Thursday, October 15, 2009

drag me to hell [2009]

a young woman competes for a promotion at her bank and thinks that to get ahead she must make the tough decisions. this is what her boss tells her. she is ordinary but a good person. so when an old gypsy woman approaches the young woman and asks for yet another extension on her home loan to stave off an impending foreclosure the young woman denies the request. what happens next is traditional horror movie hokum but done very well.

sam raimi, sire of the evil dead flicks and latterly borne of the spiderman franchise, makes a return to fright films and we are the better for it. no, this movie ain't no masterpiece, but it is quite a fun ride. give the man a smaller budget and a bit more creative control over the content where his imagination can cook up all manner of goofball scares. this is the cinematic equivalent of a roller coaster. the ride might feel dangerous and might scare the yell out of you but you very well know that you'll make it thru just fine.

which might be the problem. after all, what made the first evil dead film so affective at scaring is raimi's balls-to-the-wall attitude that made the film a more dangerous concoction. the tone of raimi's freshman picture was grim. the humor was on a low-burner and not turned on high as it was on raimi's subsequent projects. evil dead genuinely scared the crap outta me. the askewed compositions, hand-held camera, and frenetic editing made raimi's first pic an original innovation. nowadays every filmmaker utilizes these same techniques. not that these are bad things, by either raimi or any other filmmaker, just that raimi's dire tone and these innovative techniques helped create a feeling of sickening dread that was nonetheless exhilarating for it.

drag me to hell is similar in tone to raimi's first effort. yet, the scares are all telegraphed. when the camera turns sideways on its subject but leaves just a bit of room over the subject's shoulder you know something bad is about to creep out. or burst out. furthermore, complicating the scenarios are the loud, very loud, sound editing, so when the bad demon is about to make an appearance an unholy metallic screeching sounds so loudly you'll feel like your frontal lobes have been cauterized. normally, most horror movie geeks would find pleasure at being lobotomized, especially by a first-rate director, but for me i thought the sound could've been turned down just a bit. i don't need to be warned about an impending scare. that's why i'm watching a horror movie, because i'm fixing to be scared.

all is not lost however since this film is smartly edited and the photography contained just enough fuzz and grit to spook out the atmosphere. rarely do i get spooked by films but at the end of the movie, i turned off my computer [i've taken to the habit of watching films on my laptop because the clarity is better and the sound with my headphones envelops me], and turning off the lights to go to bed i swear there were shadows lurking in the corners hanging out for god-knows-what.

that's why i like this film. creepy just a bit and scary enough too. even tho i think the ending is telegraphed at the half-way mark it still was a satisfying conclusion. what does it mean that the protagonist is a decent woman who works for an industry that is in the business of profiting over the misery of people in the form of home foreclosures? i've read that raimi wrote this script with his brother years and years ago and that it is only a coincidence that the woman works in a bank and denies an old woman an extension thus effectively kicking the old woman out of her home. maybe. but movies are products of their times. even more so are genre movies where our fears are writ large. for our current and deep economic difficulties it would seem that raimi has made a revenge flick against the banking industry. if that's the case i wouldn't have been surprised that this film was met with cheers by a grateful public who are going thru hell right now.



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