Monday, 25 November 2013

Drag Me To Hell [2009]

I woke with a sense of disparagement. It was a Thursday morning. There was no obvious cause for this mood. There were, as can always be said, many insignificant reasons as to a foul taste, but with some consideration, none seemed a suitable enough cause, neither singularly nor collectively. It was perhaps, just 'one of those days'. I am familiar with them. At my age I have experienced a great many. However, as a man, I harbour a reluctance to admit to myself that I, like all of man-kind, can be governed by my emotions.

This was the pattern of my day until I watched Drag Me To Hell. I am unsure what it says about my character, that a movie with such a title should be what cheers me up and rouses me from my melancholy, but this is an amusing motion picture.

From the outset, I found myself ticking off the Sam Raimi signatures, evident in most of his work; though I will need to watch this one back to check for Bruce Campbell. His trademark auto-mobile can be seen parked at the home of the gypsy woman; there is a liberal use of traditional special effects accompanied by more contemporary digital enhancements; the soundtrack and score, where it doesn't follow a typical horror genre format, lightens the mood and comes across as almost pantomime-like. It is difficult, without research, to make claims at Raimi's intention, but Drag Me To Hell certainly does not come across as a serious, dark, supernatural fright-fest and seems deliberately tongue-in-cheek.

Alison Lohman plays the lead, a slim, blonde all-american type from the country (farm land more precisely) who is struggling to break free of her 'chubby' youth and make it in a city bank, competing with an arrogant male compatriot for a managerial position whilst attempting to impress the overly snobbish parents of her professorial boyfriend, played by Justin Long. Will she crack under the pressure to get ahead or perform a moral good-deed for a struggling old gypsy woman, unable to pay the mortgage on her home of 30 years? Of course, there would be no tale of battling with a gypsy curse if she were to be a good Samaritan. Though it could be pointed out that a 'gypsy' should not have been living in a 'house' for as long as she claimed to be, and equally that her reaction to the situation was entirely unreasonable, however much at one time or another we have all felt a flash of anger towards an employee within a financial service.

This is essentially the depth of the plot and I will attempt not to spoil too much of what follows. If you are a fan of horror (as I would claim to be) you will be familiar with the array of standard issue tools and rules to achieve a jump/squeal/gasp or two from the viewer and the typical use of score to build tension. These and the usual faux-jumps, stereotypical characters and vaguely nonsensical occurrences are evident meaning that this movie does not disappoint.

Do not expect to be genuinely afraid though. Talking, possessed goats, screaming incarnations of a deceased old lady on an outdated mobile phone screen and being slapped by a shadow-spirit in broad daylight happen and are just highly amusing. Justin Long and Alison Lohman are less than convincing characters, 'he' being a typical 'smarty-pants' about nothing in particular (by this I mean to say he is a professor but shows frequent naivety and selective stupidity in order to remain unaware of his girlfriend's paranormal issues) while 'she' displays few moments of fear in favour of a child-like curiosity. Rather than this being a negative detail, for me it worked in favour of the narrative, keeping the pace regulated, the laughs coming and ones empathy for the leading lady at arms length. Whereas in my previous review of Gravity, I made the point that caring for the demise of Sandra Bullock was pivotal in the film's success, this piece doesn't need this level of rapport. Here it doesn't matter what happens to whom. Each character is as likeable as they are detestable. Each in their own way does something they shouldn't, for the benefit of themselves or to the detriment of another. This lack of purity (which is arguably the one horror genre staple missing from this conforming piece) works delightfully in favour of the entertainment.

Worth watching for the effects. A pretty decent horror to watch with a girlfriend or family. If you liked Raimi's Evil Dead or Army Of Darkness, or Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow perhaps, then this is one to add to your list (if you compile such things).


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