Archive for the ‘Demons’ Category

Journey to the West (2013)

 

JOURNEY TO THE WEST is now available to download on iTunes and to watch on demand. If you have access to New York City, it’s playing at Cinema Village. This is the brief rave I wrote about the movie when I put it in my top ten of 2013. It’s not much but I hope it makes clear how emphatically I recommend it.

 

Journey to the West

 

Journey to the West

 

The way I feel about Stephen Chow’s movies is the way you probably feel about Pixar’s movies. KUNG FU HUSTLE alone is literally perfection. JOURNEY TO THE WEST may not be his single best film, but it’s a, incredibly strong addition to a beautiful filmography.

 

BIG TROUBLE

 

Fleet, funny, broadly universal, and unexpectedly moving, JOURNEY TO THE WEST is the story of a young demon hunter named Tang Sanzang (Wen Zhang) who takes on a wild menagerie of monsters and villains, looking to get them to change their evil ways rather than simply killing them. He’s both aided and bedeviled along the way by a pretty demon hunter known as Miss Duan (Shu Qi) and her gang of killers (including the insanely cute Chrissie Chau), all of whom would prefer the more extreme option. For stone killers, they’re as adorable as it gets.

 

SMILES

 

The relationship between Tang Sanzang and Miss Duan is the through-line of the movie, which otherwise progresses from demon battle to demon battle. The characters voyage through a variety of exciting environments; some inviting, like the open-air river battle against a gigantic fish demon, and others far less inviting, like the hellish domain of the nightmarish pig demon.

 

BIG FISH

 

Most prominently featured is the Monkey King (Huang Bo), the most duplicitous of the creatures but also the most likable and enjoyable. He’s the reason for the movie’s dance sequence, is all I’m saying.

 

DANCE FEVER

 

 

Like all of Stephen Chow’s best-known movies, JOURNEY TO THE WEST reaches heights of joy few movies can match, but it also comes packaged with moments of heartbreak. It’s an epic adventure stuffed with comedy and romance that ends up having agreeably spiritual resonance, based as it is on a classical work of literature dating back to the Ming Dynasty. But then again it also has a giant gorilla. This really does have everything you need from a movie.

 

@jonnyabomb

 

 

Xi you xiang mo pian

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In the realm of faceless people writing about movies from the safety of the internet, I like to think I’m one of the more reasonable you’ll find.  But I could be wrong.  (See?)  It’s a point that’s come up before, but it bears repeating:  Unlike most people who write about movies online, I’ve spent A LOT of time working in all corners of the film and television industries in virtually every position there is.  I know well how hard people work, around the clock, to bring every show to an audience.  I try not to take that hard-earned knowledge lightly.  Besides, I have friends who still work in film and TV, and I’m not even all the way out myself.  I try mighty hard not to put anything on a computer screen that I don’t feel ready to say to someone’s face.  On top of all of that, I grew up with movies.  I love this stuff as much now as I did when I was young — if not more.  It doesn’t make me happy to be unkind.  I’m in this to share my enthusiasm, plain and simple.

All of that said, and try as I might, it’s way harder to find new ways to be nice.  It’s certainly harder to be funny that way.  And sometimes, a movie is put in front of me about which I just can’t find much nice to say and still remain honest.

These are the movies that forced me to be unkind.

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If the new sci-fi horror flick Legion is to be believed, God is a woman.  We get a brief glimpse into Heaven late in the film, and it looks like a Calvin Klein perfume ad, complete with blue-eyed, white-winged angel men who speak in soft British accents.  Not only is that the kind of scene She seems to be into, but God is also as prone to decisions based on rash emotional reactions as any mortal woman can be, only to [spoiler alert!] ultimately change her mind and be willing to make up after the outburst.
See, Legion is about God losing faith in humanity, and sending an army of angels to wipe us off the face of the planet.  You wouldn’t think God could be so flighty as to make such a momentous decision and then take it back, but this isn’t a movie for the literal-minded.  The guy sitting behind me leaned over to his companion and whispered, “God wouldn’t do that,” and I guess he’d know, so if you’re super-religious you may want to skip this movie.  It’s not based in reality.

