It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Drag Me to Hell" is a sometimes funny and often startling horror movie. That is what it wants to be, and that is what it is. After scaling the heights with "A Simple Plan" (1998) and slugging a home run with the "Spider-Man" franchise, it's like Sam Raimi is taking some personal time and returning to his hobby.
He is greatly assisted by his star, Alison Lohman. Horror movies with nasty old men can be fun (see "Bride of Frankenstein"), but for the mainline product there's nothing like a sweet and vulnerable girl. Although in real life she's pushing 30, Lohman looks nowhere near old enough to be Christine, the bank loan officer. No wonder she has such a chaste sleep-apart relationship with her boyfriend, Clay Dalton (Justin Long). I suspect they practice abstinence.
If "Clay Dalton" rings a bell, those are surely two of the most common names in movies; there have been 761 Clays and 413 Daltons. That's the kind of elbow nudge Raimi likes to provide, especially since the character really requires no surname. The whole movie is nudges, especially scenes involving a cute kitten and Shock Reveals. Cute kitties of course are useful in the It's Only a Cat! false alarms, and Raimi deserves praise for not using this kitten in that way. Shock Reveals are of course the moments when a terrifying image explodes from the scene, scaring the split pea soup out of the heroine.
Shock Reveals should logically be silent, unless the Revealed is screaming. But in horror films they always come with discordant chords and loud bangs. This is as obligatory as the fact that blades always make a snicker-snack noise even when they are not scraping enough something.