Drag Me to Hell (2009): I gotchu, you ol’ bitch!

In short: Yay! (SPOILER FREE TOO!)

Like many of us horror-fiends, I was thrilled upon hearing of this movie some time ago. Thrilled at the thought of Sam Raimi finally returning to horror for at least one more entry. Thrilled at the concept of Raimi bringing demons and curses back to us. Thrilled at the crazy and bold title, which promised us a movie experience to match its quirky insanity. If anything can predict what type of film this is, it is the title. It’s fun, crazy, off-the-wall, and devious. The trailers had me concerned because they portray the film as straight horror and admittedly, the plot is not one that could easily be rendered in seriousness. However, don’t let the trailers spoil you and remember that it’s Ted and Sam Raimi scripting this one after all.

For the first 20 minutes or so, I could tell the teenage audience in the theatre was not sure if it was supposed to be funny or not. Yes, kids, you can laugh. But they did know it was supposed to be scary. This is definitely one of those jumpy horror films—the kind where your seat is kicked every time someone pops up behind a character. Even I found myself jumping once…or maybe twice. Raimi is brilliant at utilizing camera movement to heighten tension, canted angles to unnerve us, slow and fast dollies to keep us guessing, and specific blocking to obscure things until just the right moment. While the film definitely won’t give you nightmares, it will give you that intense movie experience.

Ok, now we must all avoid eye contact with one another so we do not smile.
The moment the Universal logo appeared onscreen, I knew what I was in for. Raimi threw in the old, scratchy logo that was probably used in the 70’s. The title sequence was accompanied by a wonderfully creepy score reminiscent of Evil Dead. All of these factors were creating the campy environment that I was hoping for and I immediately forgot everything I felt regarding the trailer. I could tell the guy a few seats away from me was a genre man. After the titles, he clapped and rubbed his hands together with a huge grin on his face, just as anxious as I was to revel in the camp.

Please God, dont' let this guy be a fake. I wasted 60 bucks of my boyfriend's money.

I also appreciated the refreshingly simple moral tale of Drag Me to Hell. It’s been a while since I’ve seen an American horror film with something to say about the everyday choices we make. As cheesy and cliché as it may seem to some gore hounds, I really enjoy a scary movie with a clear message. Young, pretty, and eager, Christine Brown is forced to make a tough decision: Does she help someone in need? Or does she please her boss in order to pull ahead for that big promotion? Of course, it’s always more tough to do the right thing and to possess enough moral courage to act accordingly. As fate would have it, the one wrong decision she makes amidst all of her other good deeds is the source of her downfall. Raimi doesn’t shy away from the moral of the story; he embraces it with screenplay rhetoric.

Come on, who could refuse to help the face of a kind, old woman?

The horror sequences are just tons of fun. Three-stooges-style gags that remind us of Bruce Campbell’s incredible reverse-acting are mostly pulled off well by Alison Lohman, who had some big shoes to fill with this one. Prepare yourself for lots of objects inserted into the mouth and lots of projectile vomit—good ol’ fashion Raimi circus tricks to get us squirming. The only pitfall to these scenes is the CG. When you have Nicotero working under you, why would you even consider post-EFX for some of this stuff? I understand its place in a few scenes, but for the most part, all of the effects could have been done much better with practicals. I am very disappointed in you Mr. Raimi. Tisk, tisk. While we are on the subject of make-up and EFX, something must be said about the Mrs. Ganush, the old hag. Nicotero (KNB) did a fantastic job with this woman, which is showcased especially well during the miniature smackdown between her and Christine early in the movie. It’s a great sequence capped off by the unexpected line, “Ha! I gotchu, you ol’ bitch!”

I may look 14, but I'll bury you!

In summation, I had an awesome time with this film. A few technical elements were lacking here and there, but who the hell cares really? I was watching a Raimi horror film…in the theatre! The actors held up some oddly-placed dialogue and brought to life the fantastical script of the Raimi brothers. Bring some friends to this one and relish the silly horror that we’ve been missing out on for so long.


AFK for so long!

Life has been crazy over the past couple of weeks. First it was finals week, then it was my college graduation, and then it was my family visiting/vacationing. So, I've been tied up for the past couple of weeks with important business and my blog suffered because of it. But atleast now I have my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production! I promise some more to come...


CAPS: Splinter (2008)

My first CAPS review. CAPS will be made up of screen captures and my captions. Let's see how this one goes for Splinter.

Meet our Final Girl. She loves camping, can drive a stick, and can change tires.

Meet our Final Boy. He can do none of the aforementioned tasks.

Meet the Goodhearted Criminal. He kidnaps our Final Boy and Girl.

Meet the Crack Addict.

Meet the Enemy: Badgerine (I'm not sure if it's a badger or a wolverine)

Meet the First Victim. How could this guy not die?

Characterization: Ah man, trees are so cool. They just blow my mind.

Why am I dating this guy? Oh right his background in science will come in handy later on...