What it is largely based on, instead, is other movies.  In particular, Legion writer/director Scott Stewart should look out for James Cameron, because they’re both out on the promotional trail right now and Legion borrows very heavily from the Terminator movies (among many, many others).  Dude, if Cameron finds you, you better hope he’s flattered.  When renegade angel Michael touches down in an alleyway, it’s not wrong to expect that he’s a T-800 or T-1000.  He’s not though, as we learn when he hacks off his wings.  (Think those might have come in handy later on, bud?)  Michael is not played by John Travolta, as fans of garbage ‘90s comedies might fairly expect – instead, he’s played by Paul Bettany, who’s always reminded me of Neil Patrick Harris if he loved girls more than showtunes, or the guy from Coldplay if if he loved girls more than showtunes (ha ha!).  Bettany is by far the best thing about the movie; he’s a convincingly unsentimental and competent action lead.

Legion also sports a fairly impressive supporting cast, all of them saddled with thankless roles that are thoroughly standard for the many genres that Legion encapsulates – horror, action, disaster movie, etc.  There’s the spiritually adrift young waitress whose pregnancy may be the key to the whole future of humankind (played by Adrianne Palicki with an accent that disappears during her first scene and only occasionally returns.)  There’s the meek young mechanic (Lucas Black) who loves her without getting any return on that investment, who unsurprisingly will be called on to prove himself before story’s end.  That character’s name is Jeep, which sounds like something Sarah Palin would come up with.  But no, Jeep’s dad is none other than Dennis Quaid, who’s way too good to have to be playing this many stereotypes at the same time – he’s a grouchy diner owner who’s developed a problem with booze after a ruined relationship and a troubled business.  He’s lost his faith: can he regain it in time?  Can I write movie tag lines?

There’s also the God-fearing dishwasher who recognizes the spiritual implications of what’s happened right away – and says he knew it was coming!  If that wasn’t standard enough, this guy even has a hook where his left arm should be.  Did you guess that he’s a black guy?  Of course he is!  Welcome to the Cliché Diner, hope you survive the visit!  This character is played by Charles S. Dutton, another strong actor who I would have thought was beyond roles like this, but I guess since he’s done it a hundred times now, there’s no one better qualified to play them.  Also, because a movie with this much going on can’t have just one black guy to kill off before all the other white characters (spoiler!), Tyrese Gibson is in the movie too.  He plays a mysterious young brother who is involved in a custody battle and who keeps a gun on him at all times.  In a stroke of inspiration, this character is from Vegas, not South Central.  See, don’t think you can predict this movie.

Finally, there’s an uptight family of white people who are stranded at Quaid’s diner in the middle of nowhere because something went wrong with their Mercedes.  These people are played by Jon Tenney (a well-known stage actor who I didn’t even realize was in this movie until I checked IMDB just now to write this article), Kate Walsh (that great-looking red-headed broad from Grey’s Anatomy who I would have thought was too big a TV star to have such a waste of a role in a genre movie), and some girl named Willa Holland as their teenage daughter.  Don’t worry about that character; the screenwriters didn’t.  (It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie character written out of a movie off-screen.)

On the side of the bad guys, there’s Kevin Durand, a great character actor (from Lost, among other things), who is thoroughly wasted as the “evil” angel leading the extermination effort.  Durand deserves better roles, although at least here all he has to deal with are giant wings and a fruity accent – at least they didn’t stick him in an unconvincing fat suit like that abominable Wolverine movie did.  There’s also Doug Jones (Abe Sapien!) as an evil ice cream man, whose evil power is to make his jaw get really, really low, like Jim Carrey in The Mask.  Look out!  It’s Giantjaw!  Don’t let him…. breathe on you, I guess.  (There’s not much to be afraid of here, there’s not a single supernatural heaven-sent villain in this flick who can’t be easily mowed down with tons of bullets.)  There’s also that potty-mouthed old lady from the trailers.  She’s probably the most fun part of the movie, and definitely the first and last point where you feel like the main characters are in danger from anything other than their own clumsiness and stupidity.

