Wednesday, October 21, 2009

[TIFF 2009 Review] Drag Me To Hell

[This review is pulled forward from the archive to coincide with the film’s screening at this year’s TIFF.]

Girl Fights Back

This film sucks a lot. As if the mouth tends to get in the way and having stuff shoved deep into it, be it the chin or even an entire arm socked right into it. Or at least that's one of the images that got is now permanently scarred in my head. With its copious amounts of drool salivating out from mouths, extremely wet slobbering and dribbling from lips, Drag Me to Hell is erm, deliciously frightening yet funny at the same time, thanks to Sam Raimi going back to his horror roots and delivering one thrilling ride with an old school flavour to it.

Raimi has shown that he has that flair of combining shock-horror techniques, and I mean really shock-horror with the usual bag of tricks of noises building up to beating crescendos, light and shadow play, and a multitude of boo-worthy moments with in-your-face nightmarish imagery, he also has this touch of humour thrown into it all, many times causing you to scream and yet laugh at the same time at the silliness of it.

In between the scary episodes which were very well designed, there's this theme of self-preservation running strongly throughout. I guess anyone in the right mind, if they have to go to the underworld, would do so only if dragged there, because there's this innate need within us that automatically kicks in for self-preservation or during the advancement of self-interest.

What I enjoyed about Drag's protagonist Christine Brown, is how a tough-as-nails cookie she is. I had wondered how it would have played out if Ellen Page had not left the project, but Alison Lohman, for all her daintiness, proved to be no pushover either as she really exhibited plenty of spunk and found some inner strength to sock it to her opponents when it mattered. You'll find yourself rooting for her as she sometimes turn the table around and emerge victorious, but soon enough you'll understand that the evil forces that lurks in dark corners may prove to be a little challenging for a mere mortal, especially since it comes in the form of a real battering ram.

One of the better things here is how the trailer didn't spoil everything for you, leaving some room for a lot more surprises up the filmmakers' sleeves, such as the car park scene so prominently featured in the trailer, having a lot more to do in the film with the set up of the hex, that made you root a lot more for Christine. Then the special visual effects in this film didn't disappoint. Without going over the top or overly reliant on computer generated imagery, it's a visual extravaganza beautifully crafted for this roller-coaster of a ride. However on the whole, the story got pretty predictable fairly quickly, and the ending was somewhat akin to waiting for that one big practical joke to deliver its expected punchline before calling it quits. Still fun though, watching it play out as intended.

Hollywood horror churned out more misses than hits with all its lacklustre remakes, more often than not of the Asian horror films, but Sam Raimi has shown the way that there's still some glimmer of hope in the genre by Hollywood if they'd stopped their reliance of adapting from others, and rely a little on their own ingenuity to thrill and entertain. OK Sam, could you get back to work on Spidey 4 now?

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