The gas station where it all goes down

It's the Man with Spikes!

As our Crack Addict tries to explain, but no one believes her...can you blame them?

And he attacks!

But not before flashing his gang signs

To quote Ash, "Honey, you got real ugly"

But I still love you anway...

This can't be a good sign

Morticia, the Thing got into the Doritos aisle again

It gets tense...

But a cop shows up to save the day!

Only to be ripped in half, exposing the fact that she chewed too much Big Red

Oh shit!

Well, I got a plan! Let's light everything on fire to attract attention.

Babe, fires and gas stations don't go well together.
You may be getting your PHD, but I have breasts...so I am right.

Whatever Captain Blood Beard

I knew I should have cut off the finger

Boxcutters were a bad choice

Cinder block...better?

Let's get to know each other

Shit, lock me in a gas station...Bawls and Beer

Let's band together and formulate another plan

This time it's brilliant, I swear!

Ok, maybe this plan isn't looking so brilliant at the moment.

Monsters love fireworks too!

And Metallica (or anything they can headbang to really)

But they HATE consumerism!

And next the Holy Trinity of Survival Horror:

The Shotgun

Hot chick with a gun

The one-handed shotgun pump

And the moment we've all been waiting for:

Movie Rule:
If a gas station is shown for more than five minutes, it will and must explode.

Wait...it's over and no one's head exploded into a porcupine? That's ok. I still had fun.


Martyrs (2008): “Fucking Nihilists”

I never thought I’d be quoting The Big Lebowski for a review of a horror film.

I wanted to see this film for so long before I actually had the opportunity to watch it. After seeing it, I felt that I needed some distance from it before writing a review. It’s one of those movies that is difficult to talk about, both in terms of a casual description and a critical discussion.

I've seen this image many times, but I just realized she's not actually cuffed...

This is not a film I loved or hated. It certainly wasn’t what I had expected, which appears to be the most consistent response to the film (aside from the mountains of praise it has received in the horror community). Martyrs had a difficult job ahead of itself before I even hit play on the remote. The hype, acclaim, or even lore surrounding this film is hard to ignore. On the DVD, there is an introduction from director Pascal Laugier in which he encourages us to forget everything we’ve heard about the film and experience it with our own eyes. I tried my best to follow his advice, but his admonition was my first warning. Laugier begins with an apology, apologizing for making such a film as Martyrs. He admits he sometimes loves and sometimes hates his film. While I respected his statements and valued his candidness, I knew that Martyrs was not going to be a fun viewing experience.

Why did you make this film Pascal, why?!

Usually people add a caveat to their recommendation of this film, saying that it’s not for everyone, but a spectacular piece of filmmaking nonetheless. I would change the first part of that statement to: this film is hardly for anyone, meaning that there are very few people I know that would actually enjoy or find value in watching Martyrs. Those interested in extreme horror films are definitely in the minority to begin with. However, Martyrs stands out from the “torture porn” sub-genre that has emerged; it’s not the graphic violence that is most disturbing but the cold worldview that Laugier portrays. While physical repulsion and destruction of the human form are certainly crucial to the film’s structure, the core lies in an intellectual violence that is much more frightening: nihilism. Martyrs is a negation of everything, which is why it is so difficult to swallow. It negates the body, the mind, the family, the world, reality, religion, faith, and love. Nothing is safe in Laugier’s cinematic context.

Yet another depressing image.

These factors make Martyrs both a repulsive and remarkable film. The repulsiveness is undoubtedly part of its purpose. I have never felt that all films should be made to please us; there is a distinction between entertainment and art. Cinema transcends and blurs the division between the two. Martyrs does the same. The first half of the film had me intrigued, anxious, excited, involved, invested, and eager to continue. I was entertained, eating up the emotionally-charged revenge story mixed in with fantastical (and genuinely creepy) elements. The next half of the film takes us down a different road and it ceases to be a piece of entertainment. It becomes a dark philosophical expression through the filmic medium. Monotonous torture sequences place us within the mindset of the victim: What will they do next? How much time has passed? Who are these people? Is there even a chance of escape? Is fighting back futile? When will this end? And this is an uncomfortable place to be for the spectator, justifying Laugier’s apology for such an experience. The answers to these questions encourage further apologies.

Did these girls ever get dehydrated on set?

It seems strange to talk about Martyrs in the way I would normally review a film—analyzing its narrative and visual components. The acting and direction (at least in terms of directing the actors) is superb. I believe every moment of this film, rendering it such a powerful viewing experience. The story is well-composed, maintaining interest and never force-feeding us the answers that we crave. The action is a slow build to an incomprehensible conclusion. Laugier’s shot design is decent, but predictable at times and unmotivated at others. The rest of the technical elements are effective, but not spectacular. The cinematography and editing could have definitely heightened the impact of the film, but then again, the story and performances speak for themselves.

Did I like Martyrs? Yes. Did I enjoy watching it? No. Would I watch it again? No. Would I recommend it? Maybe.