Monday, June 1, 2009

Anything but a Drag (or: Another pukey punny blog title)

When you're a film sharpshooter like me -- that is to say, you avoid seeing movies that look especially crappy, and you're not even sure the "merely OK" types (e.g. State of Play) are worth your time/money -- quite often you'll come away disappointed, since you're aiming high almost all the time.

Now, you take that and combine it with a documented love of horror (and the insistence that horror isn't especially tough to pull off), and it's easy to leave the theater underwhelmed instead of chilled by the latest offering, be it a slasher flick or a supernatural thriller.

(And when the film in question runs up a 94% score on Rotten Tomatoes ... well, that's just recipe for a Michael Bay-like explosion in one's face.)

Which, in an incredibly long-winded way, brings us to Drag Me To Hell ...

(The Hollywood News with the pic)

... which, simply put, was exceptional. Not in a There Will Be Blood, preserve-this-film-after-the-ice-caps-melt kind of way. It's more of a best-movie-I've-seen-this-year situation.

First: Drag -- Sam Raimi's story of an insecure-yet-ambitious bank employee (Alison Lohman) who, through certain fault of her own, becomes cursed by an old gypsy woman (Lorna Raver) -- is not horror in the typical sense. It makes you jump, close your eyes and/or wince in disgust, but always winks at you.

Well, not always. Part of its brilliance is how it begins; basically, it tries to fool you into thinking it's a straightforward horror story -- with its flashback opening, then some early scenes of absurdly phony dialogue (the Lohman character is even listening to diction tapes on the way to work!).

But it's all just a setup for another of Raimi's bizarro trips, which starts in a parking garage and ends -- well, I won't tell you where it ends. I'll just say this: As the curse becomes more and more outrageous, the scares more creative and the solutions increasingly strange, the film asserts itself as something of a less-gory, bigger-budget version of Raimi's classic Evil Dead 2.

No, there's no amorous tree here ... but there is an (understandably) angry black cat, an adventurous housefly and a whole lot more fun.

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