Saturday, June 13, 2009

Drag Me To Hell

Sam Raimi is now best known as the director of the Spiderman film series. But prior to that he was also a horror director, and The Evil Dead trilogy stands as an energetic, surreal and grisly entry in the horror cannon. With his latest film marks a return to his beginnings. And make no mistake about it, this is a return with relish.

Oh, spoilers ahead.

The film is about a bank loan operator called Christine. She makes the mistake of shaming an old gypsy woman with really manky nails and a gammy eye. The gypsy woman responds to the cuss by attacking her, sucking on her chin, and cursing her. After that, the gypsy woman dies. That doesn’t stop her from sharing a bed with Christine, vomiting bugs and embalming fluid on Christine’s face and (at one point) slamming her forearm down Christine’s throat, as well as popping up at random times with a demented scream. As you do.

But having this ghostly stalker is not all that Christine has to deal with. She is attacked repeatedly by a poltergeist with the shadow of a human goat. She also is forced into various social mistakes, like spewing blood from her nose onto her boss and belching out a fly when she first meets the in-laws. And if that wasn’t enough, an all-purpose mystic from an ethnic minority (this film isn’t afraid of a borderline racist cliché) informs her that this is all pre-cursor to being dragged to hell. I’ve had bad weeks; nothing compared to this though.

If the above synopsis doesn’t give it away, Drag Me To Hell is a horror movie. And it is an insane horror movie that goes for the jugular with the gloves off. Subtle it isn’t, but Raimi has clearly decided that they were going to go for as many shocks as possible. The film is like 90 minutes of someone shouting “boo!” at you at the top of their voice just when you least expect it. And whilst the story is hackneyed and the script probably written in crayon on chew-proof paper, Raimi has the balls to go through with images and ideas that a lesser/more discerning director would have dismissed as over-the-top. Eye balls going down throats, demon possessed lackeys doing jigs over flames and a bit of kitty-killing, Raimi has clearly decided to try to create the ultimate horror movie. Not the best one, not the scariest one, but he has decided to throw everything he can into this film, and push every idea to its logical conclusion.

The result is a great film to go see at the cinema, and a film it is definitely worth seeing. Once. You won’t be rushing to see this film again, but you won’t regret going to see it at least once.

Drag Me To Hell: about as subtle* as the title would suggest it will be. Which turns out to be no bad thing.

*If you do want a subtler story with similar themes (and more of a discussion around justice and the nature of curses) then read Thinner by Stephen King. Don’t watch the film version, though – for the love of God, do not make that mistake…

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