Thoughts On “Drag Me To Hell”

By Jacob Krueger

[divider type=”thin” full_width=”no” width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”]

I just saw “Drag Me To Hell” tonight. Talk about a great example of how a well structured movie uses theme to craft a character’s journey. Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched this movie yet, this might be a good time to dash out and see it. Then come on back and read all about it.

The theme of “Drag Me To Hell” is pretty simple: selfish desire leads to the soul’s destruction. The film begins with a woman who is genuinely good. And step by step, the structure of the film quite literally drags her to hell– not just through the terrible curse that she must contend with, but by causing her to make such immoral choices in her attempts to escape it that by the time it’s all over, she just about deserves her fate. When we first meet Christine Brown, she is pure heaven. She’s sweet. She’s kind. She loves animals, and she cares about others. The first time we see her, she’s delivering good news to a nice young couple– she’s made it work for them to get the mortgage they need. Everyone is so happy. And it’s just the beginning of the movie. So we know we’re in trouble.

Unfortunately for Christine, there’s something that she wants very badly– a promotion to be assistant manager at the bank. And her chauvinistic boss doesn’t think she’s tough enough to deserve it. Uh oh. Characters develop when we test their convictions, so the Raimis come up with a scene to do just that. “Oh, you’re really so good? Let’s see what happens when you have to choose between repossessing the home of a helpless old gypsy woman, and losing your only shot at that job you want so badly.” What choice do you think she makes? Selfish desire.

So, even when the old woman prostrates herself before Christine, begging for mercy, Christine still doesn’t budge. She wants that promotion. So bad she can taste it. And she’s willing to do something she knows is wrong to get it. Next thing you know, she’s cursed. A demon is coming for her soul, and she’s got three days to stop it. In her attempt to escape, Christine will violate almost every ethical code she once held. She will repeatedly deny responsibility for her actions (even during the seance in which they attempt to cast out the demon), lie about her decision to repossess the old woman’s home, and instead lay the blame on her boss. She will slaughter her cute little kitten in an attempt to appease the demon’s lust for her soul (so much for volunteering at animal shelters). She will even come close to murder (or worse), as she attempts to pass the curse on to some other victim instead (by re-gifting the button which marks her as the demon’s target). Why? Because ultimately she wants to escape the curse more than she wants to uphold her values. Just like she wanted to get the promotion (and escape the “curse” of her unfair work environment) more than she wanted to show mercy to the old woman.

Of course, in a fair world, Christine wouldn’t have to sin. That’s what is so great about the structure of this screenplay. Her dominant trait is her KINDNESS. It’s only the unfairness of the world– the unfair job, the unfair curse– the sheer horror of it all, that forces Christine to choose between her desire and her morality. That’s how the writers test who she is, and force her to change. Unfortunately, Christine repeatedly fails the test, slowly but surely letting go of what is good about her, and dragging herself to hell in the process. And even when she decides not to re-gift the button to an innocent stranger, Christine does not fully recapture her morality. She doesn’t sit at the grave of the old woman, admit her wrongdoing and beg forgiveness of her spirit. Instead, she tries to condemn the soul of the woman she wronged, by re-gifting the button to her dead corpse. In the process, she also desecrates the old woman’s grave and commits the same sin her palm reader first assumed she might have committed– speaking ill of the dead in a cemetery).

Having come to this false victory by re-gifting the envelope she believes to contain the button to the old woman’s corpse, Christine thinks she has solved her problem. But she hasn’t. And not because of the mix up with the envelopes. Because she still cares more about herself than she does about those around her. Selfish Desire.

So even though Christine (after she thinks she’s gotten EVERYTHING she desires) ultimately confides to her boyfriend that she was the one who chose to repossess the woman’s house, and that this was the wrong thing to do. When her selfish desire is tested one last time, she makes the same mistake all over again. There is her boyfriend, standing with the button in his hand, and presumably damned to hell because of it. Does Christine try to snatch the button from him? Does she risk her life to save his? No, she tries to escape, once again. Tumbles into the train tracks. And is carried off to hell. Selfish desire. It’s not the curse that damns Christine, it’s her decisions. And it’s not the button that determines her boyfriend’s salvation. It’s the choices he makes.

Time and again, his desires are tested as well. And time and again, he does what is right, even when it means not getting what he wants. He makes the selfless choice for the love of Christine– agreeing to the palm reading, refusing the demands of his parents, giving her 10,000 dollars to see a spiritual advisor he doesn’t even believe in. He does all of this without even believing that Christine is haunted, and without thought of gain for himself. He does it because he loves her. His morality remains intact, because his love is stronger than his selfish desire. Hers does not, because her selfish desire is stronger than her love. And the structure of the screenplay works because it tests them both, establishing their dominant traits, and then forcing both characters to grapple with the theme, by making active choices that drive the story and ultimately bring about their own salvation or their own destruction.

To learn more about theme and the way it relates to screenplay structure, check out one of my screenwriting workshops.

Share this...
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Participant Agreement

By registering for the course, you are agreeing to the following terms, which form a legal contract between you and Jacob Krueger Studio, LLC (“Company”) and govern your attendance at and/or participation in Company’s course (the “Course”). 