Legion plays pretty much how you’d expect, right down to the letter.  The best part is the way that the bad guys attack the diner where the good guys are holed up, and then after being shot at for a while, retreat so that the good guys have enough time to talk amongst themselves.  I’m glad I don’t play drinking games, because if I had to drink every time one character solemnly recounts their backstory to another in over-dramatic exposition… well then I’d be Dennis Quaid’s character.  (Maybe that’s what Quaid was doing on set to keep it fun!)  My single favorite getting-to-know-you moment belongs to Tyrese and it begins like so:  “When I was a shorty…”

I’m hitting Legion pretty hard with the sarcasm hammer, but I actually had a great time watching it.  With a packed theater, it was not at all a waste of time.  The crowd I was with hollered at all the expected moments and at a lot more of the unexpected ones.  It’s always fun when an audience takes a movie in the spirit it deserves, and just goes with it.  (Except for the aforementioned guy who thought the Lord was acting out of character.)  Nobody expected this to be a serious drama with important ideas, nobody expected artistry or poetry, and nobody expected it to even be as good as the movies it awkwardly imitates (Terminator, Terminator 2, Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight).  When faced with such mediocrity, you can either whoop it up or get pissed off, and that second option is better left to JC.  That’s James Cameron, not… you know.

Or maybe I’m just in a good mood because Taimak was in the theater with us at my screening.  You know, Taimak = the man who played Leroy Green, a.k.a. Bruce Leroy, in Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon.  If you’ve been paying occasional attention to anything I’ve said ever, you may have picked up on my overwhelming love for The Last Dragon.  It’s no lost classic but it’s an energetic, entirely unpretentious movie with a good heart and a better soundtrack.  When Legion got too formulaic and predictable to bear, I had a great time trying to imagine what thoughts were running through Taimak’s head as he watched the same movie.  Was he, too, comparing it to the anything-goes bizarre excellence of The Last Dragon?  Was he, too, imagining how he would play the Bettany role, or even imagining how the movie would be improved by the literal return of Bruce Leroy?  (It sure couldn’t have hurt!)  Was he, too, wondering how Bruce Leroy would fare in battle against the armies of Heaven?

A far, far better movie Legion could have been were it to have answered any of those questions.  For me, anyway.

Get right with me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

Today we celebrate a great American.  Oh totally, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but also: John Carpenter, one of my very favorite filmmakers of all time.  Here’s something I wrote on February 11th, 2009: 

I recently received in the mail the limited edition 2-disc score album for John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China.  It’s a limited pressing:  There are only 3000 of them.  That means that, if you want one of your own, you had better get on it, and come back to read the rest of this essay afterwards.

Now to the remaining readers:  What does my revelation that I now own this artifact mean?

Well, it means that I am a person who cares to own the soundtrack to Big Trouble In Little China, which will tell you either of two things:  that I am a super-hip underground electronic music artist (to whom Carpenter’s scores are hugely, weirdly influential), or that I am just a person who loves the movie Big Trouble In Little China THAT much.

I won’t leave you hanging.  It’s because I love the movie a lot.  I get the sense that I’m not alone in the realm of the internet.  I could qualify that love; I could add a postscript that I like to write to movie scores and instrumental music, or go on and on about the importance of John Carpenter’s work on the landscape of popular culture, but look, none of that is going to get me laid in time for Valentine’s Day Weekend.  It’s what it is, and so shall it ever be.

John Carpenter’s most acknowledged classics are Halloween and The Thing, and possibly Escape From New York.  Beyond that, the idea of where the rest of Carpenter’s movies fit within the realm of canon seems to be debated.  Not by me, mind you – I firmly believe that the man’s filmmaking mojo was untouchable from at least the release of Assault On Precinct 13 (1976) to that of They Live (1988).  That’s one hell of a run!

It hardly seems arguable to me that, as long as there is an auteur theory, John Carpenter should get his rightful due from the highbrow film establishment as one of the luminaries of the last thirty years.  The reasons why he doesn’t get revered in the way that contemporaries like Spielberg and Scorsese do is because, like Michael Mann, Carpenter’s best-known work came a little later than theirs, and, unlike all of them, all of Carpenter’s work is in the less reputable genres of horror, action, and science fiction.  Of course, the auteur theory is generally a flawed one:  Carpenter’s films wouldn’t be what they are without the contributions of many writers, co-writers, actors, cinematographers, even other composers.  All the same, here’s the test:  Pick up on any sequence – even a single shot – from a John Carpenter film at random, and odds are it wouldn’t take long to identify it as a John Carpenter film.  His films are united by a look, a sound, a vibe, that other movies could never have.

