Drag Me To Hell Ending Explained: This No-Twist Ending Is Chillingly Horrifying (And Perfect)

The horror genre is no stranger to divisive endings, eliciting extreme reactions from audiences who find them either fittingly devastating or pointlessly brutal. Take 2007's "The Mist" as an example, where the conclusion is a hopelessly bleak one, underscoring the tragedy of the deaths that could have been completely avoided. Irrespective of how you feel about this Stephen King adaptation, the ending of Sam Raimi's "Drag Me To Hell" still manages to shock with its unflinching brutality.

Crafted as a morality tale, "Drag Me To Hell" subverts the conventional trope of a happy ending, where the protagonist is literally dragged into the bowels of hell when we least expect it. There is no attempt at justifying such a shocking fate, as Raimi cuts to the title card immediately, reiterating that he intended to remain true to the word of his title all along. This opens the avenues for various interpretations: is the film supposed to be a conventional morality tale, an allegory for eating disorders, or a deeper exploration of shame? More importantly, did our protagonist Christine (Alison Lohman) deserve such an extreme fate?

Let us dig deeper into Christine's hellish three-day journey to eternal doom and why Raimi's ending is still so powerful and enduring.

The wrath of a wronged woman

Christine is a mild-mannered loan officer who yearns for a promotion but has to put up with sly, competitive coworker, Stu (Reggie Lee). While Stu plays a shrewd, dirty game to earn the vacant position, Christine holds on to the hope that her merit alone will warrant this career upgrade. After Christine's boss (David Paymer) asks her to be more assertive in the workplace, she denies a mortgage extension for Sylvia Ganush (Lorna Raver), an old woman who desperately begs Christine to reconsider. Putting herself first, Christine puts her foot down and sticks to her decision, which leads Sylvia to curse her via a button from her sweater. Thus ensues a chain of horrific altercations, demons from hell, and a ton of disgusting fluids being poured into Christine's mouth.

It is interesting to note that Sylvia hexes Christine for not only refusing a loan but for shaming her dignity. The old woman's desperate pleas had created a public spectacle in the firm, while Christine's refusal only intensified Sylvia's humiliation. This prompts her to condemn Christine to Lamia, who terrorizes her for three days before dragging her to hell. While Christine does make a selfish decision to further her career, the act itself doesn't stem from a natural unwillingness to help the woman out. Christine does not want to be unkind to an old woman in dire economic straits — in fact, she seems pretty conflicted throughout. It is the earlier nudge from her boss, who perceives her subdued nature as weakness, which prompts her to adopt a more cutthroat, cold-hearted attitude.

While Sylvia channels her shame into wrath, cursing the woman who has wronged her, Christine finds herself trapped in a cycle of shame, guilt, and regret, which not does not thwart her undoing in the end.

How Sam Raimi subverts audience expectations

As the intensity of Christine's curse worsens, she becomes more desperate, doing everything she can to prevent her damnation. Apart from seeking the help of a psychic, she also sacrifices her cat in the hopes that this will appease the demon (called the Lamia), but the entity only has its sights set on Christine's soul. While animal sacrifice is a major moral misstep on Christine's part, Raimi invests a lot of sympathetic qualities in her character, which makes her eventual fate seem extremely unjustified. 

Right after learning that she is cursed, Christine attempts to make amends with Sylvia, but learns that she is dead. Christine becomes driven by genuine guilt and the need to set things right: she understands that she has wronged an old woman despite being in a position to help her. On learning that the curse can only be lifted if she passes it on to another person, she briefly contemplates giving it to Stu. However, displaying moral integrity, Christine decides to fight for what's right and digs up Sylvia's grave to bury the cursed button

The climactic, confrontational nature of the gravedigging scene lulls the audience into a false sense of comfort. Christine is, after all, the protagonist, and while her actions haven't been the greatest, she has proven that she's worthy of a happy ending. This trope of redemption becomes more poignant when juxtaposed against the constant cycles of shame that Christine is burdened with throughout. Be it her complicated relationship with food and self-image, the need to compromise her humanity to move forward in a ruthless capitalist system, or the constant class-based shaming she has to undergo courtesy of Clay's parents, Christine has already been through the wringer. Despite this, she is eventually dragged to hell.

Did Christine deserve such a hellish fate?

The visceral nature of the ending hits harder because the audience is made to feel that Christine has turned a new leaf in her life. After the curse is seemingly lifted, Christine gets the promotion after Stu admits to wrongdoing and Clay proposes to her at the railway station. These positive turns in Christine's life feel utterly earned, as she has already been through hell and deserves happiness after such a traumatic ordeal

However, when Clay hands over an envelope to her, she realizes that she got rid of the wrong button, meaning that the curse hasn't lifted. Before she can react, she falls on the train tracks and the earth opens up, melting her skin and dragging her to the depths of hell. A traumatized Clay looks on, horrified, mirroring what the audience feels in this moment. This twist ending is, in fact, a no-twist, as it fulfills the promise of the film's title, but does so in a way that's brutal, relentless, and shocking. 

Did Christine deserve this? Probably not. Even when viewed through a moral lens, her actions do not necessarily justify this grotesque end, as she is by no means irredeemable. However, the ending does not feel like a cop-out; it in fact cements the horror elements embedded within the film. Yes, Christine is a flawed protagonist and we are invested in her journey, but the way in which Raimi pulls the rug under our feet and delivers a believable yet horrific ending is testimony to his masterful craft. The ending is tragic and deeply unsettling, but it adds greatly to the experience of "Drag Me to Hell." After all, Christine's fate was spelled out in the film's title, but we were deftly led to believe otherwise.