  1. Course Participation.
    1. Admittance.  Your registration entitles you to admittance to the Course.  Any and all other costs associated with your attendance (including, without limitation, any travel or accommodation expenses) shall be borne solely by you and Company shall not be liable for any such costs.
    2. Media.  For good and valuable consideration, the receipt and sufficiency of which are hereby acknowledged, you grant Company the right to record, film, photograph or capture your likeness in connection with the Course, in any media now available and hereafter developed (“Course Footage”).  You further grant to Company in perpetuity the rights to use, license, edit, copy, distribute, publicly display and make derivative works of the Course Footage, including exploitation for marketing, advertising or merchandising related to the Course, throughout the universe.  You hereby waive any and all approval rights you may have over Company’s use of the Course Footage and acknowledge these rights are granted without any payment, including royalties or residuals, to you.
    3. Conduct.  You acknowledge that Company reserves the right to request your removal from the Course if Company, in its sole discretion, considers your presence or behavior to create a disruption or to hinder the Course or the enjoyment of the Course by other attendees or speakers.
  2. Fee(s).
    • Payment.  The payment of the applicable fee(s) for the Course is due upon registration or per your payment plan.  If such payment is insufficient or declined for any reason, you acknowledge that Company has the right and sole discretion to refuse your admission to the Course.
    • Taxes. The fee(s) may be subject sales tax, value added tax, or any other taxes and duties which, if applicable, will be charged to you in addition to the fee(s).
  3. Intellectual Property. All intellectual property rights, including trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and patents, in and to the Course, the Course content and all materials distributed at or in connection with the Course (the “Course Materials”) are owned by Company. You may not use, license, copy, display, or make derivative works of the Course Materials without the prior written permission of Company.  For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this agreement shall be deemed to vest in you any legal or beneficial right in or to any trademarks or other intellectual property rights owned or used under license by Company or grant to you any right or license to any other intellectual property rights of Company, all of which shall at all times remain the exclusive property of Company.
  4. Warranties; Limitation of Liability.
    • Other than to the extent required as a matter of law: (i) neither Company nor its employees, agents or affiliates (“Company Parties”) shall be liable for any direct, indirect, special, incidental, or consequential costs, damages or losses arising directly or indirectly from the Course or other aspect related thereto or in connection with this agreement.  The maximum aggregate liability of Company Parties for any claim in any way connected with therewith or this agreement whether in contract, tort or otherwise (including any negligent act or omission) shall be limited to the amount paid by you to Company under this agreement to attend the Course.
    • You represent and warrant that you have the full right and authority to grant Company the rights provided in this agreement and that you have made no commitments which conflict with this agreement or the rights granted herein.  You agree that your participation in the Course is entirely at your own risk and accept full responsibility for your decision to participate in the Course.  In no event shall you have the right to enjoin the development, production, exploitation or use of the Course and/or your Contributions to it. 
  5. Governing Law and Venue.  This agreement shall be governed by the laws of the State of New York without regard to its conflict of laws provisions.  The parties hereto agree to submit to personal and subject matter jurisdiction in the federal or state courts located in the City and State of New York, United States of America.
  6. Dispute Resolution.  All claims and disputes arising under or relating to this agreement are to be settled by binding arbitration in the state of New York or another location mutually agreeable to the parties.  The arbitration shall be conducted on a confidential basis pursuant to the Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association.  Any decision or award as a result of any such arbitration proceeding shall be in writing and shall provide an explanation for all conclusions of law and fact and shall include the assessment of costs, expenses, and reasonable attorneys’ fees by the winner against the loser.  Any such arbitration shall include a written record of the arbitration hearing.  An award of arbitration may be confirmed in a court of competent jurisdiction.
  7. Miscellaneous.  Company may transfer and assign this agreement or all or any of its rights or privileges hereunder to any entity or individual without restriction.  This agreement shall be binding on all of your successors-in-interest, heirs and assigns.  This agreement sets forth the entire agreement between you and the Company in relation to the Course, and you acknowledge that in entering into it, you are not relying upon any promises or statements made by anyone about the nature of the Course or your Contributions or the identity of any other participants or persons involved with the Course.  This agreement may not be altered or amended except in writing signed by both parties.
  8. Prevention of “Zoom-Bomber” Disruptions; Unauthorized Publication of Class Videos. Company will record each class session, including your participation in the session, entitled “The Videos”. To prevent disruptions by “zoom-bombers” and provide Company and

    participants the legal standing to remove unauthorized content from platforms such as YouTube and social media sites, you agree that

    (1) you are prohibited from recording any portion of the Course;

    (2) in exchange for the opportunity to participate in the Course, you assign to Company your verbal contributions to the session discussions.

    To be clear, you assign to Company only your oral statements during recorded Course sessions. You retain all copyright to any and all written materials you submit to the class and the right to use them in any way you choose without permission from or compensation to the Company.

Welcom Back!

Log in to access your account

Our website uses cookies to provide a better user experience. By using our site, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn more about cookies and how you can refuse them.

We will see you this Thursday!

7pm ET / 4pm PT

Check Your Email For The Link

(Don’t see it? Check your spam folder)

Donate To Our Scholarship Fund

We match every donation we receive dollar for dollar, and use the funds to offset the cost of our programs for students who otherwise could not afford to attend.

We have given away over 140,000 of scholarships in the past year.

Thank you for your support!

Other Amount? CONTACT US

Get Your Video Seminar


Where should we send it?

"*" indicates required fields

Would You Like More Information About Our Classes?
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Need A Payment Plan?

We like working with artists and strive not to leave writers behind over money.

If you need a payment plan or another arrangement to participate in our programs, we are happy to help.

Chat us or give us a call at 917-464-3594 and we will figure out a plan that fits your budget.

Join the waitlist!

Fill in the form below to be placed on the waitlist. We'll let you know once a slot opens up!