Drag Me to Hell Movie

With the script in place and production greenlit, Raimi and the producers sought out a leading lady to play the very physical part of Christine Brown. Fortunately for the director, he found Alison Lohman. “Alison has a great humanity to her,” Raimi commends. “She really is somebody that you watch on screen and you care about. Because this character was somebody I wanted the audience to identify with, it was very important to have Alison in the role. Christine is somebody that the audience understands and is easily with at the beginning of the film.” The director feels the viewers have to grow to identify with and support Christine so that we willingly go with her down the dark path she chooses. Raimi adds: “She continues to make choices that could alienate the audience, darker and darker choices, so that she can survive this terrible ordeal she’s going through. I wanted the audience to stay with Christine throughout these very—by the end of the piece—tough decisions that she’s made.”

Though she was game for the physical challenges that would be ahead, Lohman was not necessarily a horror fan when she joined the cast. The actress explains: “The only reason I didn’t like horror movies is because I get very, very scared. Why would I sit through a horror movie if I’m going to have my eyes closed the whole time?”

Still, the actress was fascinated enough by Christine’s journey that she was game for the challenges. “I liked the fact that my character has a real arc,” she says. “In the beginning, she makes this one mistake. She becomes a more compassionate and sympathetic character, and I actually enjoyed doing stunts. I think they’re fun, and I didn’t mind getting bruises.”
Playing counterpoint to Christine is Clay, her sympathetic (if doubting) boyfriend. Justin Long found that the pragmatic, skeptical character reminded him of his father. “My dad’s a philosophy professor, and he’s very rational…very stoic and logical,” comments the performer. “He comes from the school of thought that there’s an explanation for everything. I had to tap into somebody who is just a bit more right-brained in their thinking. I’m the first to believe anything: Nessie, Bigfoot, ghosts. I feel like there is supernatural stuff all around me.”

Clay’s role in Christine’s life is pivotal throughout the film. “I am trying to be as supportive as I can without just telling her she’s nuts and walking away,” Long explains. “That’s a testament to our relationship.” And though he acts as Christine’s primary support system, Clay is rarely present for the Lamia’s attacks upon his girlfriend. Long deadpans of missing out on the movie’s grosser moments: “It’s a strange desire when you find yourself oddly jealous that somebody gets to have maggots thrown up on them.”

As Christine’s boyfriend, Clay behaves the way most rational people would…with consolations and compassion for a struggling loved one, but holding onto a strong doubt that anything supernatural is really occurring. “Justin brings such an easygoing, loving boyfriend to the part,” compliments producer Tapert. “Once the part was in his hands, he found a way to make me believe that he loved this woman. He brought concern and care for the woman that he loves to all those scenes. You feel that, and it’s invaluable.”

Stepping into the very unglamorous role of Mrs. Ganush is Lorna Raver, an actress who may be an unfamiliar face to moviegoers. Raver spent much of her career on the stages of New York and Chicago before making the jump to Hollywood. “I haven’t done a lot of film work because it’s a difficult area for an older woman of a certain age who is not a big name,” Raver shares. “When this came up and I found out that Sam was involved in the project, I was very excited.”

Raver won the part via the traditional audition process. Due to the usual protocol, Raver saw only small pieces of the script at first. Says Raver, “I had no idea what I was getting into, because all I had read was about a little old lady coming into the bank because they’re closing down her house. It was only later that I saw the whole script and said, ‘Oh my!’”

Once she grew accustomed to the content and the arduous tasks that were ahead, the performer found her first experience working with Raimi a relaxing one. “Sam has these touches that are a little bit off-center that break the tension,” Raver muses. “He’s great to work with as an actor because he includes you in the process. I found it interesting to watch him on the set because he’s very focused, and sometimes you can see the movie running behind his eyes.”

Though this is the first major film role for the veteran actress, she relishes each opportunity to play character roles unfamiliar to her. To prepare for this role, Raver met with a Hungarian dialect coach. The performer even asked her coach to translate portions of the script into Hungarian. The vocabulary lesson came in handy during several scenes. Raimi would ask Raver to use some of the Hungarian words in the most emotional, passionate moments of Mrs. Ganush’s attacks on Christine.

No one was more impressed with her talents than the man who helped imagine the both sympathetic and vicious Mrs. Ganush. Says Raimi: “Lorna went to town with this role, especially in the car attack scene. She’s a real fighter who was always willing to give you one more take and put everything she had into it.”

Relative newcomer Dileep Rao came aboard the project as psychic Rham Jas, who becomes an unlikely confidante for Christine. Rao was taken by the story’s contemporary spin on classic horror movie themes and believes “the most interesting aspect of the script was that it was both very modern in terms of who the characters are, but the style was a throwback to a type of horror I like. The script had mystery, wonder and a good deal of humor.”

Producer Curtis recalls Rao’s casting: “Dileep came in, and he was a little bit younger than he read in the script. But as we were looking at his reading, Sam said, ‘There’s no minimum age requirement on wisdom.’ Dileep has that wisdom and presence on screen, and that’s what made him right. Once he got on camera, he brought that shoulder for Alison to lean on.”

When Rham Jas realizes he is in over his head, he brings Christine to seer Shaun San Dena, one of the only women in the world who has met the Lamia and lived to tell the tale. Celebrated Mexican actress Adriana Barraza, nominated for an Oscar® for her work in Babel, plays the powerful medium she describes as “born with special skills to deal with the spirits.” It was a welcome role for the dramatic actress who has long had a soft spot for the genre. “I’ve loved horror movies ever since I was a little girl,” Barraza shares. “I saw every kind of horror movie as a child, and I have a large library filled with horror literature.”

The performer enjoyed working with Raimi due to the fact that “he involves everybody in the decisions and creative choices he makes, but most importantly, he welcomes ideas from his actors.” She notes, “This is a very important thing for me because it’s not often a director encourages actors to share their ideas. I have a great admiration for his talent. His politeness and collaborative nature made it a very pleasant experience and atmosphere on set. There is a great juxtaposition between the terror that the audience witnesses on screen and the serenity experienced by the actors on set with Sam.”

Making both a comic and curmudgeonly turn in Drag Me to Hell is David Paymer, who plays Christine’s disapproving boss at the bank, Mr. Jacks. He was most impressed with the way that Raimi unfolds the dilemma Christine faces and connects us to her for the journey. “It could happen to any of us,” Paymer notes. “We’re just normal people trying to make a living. Something strange happens. You get bit by a spider or you meet an old lady who puts a curse on you. Every attempt she makes to get rid of the curse just gets her in deeper.”

As a fan of the genre, the actor likes being lulled into moments of false security. He enjoyed being part of a project that would make him simultaneously laugh and gasp. “In some ways, it’s a little more realistic, which is a good counterpoint: the humor to the horror,” Paymer says. “It gets the audience relaxed. They’re thinking ‘Oh, this is funny. We’re having a good time.’ But then it’s ‘Oh my God, there’s blood spurting everywhere!’”

Rounding out the cast of Drag Me to Hell are several faces that will be familiar to attentive Raimi film fans. JOANNE BARON, TOM CAREY, MOLLY CHEEK, AIMEE MILES, JOHN PAXTON, TED RAIMI, BILL E. ROGERS, CHELCIE ROSS, and OCTAVIA SPENCER all have appeared in at least one of the director’s earlier works.

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