Of course, this perspective didn’t spring on me immediately.  I was to formulate that grandiose opinion much later on in my movie-watching development.  To follow a director that closely, you have to start with one movie, and for me, at first, there was Big Trouble In Little China.  It started out as a “big brother” movie – you know, the ones you’re not supposed to watch as a kid, but finally get to anyway, when the right influence relents.  My friend Jay Roberts and I slipped into the basement den where his older brother and his buddies were watching it, and we hid behind his chair, until he noticed us there, and actually let us watch the rest.  I was ten.  That was huge.

Carpenter has called the movie “an action-adventure-comedy Kung Fu ghost story monster movie,” which is not only accurate, but everything a ten-year-old boy with a big imagination wants from a movie.  Also, its main character is a trucker, which is what I wanted to grow up to be.  (Weird, true fact.)  It’s the definition of a cult film – no one will ever classify or study Big Trouble In Little China as an important movie (yours truly excepted), but when pressed, many would admit that this is the kind of joint they’d much rather be watching on a Friday night.

Okay, so real quick for the few who haven’t yet had the pleasure:

Jack Burton (played by Kurt Russell, the DeNiro to Carpenter’s Scorsese, this time out doing a hit-and-miss John Wayne impersonation) is a trucker who is owed some gambling money by his old friend, San Francisco Chinatown restaurateur Wang Chi (played by Dennis Dun, very likable).  Before paying up, Wang asks Jack if he will accompany him to the airport, where he is picking up his fiancée.  At the airport, the girl is kidnapped by street thugs, since she is the rare Chinese girl who has green eyes.  To rescue the girl, Jack and Wang have to venture into the Chinatownunderworld, and to face its overlord, David Lo Pan, played by the busy character actor James Hong in a seriously immortal performance.  I’m not kidding, it’s unforgettable.  If for no other reason, watch the movie for this guy.

 

Lindsay Lo Pan

 

In a shocking dual role, Lo Pan is a wizened old husk of a man, but also a hundreds-year-old ghost warlord demon who is cursed and who can only become flesh-and-blood again by marrying the girl with green eyes.  In addition to a small army of fake cops, cheesy gang members, and kung fu warriors, Lo Pan has three supernatural enforcers, The Three Storms (Thunder, Rain, and Lightning), who will look familiar to anyone lucky enough to have seen Shogun Assassin.  And he has a couple monsters too – The Guardian, which is a floating blob covered with eyeballs, and The Wild Man, which is basically a werewolf, only Asian (and therefore probably my favorite character in the entire movie).  Wang brings in some allies too, best of all being the excellently named local wizard Egg Shen — played by Victor Wong, in the film’s other legendary performance.  A post-Porky’s, pre-Sex In The City Kim Cattrall is in the movie too, but mostly just to run rapid neo-Hawks dialogue with Kurt Russell in a gratifyingly anti-romantic subplot.  No kid wants to see Jack Burton ride off at the end with some lady riding shotgun in the Porkchop Express.

It’s a kitchen sink kind of a movie, obviously – or more accurately, a Chinese buffet of a movie.  Which is some of the most fun you can have.  Twenty-some years later, I can surely see where the corniness lives, most obviously in the unfortunate sculpting of most of the haircuts present.  But overall, it still works for me, almost as much as it did when I was ten.  I’m still struck by the energy of the thing.  If I wanted to be halfway pretentious about it, I might make the assertion that Big Trouble In Little China was the first action movie of the video-game era (either that or its studiomate from 1986, the much better-received Aliens).  It’s even structured like a video game, with the way the characters descend through several levels to meet their objective, squaring off with increasingly more dangerous enemies as they go.  And there’s even a “reset” or a “do-over” – when they don’t rescue the girl on the initial try, they go back with more allies and bigger guns.

