Saturday, 6 June 2009

Drag Me To Hell

Image property of Universal Pictures ShockTillYouDrop

Spoiler! Best read after seeing the movie.

“A week is a long time in politics,” said Harold Wilson. If you don’t believe him ask Gordon Brown. A week is also a long time in the movies; now the excitement has died down I can turn a genre eye at this years most anticipated horror film. How was it for you? This is how it was for me.

I’m disappointed.

Nobody’s fault but mine.

It’s been so long since Sam Raimi made horror I’ve forgotten what his style was. The trailer seduced me with its linear storyline but the movie failed to fulfil me. I want shock not schlock!

The first act sets the story up well: curtain raise the curse, introduce the main character, have the catalyst collide with her. It was at the crux of Act 1 where I began to shift in my seat. But before that…

The premise is an old gypsy curses the hero because she can’t get a bank loan. ¿What? No one can get a bank loan. Is that enough pretext to be cursed? The premise is flimsy (although kudos to the writers, director Sam and brother Ivan, for infusing a timely topic).

Having seen the trailer I knew that much going in. I waived it because it’s horror. The rules of story telling in this genre are more lax than in most. This is something we begrudgingly accept especially as Wes Craven allowed us to laugh at it in Scream. Yet the critical error in the set up was with the hero Christine.

She refused the old lady the loan due to personal greed. It later transpires she could have offered Mrs Ganush the money. Raimi didn’t make that clear in Act 1. He could and should have. I was under the impression her hands were tied. This induced some confusion – why curse her? – which led to disassociation – let’s just see what happens.

Had it been clear it was Christine’s decision not to give Mrs Ganush the loan it would have induced more sympathy. In these times and in most times people have to stiffen their backs at work to achieve promotion. It’s what we’re taught to do. Hence ‘he’s a nice guy outside of the office’. The audience, while not approving, would relate.

Follow me on this:

Mrs Ganush speaks in a loud voice. Her scene entrance is bombastic. People look at her. Not surprisingly Christine takes an irritable dislike to her. She asks her not to speak so loud. Mrs Ganush apologises and explains she’s hard of hearing. Christine is regretful of her own emotions and warms to the charming old lady. Old Mrs Ganush can read lips so she sees what Mr Jacks says to Christine. She’s excited that she’s going to get the loan until Christine comes back and… you have a sympathetic hero and a good enough reason for the curse.

Another shortcoming of Christine is her white trash roots. In her first scene she is taking elocution lesson – from a tape. She’s that po’. It’s not that pathetic. Everyone has a telephone voice and if you work with the public especially face to face you have to turn it on. Be you a waitress, in customer service or a loans officer. However throughout the movie be it in fear, horror, terror and even in anger Christine’s accent did not slip a once. When Hannibal Lector called out Clarice Starling for having a fake accent you could see his words expose and humiliate her. Missed opportunity Sam.

It was at the crux of Act 1 where I began to shift in my seat. A fist fight in a movie never mimics real life. The best one that comes to memory was in the Bourne Identity. The fist fight between Christine and Mrs Ganush was played for laughs. That’s when I got it. I’m in the wrong movie. This is sort of like the Evil Dead.

I went to a football match and to my horror what I got was American football. That doesn’t mean American football is bad. It means I’m a soccer fan.

If you ignored the spoiler alert I recommend you go see this movie. It’s really good. It’s not great. There’s more fun than fright but it is a welcome addition to a scant horror canon. So I await Johnny Boots’ review of Dead Air until its UK release and look forward to the two Ju On sequels.

I like my horror scary.

Read more Thrill Fiction: The 10 Best Horror Films

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