payments, but she’s really just the last dinky cog in the machine, the one put in the disagreeable position of being the human face on a corporate decision. Eyeing a promotion to a managerial role, she chooses to toe the hardass institutional line and not to give the woman another extension, and for that, in what might be considered something of an overreaction, gets gypsy cursed to a long weekend of demonic harassment rounding off in eternal damnation.
As much as, these days, there’s satisfaction to be had in watching anyone on the lending side of mortgages get thrown around the house by an invisible monster, it’s not Christine’s siding with finance over sympathy that gives the movie its gratifyingly mean edge — it’s that she’s is a moral equivocator, a milquetoast lass who spends a lot of the film pretending her firm stances aren’t anything but. She could have bought more time for Mrs. Ganush (a go-for-broke Lorna Raver, in what has to be one of the least vanity-friendly roles of all time), but didn’t, and yet pleads that the decision belonged to her boss, a claim that doesn’t impress the Lamia, the infernal spirit summoned to plague her. (Metaphysical question: If elderly gypsy women have the power to send people to hell, does that make them… God?) She’s a vegetarian whose objections over animal sacrifice last as long as it takes her to find a knife and her track down her kitty, a formerly fat farm girl who’s ashamed of her background, and a would-be winsome victim who becomes shrill when no one can come to her rescue.
One of the great satisfactions of “Drag Me To Hell” — and, buoyantly batty without the millstone of “Spider-Man 3”-style operatics, it has many, including an ongoing gag-inducing gag in which Mrs. Ganush ends up spewing vile on Christine’s face in their every encounter — is that its heroine has to grow a spine and acknowledge both the extent of her culpability and the fact that it still hasn’t warranted the shit she’s gotten stuck with, but that to pass the buck would mean to put someone else in the same undeserved spot in which she found herself. It’s a transformation with more to it than just that of a winsome girl learning to stand up for herself.