Friday, 24 July 2009

Drag Me To Hell (2009)

Sometimes it really sucks to be a movie lover in Australia. There's a seemingly arbitrary delay between a movie being released in the US and here, sometimes months. Occasionally it works out in your favour, like when a big budget movie is so massively hyped that for the first few weeks people have Stockholm Syndrome and give rave reviews. By the time it comes out here the backlash is in full swing and you can go to the movie with accordingly lowered expectations. In the case of Drag Me To Hell, on the other hand, it got rave reviews by pretty much everyone whose opinion I could give two shits about, so I've been looking forward to it for a long time.

You see, like most nerds I'm a big fan of Evil Dead. I pop it in my DVD player a few times year and it's creativity still blows me away. I liked the Spider-Man movies a lot, but where's the Sam Raimi that strapped a camera to his van and drove through the woods in Evil Dead? Where's the Sam Raimi who used so many dolly-zooms in The Quick and the Dead the Alfred Hitchcock would have rolled his eyes and said "Jeez, enough already"? There are still flashes of the old Raimi (the Doc Ock surgery scene in Spiderman 2, for instance) but it would be fair to assume that his horror muscles had atrophied after a decade of family friendly blockbusters. Well, turns out he didn't go anywhere, the magic was inside you all along etc and he's back in top form with Drag Me To Hell.

The story is simple, leaving more screen time for scary shit. Christine (Alison Lohman) is a loan officer at a bank, and in order to prove herself for a promotion she turns down a loan extension to an old gypsy woman. The old woman even gets down on her knees and begs, but Christine totally disses her. Later that day the old woman attacks her in the parking garage (according to Hollywood parking garages are the most dangerous place on Earth) and places a gypsy curse on her so that for three days a powerful demon will torment her and then drag her to, well, I guess you know where. As far as gypsy curses go it's pretty bad, way worse than that weak-ass crybaby curse in Angel. You may have to act emo for all eternity, dude, but at least old gypsies don't vomit maggots into your mouth.

I don't know if it's the lingering vestiges of Catholicism or what, but horror films involving powerful demons and demonic possession really creep me out. There's a lot of scenes of this demon making creepy noises, throwing shit around and rattling her windows. Just fucking with her. There's also a great seance scene where Christine seeks the help of a powerful medium. Of course things go tits up and all hell breaks loose (not a pun). There's all this scary stuff happening when all of a sudden the sacrificial goat starts talking and calls Christine a "who-o-o-o-ore". The whole cinema burst out laughing. That's campy good fun and pure Raimi.

Justin Long plays her level-headed and skeptical boyfriend. Raimi could have easily cast two perfectly glamorous Hollywood actors, but instead he cast two actors who look like people you might see or talk to in real life, which I like. He's from a really rich family and his folks aren't happy about him dating a "farm girl", so when they have dinner at their fancy mansion the demon fucks up her attempts to impress them. Man, what an asshole. There's also a spirit medium called Rham Jas (Dileep Rao) who helps her out. They're pretty lucky because they just pick a random place and walk in off the street and it turns out he's the most knowledgeable, Jung-quoting spirit medium ever and not a flaky con-artist. He still charges them $60 for a fortune reading, though, pretty pricey.

I've heard complaints that the movie is just a string of jump-scares and that's probably fair, but they are expertly crafted jump-scares. Raimi knows how to build tension until you just can't bear it anymore, so that even when you know it's coming you still jump out of your seat. There's lots of gross-out moments and they put Christine into some really squirm-inducing situations where she has to do some pretty fucked up shit (both morally and physically) in order to survive. So you've got your scares, you've got your gross-outs and you've got your comedy. Pretty much everything you need.

The movie was rated MA-15 here but in the US they got away with a PG-13. Fucked if I know how, because some crazy shit happens in this movie. There's not a lot of blood and gore (well, there is some blood but not in the context you'd expect) but I think they manage to get every other gross bodily fluid onto the screen. If you think this movie is fine for your kids but that a few boobs are going to scar them for life, I don't know what to say to you.

I wasn't going to say anything about this film because by now everybody has seen it, discussed it, bought the Burger King tie-in meal and moved onto other things, but I just had to say something because this is the most fun horror film I've seen in a long time and it hasn't done particularly well at the box office. Normally I don't pay any attention to that kind of thing, but Saw V has grossed almost double what this film has. Saw V, people! Anyways, go see this film. I doubt it would stack up to repeat viewings, but it's a hell of a ride while it lasts (also not a pun).

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