Monday, 15 February 2010

Drag Met To Hell

It's not a drag! Gosh, what a witty opener. Sam Raimi's 2009 horror movie sort of passed me by at the time, but I've found a window in my immensely busy schedule to view that the young folk call a DVD of this cinematic offering. And I enjoyed it.

The basic structure of the movie bears a surely-not-accidental resemblance to that of Curse/Night of the Demon. We begin in 1969 by seeing someone literally dragged to hell by a demon, then we jump forward to find modern day bank worker Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) having a tough day. She is told by her boss that, if she wants to get that vital promotion, she needs to show she can be tough as well as smart and efficient. So - you guessed it - Miss Brown is tough with an old gypsy woman whose house is being repossesed. And wackiness ensues.

The basic conceit of M.R. James' 'Casting the Runes' is adhered to here, as in Jacques Tourneur's post-war classic. But in style and mood DMTH couldn't be more different. There's much OTT 'gross out' humour, for a start. Quite a few of the gorier, yuckier scenes depend on the very old gimmick of 'is it just a dream?' But there's enough going on to always keep your interest, and even surprise you. And the ending is a superb homage to the railway scene in C/NOTD.

Along the way we get plenty of thrills and spills, and more than a few good idea. For instance, Raimi underines the importance of blood sacrifice in traditional magic. Fresh blood pleases the demons/gods, as any classical fule kno. Secondly, the actual behaviour of the demon zeroing in on Christine is refreshingly old-fashioned, in that it behaves like the entities in medieval legends. It knocks her about and smashes her place up, basically.

Other good ingredients include an Indian mystic who takes credit cards, an ageing medium determined to beat the demon in a rematch, and Christine's boyfriend Clay (Justin Long), the rational academic who has to take this crazy stuff seriously. Another splendid performance comes from Lorna Raver as the sinister Mrs Ganush.

My only reservation is rather recondite, I suppose. It's made clear that the demon attacking Christine is called Lamia. Now we know that Lamia, or the Lamia, is not the conventional horned and hoofed demon of Christian fantasy. Lamia is traditionally represented as a snake-woman, and often rather beautiful when in non-ophidian mode. So why did Raimi, a reasonably bright chap, make such a mistake? Did something go wrong at the script-development stage? Was the demon originally supposed to be a snake woman?

Ah well. Here's a nudie picture. Of Lamia, I hasten to add.

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