Should a loan officer who forecloses on a homeowner’s mortgage be dragged into the fires of hell?

That intriguing question is at the heart of director Sam Raimi’s new horror film, "Drag Me To Hell," which opened May 29 in theaters nationwide.

I have to confess I don’t like horror films. I’m too impressionable, too gullible and too easily fooled by the oldest plot contrivances and cheapest special effects. And, I’m very easily frightened by scary movies. Just ask my mother.

Despite my aversion to the genre, I went to see "Drag Me to Hell" on a breezy Friday afternoon in a Culver City, Calif., theater with an audience of mostly teenagers.

I won’t recap the plot, such as it was, or give away the ending since all of my friends know I abhor spoilers.

But suffice it to say that "Drag Me to Hell" is about an attractive young loan officer named Christine Brown. Christine has long blond hair, impossibly high-heeled shoes and a handsome boyfriend, who drives a convertible and has a platinum credit-card.

A good loan officer is an important person for most homeowners since most of us rely on these folks to help us buy a home or to refinance a mortgage. A good loan officer can help us save money and achieve our financial goals as homeowners. A bad one can lock us into a subprime, interest-only, payment-option, 40-year nightmare of our choice.

Christine is a lactose-intolerant ice cream-eater who volunteers at a puppy shelter, but she’s no lightweight when it comes to bank loans. She reads The Wall Street Journal, is up for a promotion, and casually tosses off such terms as "asset-based lending guidelines" and "long-term debt restructuring." A sign behind her desk at the fictional Wilshire Pacific Bank reads: "Rates as low as 5.7%. Apply Now." …CONTINUED

Christine’s adversary is Sylvia Ganush, a horrible old hag with an impenetrable accent, a glass eye and a mortgage she hasn’t paid in a while. The story is set in motion when Christine refuses to extend any more credit to Ganush, who then attacks Christine and puts a curse of eternal damnation on her.

The movie has all the basic elements of any horror film: howling winds, creepy violin music, dead bodies, black cats, spurting blood, animal sacrifice, screams, grave-digging and even a gigantic haunted mansion seemingly transported straight from Disneyland to Pasadena, Calif.

I have to admit: I was terrified.

Yet as I watched the film, I wondered how such an innocuous person as a loan officer and such a simple financial product as a home loan had somehow become the subject of a horror film. Christine wasn’t a murderer or a child molester. She wasn’t even an IRS agent or a bad hairstylist. She was a loan officer. In a bank.

Are loan officers the new monsters of our darkest dreams? And now that vampires have been made to seem downright friendly are we more terrified of loan officers than we are of undead creatures that drink blood? Given the chance, would borrowers who feel they’ve been mistreated by a loan officer truly curse her and try to drag her into the fires of hell?

Seemingly, the answer may be yes, if we realize that horror films, much like their brethren in the fantasy genre, allow us to imagine whatever we most want, be it ever so grand or ever so evil. Some borrowers really are so angry about their home loan that they’d like very much to put a curse on whomever they believe is responsible. They might even think hell itself would be too nice for those they’d like to punish.

The idea that loan officers somehow deserve a hellish fate, even if only in the imagination of Hollywood, speaks volumes about the extent to which the loan officer has become a villain in the popular consciousness. "Drag Me to Hell" may be only a movie, but the subject matter suggests some scary implications for real-life lenders. If homeowners are this angry, who among them will walk into a bank branch and ask for help with a loan?

Marcie Geffner is a veteran real estate reporter and former managing editor of Inman News. Her news stories, feature articles and columns about home buying, home selling, homeownership and mortgage financing have been published by a long list of real estate Web sites and newspapers. "House Keys," a weekly column about homeownership, is syndicated in print and on the Web by Inman News. Readers are cordially invited to "friend" the author on Facebook.


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