This is also an example of what could be called the cinema of escalation:  A fantastical story that leads an audience towards buying into its most fantastical elements by starting out in the “real world”, and methodically ramping up the crazy situations and characters while never losing track, always healthily maintaining the suspension of disbelief.  In that way, the closest cousin to Big Trouble In Little China that I can think of at the moment is probably Ghostbusters, which is never a bad comparison to be drawn.  Hey, after all, Big Trouble In Little China has ghosts too.  (Also it shares a visual effects supervisor, Richard Edlund.)

Now about that soundtrack, composed by John Carpenter “in association with” Alan Howarth.

The score is of a piece with the movie, which is to say that it’s incredibly entertaining, sometimes corny, extremely insane, and most importantly – propulsive.  The score matches the editing, and it MOVES.  It’s functional, which is frankly an unsung virtue of a good score.  It also smartly delineates character, with its darkly regal Lo Pan orchestrations, its varying strains recurring during the appearances of the Storms, its eerie themes suggesting the ancient pseudo-mythology of the movie and even the driving rhythms under several of the action scenes which resemble nothing so much as an 18-wheeler idling, apropos for Jack Burton’s profession.

Like most of the scores from Carpenter’s movies, the music is almost entirely done on synthesizers.  In the liner notes, Carpenter and Howarth discuss how much fidelity they paid to authentic Chinese music, which is to say, none.  They went after sounds and themes that sounded Chinese to them, rather than working arduously to replicate realism.  I actually respect this approach.  I’m not sure it would’ve helped the movie to have that much attention to detail.  Big Trouble In Little China is a tribute to the kung fu B-epics of the 1970s – it’s very Shaw Brothers.  Reality is not this film’s ultimate aim.  Some might say that such musical guesswork is the methodology of the Ugly American, but personally I’m more irritated by cultural imitations.  Carpenter and Howarth are owning up to their lack of authoritative expertise in all things Chinese, and giving it a shot anyway, and in its own way, that’s charming.  Besides, Dennis Dun’s character is more the traditional hero of Big Trouble In Little China.  He’s the young, clean-cut lead out to rescue his lady love.  Conversely, Kurt Russell’s character is the ultimate Ugly American (John Wayne bluster and all) – therefore, these cultural concerns are actually structured into the film.  It’s all just a little bit subversive, though of course, not at all Important with the capital vowel bolded.  It’s difficult to call racism or even exploitation (though some apparently tried, during the initial theatrical run) when the film in question is so silly, or more to the point, when the two most charismatic performances in the entire movie are from two elderly Chinese men.  What other big-studio American action picture has given us that?

That’s the basic conclusion I’m drawing here, by talking about the score in specific and the movie overall – Big Trouble In Little China is an anomaly, a curiosity, and a legitimate original.  This is why a cult has grown around this movie, and the cult is not giving signs of going away.  Almost makes me wonder what else I was right about at ten years old.  Cheers!

Get at me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

 
Yet another found-footage exorcism movie has hit big at the box office.  This weekend it was The Devil Inside.  Next weekend, who knows?  Some dork is probably planning one right now.  If folks can shell out hard-earned shekels to see that kind of exploitative junk, they should most certainly feel obligated to watch an underseen horror movie from one of the genre’s maddest practitioners, Sam Raimi.  Here’s a cluster of hype-man pieces I wrote regarding Drag Me To Hell back in 2009, both anticipating and then shouting the praises of its release.  This movie still feels underrated.  Give it a try if you haven’t. 
 
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So Drag Me To Hell came out on DVD today. I’m sitting here now with it in hand, and of course, I cracked that sucker open already, having just watched the unrated version. You can’t see me, but I’m smiling.

Horror movies, at their best, are the purest form of cinema. Drama must have speech to be effective, even at the expense of the pictorial end of the art. Comedies can coast on visual humor for a while, but even they eventually need a cushion of words. Horror, however, needs only the most basic tools of the cinematic vocabulary: Sound design and image and motion and as little meat on the bones as possible. Good horror movies are like skeletons that can walk and talk. (And some of them even feature talking skeletons. I have a special love for those, but that’s another story.) In the great Universal tradition, Drag Me To Hell is admirable in its simplicity. It’s a spectral locomotive, engineered expressly to deliver chills and laughs, and it is entirely successful in that goal, even when you’ve seen it before and you know what’s coming.

