Wednesday, 24 March 2010
This frenetic, endlessly entertaining film sees Sam Raimi going back to his roots and having an absolute ball doing what many would say he does best.
DRAG ME TO HELL opens in Pasadena, where a Mexican couple take their young son to a medium. Following the theft of jewelry from a band of gypsies, the little boy has been plagued by sights and sounds of a demonic nature, and the power from beyond the grave is sufficient to defeat his would-be saviour.
40 years later, ambitious loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is vying for promotion with her backstabbing co-worker, and hopes to demonstrate she's as tough as nails by turning down a mortgage extension by a down-on-her-luck gypsy who begs her for another chance. Christine just about survives a terrifying assault when the gypsy mounts a revenge attack, and finds her problems have only just begun as a series of physical and visual manifestations propel her towards the medium who must once again do battle with the forces of darkness.
With a multitude of 'JUMP' moments, and a nice mixture of gross-out horror and pure slapstick, DRAG ME TO HELL scores highly on entertainment with its breathless style rampaging through a remarkably quick 99m running time. Depending on your mood, you'll either be rooting for the main players or hoping they get their just deserts as almost every member of the cast is driven by greed and self-advancement. I have to say I enjoyed every minute, and we even get a nice old school nod to the classic NIGHT OF THE DEMON towards the end.
Lionsgate's Blu-ray contains 2 versions of this film, including the 'Unseen'version which adds several snippets not seen at the cinema; mostly extra blood during the scenes where she squirts blood from her nose, and is covered by the gypsy's brain matter.
Overall, this is one of the best Blu-ray transfers I've seen to date, and it's hard to find any problems regarding picture quality. Fleshtones are wonderfully vivid, and colours repeatedly pop, while night-time scenes reveal bags of detail.
Fingers crossed it won't be too long before Raimi hooks up with horror again.
Monday, 15 March 2010
Kathryn Bigelow first came to my attention by way of NEAR DARK: a modern day interpretation of things that go bite in the night that - for me- is right up there with other genre heavyweights from Ferrara, Romero and Jordan.
Since then, she's moved onto far more populist areas of cinema, en route to the ultimate accolade for any director.
Set in Iraq, THE HURT LOCKER centres on bomb disposal in one of the most dangerous places on earth, with Bravo Company facing one more month in their tour of duty.
William James (Jeremy Renner) arrives to replace a colleague he never knew,who died attempting to diffuse an explosive device. James quickly demonstrates his ability and courage, whilst also exhibiting a reckless spirit that may well put more than his own life at risk.
Of course, just about every Oscar success story has its own band of detractors and while Bigelow's film has received much critical acclaim, there have been a good number of pointed fingers signaling this film is over-hyped and delivers a disappointing ending.
For me, THE HURT LOCKER is absolutely solid on the acting front, and beautifully paced with nerve-shredding situations punctuating the comaderie and tensions that exist between the troops: just like the hell hole it depicts, an attack can come at any time in Bigelow's film and careful deployment of the savage fire of conflict or the carnage caused by explosions make them hit home all the harder. As far as the ending is concerned, all the information you need has played out in the preceding 2 hours and makes perfect sense.
Having reluctantly missed this film during its theatrical run, I plumped for a rental copy of the UK Blu-ray release, and found the transfer to be first-rate. Skin tones are realistic, there's bags of detail in the night-time scenes, while colours pop when they should. In fact there's little or nothing to criticise here, but the same cannot be said for the paucity of additional material. One would hope that a more loaded special edition will surface in the not-too-distant future, and I'm sure that will indeed be the case.