Sunday, April 4, 2010

Drag Me to Hell

One of the principal horror directors of all time has taken a break from gargantuan blockbusters and returned to the genre that sparked a revolution amongst the dark faithful. The Evil Dead Films basically showcased the genesis of a new and fantastical way of low budget film-making: a trilogy sparking thousands of imitators and setting the bar for what can be achieved when natural, creative genius is given free reign. Drag Me to Hell is a fictional nod to many influences, but still stamped with Sam’s unique brand of inventive camera work and strong visual style … 

The film starts off in a mundane world all of us know to well: the office space. Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), is a loan officer in a bank and adheres to the whims of her superiors in the hopes of landing a lucrative Assistant Manager position. This is great angle; Sam and his brother Ivan have penned a realm clinical in the details; the familiarity of the nine-to-five hum drum is so part and parcel with all of us that (knowing what is to come), we feel strapped in for a joyride. We know Christine’s world is about to be shattered, her cosy niche forever transformed by what we have seen and know of the plot.

And that (the plot), concerns one Mrs. Ganush, an old gypsy who is refused an extension on her mortgage by Christine, is ultimately shamed, and seeks vengeance by cursing her in an ugly stoush that has to be seen to be believed. Sam Ramai knows what repulses us, and he uses the character Mrs. Ganush to really get under our skin in this regard. For me, there is just something so ultimately creepy about old hags … especially ones that cackle and have a vendetta or score to settle. In the aftermath of her confrontation, Christine is visibly shaken, and persuades her boyfriend Justin (Clay Dalton), to consult a fortune teller … perhaps a way to gauge whether or not the cursing of her jacket button had any real ramifications. The seer is Rahm Jas, someone who is wise in the ways of dark arts and is, in due course, recruited by Christine to help understand the enigma she is dealing with.

To go into detail regarding this enigma is probably giving too much away, but suffice to say Rami, during the course of this dark excursion, gives us everything we’ve come to expect of him. There’s the horrific moments of possession laced with delicious slapstick comedy; scenes of pure relentless terror where nothing is shown and everything is only suggested or hinted at. An apocalyptic climax with genuinely gross scenes … and of course no modern horror or thriller excursion is complete without an unexpected twist. Here, the performances are solid, and the effects are ratcheted up to very decent levels. I have a feeling Raimi would have enjoyed working with a limited budget without the mind-numbing intricacies a franchise like Spiderman would have presented. 

Throughout its duration, there was at least half a dozen times the audience visibly jumped or were rocked backwards ...

Hackles raised in a crowd is a sure sign this observer was viewing a future classic.