Less certain is what, if anything, Drag Me To Hell is meant to say. Some great works of horror are able to reflect and/or comment on the world around them and the people who habitate it. Examples of movies in this vein are The Exorcist, Night Of The Living Dead, and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers; examples of novels that do this are Dracula, I Am Legend, and much of Stephen King’s work. Horror can serve as social commentary if intended as such, or it can simply channel the unspoken fears or anxieties of modern society of its time. Thinking about Drag Me To Hell in that way, however, probably won’t lead to much. As sincerely as I adore Sam Raimi’s movies, I’ve always seen him as more of a showman than a philosopher. His movies are meant to entertain – sometimes to make you laugh, sometimes to creep you out, occasionally to make you feel – but always ever is the goal entertainment. 

Christine Brown, the protagonist of Drag Me To Hell, isn’t a bad person. She makes a snap decision that hurts someone, but she has clear motives and she regrets it immediately. She wouldn’t have needed the torment she goes through in order to feel bad about what she did, and she certainly doesn’t deserve her fate. Nor does her boyfriend, Clay, deserve what he ends up experiencing, even if he is played by Justin Long. Clay is written as a guy with specific social and personal pressures, ultimately a decent person – as is Christine. If Drag Me To Hell hasany morality message at all, it’d be that “deserve’s got nothing to do with it.” Honestly, I don’t think Raimi is even saying that much here. The personal details that we learn about the characters are only enough to make us care about them to the extent that Raimi needs us to – if we invest in them at all, it makes the ride that much more thrilling. But we’re not meant to leave the theater thinking about Christine and Clay; we’re meant to leave the theater with a smile.  Really, all we’re meant to do is jump and shriek and laugh maniacally.  Raimi isn’t trying to make us think; not during, and not afterwards. And that’s just fine. When a movie works as well as Drag Me To Hell, “entertaining” is all it needs to be. Sometimes entertainment without message or consequence can be cathartic on its own terms, and therefore is as valuable an experience as any movie with loftier aims.

That’s the scholar in me talking. Sometimes I get serious about these things because I believe that they deserve the consideration. Drag Me To Hell will not be talked about by critics or film students or Oscar pundits as one of the best movies of 2009, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t. Okay, got that all out of my system. Now let’s lighten the mood, huh?

 

Below are the two pieces I wrote this past summer on Drag Me To Hell. They’re interesting because one was written right before I saw it, and the other was written directly afterwards. I had a pretty secure feeling that I was going to like it, but I didn’t know how much. Neither are meant to be too serious. Enjoy them – then go see the movie [again]!

 

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Top 10 Reasons I Can’t WAIT To See *Drag Me To Hell* Tomorrow.
  
 
I won’t be writing a review of Drag Me To Hell, the new horror movie co-written and directed by Sam Raimi which opens tomorrow, because who am I to appraise the work of the master?
 
But I’ll tell you this much – I can’t WAIT.
 
I’m not a horror super-fan, I don’t think, but I’m a film connoisseur and a movie lover and I would argue that on the merits of Evil Dead 2 alone, Sam Raimi deserves mention with the greats. That movie is creepy and hilarious and pure and original and visually innovative. And that’s not all Raimi’s done, of course – I love that he’s experimented in many genres, and much of his mainstream work is incredible. I love his Spider-Man pictures (yes, even the deeply flawed third chapter), but since he’s been doing those for almost a decade now, I bet Raimi is amping to let loose some of the anarchic energy he’s revered for by movie nuts worldwide, and Drag Me To Hell looks like that ticket. I’m sold.
Here’s a couple more reasons, so that you’ll all join me:
 
10. Old lady monster. Last time we saw this in a Sam Raimi movie, it was Army of Darkness. Before that, it was Evil Dead 2. Before that, it was Evil Dead 1. This is a good sign.
 
9. Sam Raimi wrote it with his brother Ivan Raimi. Other movies written by the Raimi brothers: Darkman; Army of Darkness.
 
