Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Drag Me to Hell (2009)

I just may have mentioned previously that I am something of a horror-buff despite my catholic film preferences, so it is no surprise that we went to see this newly-released movie from very busy and very creative director-producer-writer Sam Raimi. It is being hailed as a return to his "Evil Dead" horror roots, although much of his subsequent film-making is hardly shabby, notably "A Simple Plan" and the first (and maybe the second) "Spider-Man". I shall add to the testimonials by concurring that the film is a lot of fun, especially if you have a strong stomach for some of the cartoony violence. The frights are not heavy on gore, but rather excessive on other bodily fluids; in many ways, it's a good old-fashioned scarefest. However despite taking pleasure from the OTT effects, it is hardly a "funny" movie, as I have seen it described.

Alison Lohman plays a loan-officer at a bank, angling for a promotion from her uptight boss David Paymer. Both she and her boyfriend, played by Justin Long, while both pushing 30, looked to my ancient eyes ever so young to be a career banker and if I heard correctly a university professor. (I understand Ellen Page was originally sought for the lead and if anything she would have come across as even younger). Lohman, in order to prove her "toughness" to Paymer and to forestall her rival for the promotion (why an oriental character should have a obviously Jewish name is beyond me), turns down an appeal from an elderly gypsy hag whose house is about to be repossessed; she in turn lays a three-day fatal curse on the poor thing. We therefore get to witness Lohman's increasingly hopeless attempts to forestall her fate and the intervening horrors as she consults an Indian seer (a weak turn I thought), indulges in animal sacrifice, and takes part in an exorcism ceremony. The end is nigh if she can not give away the tainted button that dooms her (a similar device to the classic "Night of the Demon").

It all builds to cheeky thrills and Raimi excels. I particularly liked one scene where she tries to keep it together to impress Long's initially hostile parents at a family dinner, until she loses it when she spots the gypsy's dead eye in her dessert! The ending is half what I expected and half what I did not think it would be; no spoilers here....just to say it was strong and not the cop-out that one has come to expect from inferior movies.
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