8. Demon hands from hell on the movie poster. Demon hands from hell on the poster mean hell-demons in the movie. Bonus!
 
7. Cinematography by Peter Deming. He’s back! Deming is the guy who shot Evil Dead 2 for Raimi (and Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive for David Lynch), so he knows his way around creepy and disturbing images. And his last movie was The Love Guru with Mike Myers and the comedy mastermind Justin Timberlake (sarcasm alert), so I’m hoping Deming is in a demolition kind of mood himself.
 
6. Ted Raimi cameo – duh.
 
5. In all the pre-interviews, Raimi keeps stressing that Drag Me To Hell is an audience picture. From what he promises, and from what I’ve heard, it’s going to be gory and goofy and wild. Be like me – find the biggest, most unruly audience in town and sit down in the middle of the theater.
 
4. A lead female role is rare, if not unique, in Raimi movies. Usually his female characters, particularly if they’re pretty, are idealized, less nuanced than the dudes, even dull by comparison – the best exception being Bridget Fonda’s Lady Macbeth update in A Simple Plan. It’ll be interesting to see how Alison Lohman fits into the Raimi tradition.
 
3. The title. Drag Me To Hell. It sings! It makes me sing. I’ve been crooning an imaginary theme song all morning. It’s fun for me, if no one else. Give it a try yourself!
 
2. Something truly horrible is bound to happen to Justin Long.
 
1. Seriously folks – if you have even a passing interest in horror movies and, I venture to say, in the art of cinema itself, you don’t need nine other reasons to see a Sam Raimi horror movie on opening weekend. The man is an innovator. He’s a crowd-pleaser and a showman, with the technical ability to keep the critics and the scholars just as happy as everybody else. Best of all, he’s a prankster and (on film at least) a madman, and we need as many of those as we can get, out there making movie mayhem.
 
05/29/2009
 
 
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Drag Me To Hell: My Knee-Jerk Reaction.
 
 
Promised I wouldn’t review Drag Me To Hell, and I’m holding to that. On the other side of seeing it for the first time, all I’d want to report is that it’s fantastic. Oh, did I love this movie.
 
Go see it! Don’t read about it. Go in blind, and go with the biggest audience you can. This movie works on an audience in such a primal way. It’s old-fashioned in all the best senses of the word – Raimi and his producers described it in all the pre-release press as a “spook-a-blast,” which is a William Castle-style appellation which totally fits. It’s a spook-a-blast! And that’s all you need to know about it beforehand – you wouldn’t read a review of a roller coaster before you hopped on, would you? There’s not much I can add to what is already exactly right on point, except of course my own absurd observations and ‘iconoclastic’ reflections.
 
Here’s just a few:
 
* Hey Justin: Why the Long face? (If I’m the only one who laughs at that one, I’m still good.)
 
* Along those lines: Drag Me To Hell turns out to be the rare cinematic argument AGAINST dating nerds. I will not explain, but let’s just say that a guy’s hobbies can undo his major plans.
 
* On the plus side, Drag Me To Hell will hopefully incite a spike inn generosity and kindliness towards ethnically ambiguous old crones. Be nice to gypsies, young’uns, else they curse ye…
 
* A lesson Sam Raimi has absorbed after nearly thirty years of filmmaking: Asn wonderful as terrorizing Bruce Campbell is, it’s even more enjoyable to throw tons of water and mud at a pretty girl in a tank-top.
 
* David Paymer has sad eyes. [That one is TM & © my movie-going compadre, but it’s too apt an observation not to share.]
 
* Repeated threatening of cats makes a movie good.
 
* So do goat puppets.
 
* I can’t wait for the transvestite community to embrace this movie. Expect an lot of “Drag Me To Hell” parties across Chelsea and West Hollywood this October.
 
* Since the movie was rated PG-13, I can’t be too bothered by the parents whon brought their baby along to the screening I attended. But I would enjoy the opportunity to speak with that baby a couple decades from now, just to see how this early developmental influence takes root.
 
Again, you MUST see this movie with a crowd. Some of the audience reactionsn I overheard were nearly as entertaining as the film itself. One in particular is likely to become my new battle cry:
 
“Put your hand on the goat! Put your damn hand on the fuckin’ goat!”
 
Drag Me To Hell is now playing in wide release.
 
05/29/2009