We roll into half time topping last week’s tally with a dozen movies. Was it a particularly stressful week (some people claim horror movies ease anxiety)? Were the cold temperatures a great excuse to stay inside and binge? Maybe it was a full day in the test kitchen replicating a perfect yellow cupcake and trying a not-so-perfect ganache. Let’s go with all three.
When my brother-in-arms successfully escaped the extreme haunt, he described The Raimi Effect and specifically the off-balancing scenes that makes Drag Me to Hell one of the greatest horror movies ever. Oops! I hadn’t seen Drag Me to Hell - a fact I kept that to myself before adding it to my Vudu library the minute I got home. Scripted after The Evil Dead series, it was not be made for another 15 or so years. It appears that Raimi got busy.
This film is not listed as a comedy horror but from the beginning you know you are into something reminiscent of the Evil Dead films. The opening scene is frightening, but once the old woman presented at the bank for an extension of her home loan, I didn’t know whether to laugh or recoil. So I did both. I also waited in vain for Bruce Campbell to appear. He did not and in fact, Drag Me to Hell is the only film directed by Raimi that does not include Campbell. It does include the Oldsmobile as well as a cameo of Raimi, see if you can find him.
I agree with my brother’s description of Rami’s brilliant use of the disturbing in lieu of gore to upset your equilibrium and build fear and suspense. The gypsy woman in the car, and again at the wake, and finally in the grave. Also the goat at the seance and the prospective mother-in-law. I did not think this was the greatest horror film ever, but I agree that combined with The Evil Dead trilogy, it Drag Me to Hell belongs on your annual watchlist.
While this was an unusually bingeful week, most of the films are repeats, a call back to how the moviefest originally began - horror movies as background to busy days in the kitchen. In addition to Drag Me to Hell, first time films include As Above So Below, Malevolent and Rings.
What’s in a name? It turns out - a lot. At least for some people, including me. I admit I had never seen Drag Me to Hell before because of the name. Ditto for As Above So Below. All I did was cheat myself out of a couple of good films until now. If you have even the slightest amount of claustrophobia or fear of getting lost with no hope of being found, As Above will kick that up a notch with a plot out of Dante’s Inferno through the catacombs beneath Paris. I caught myself taking lots of deep breaths along with a sunshine break.
Malevolent is a Netflix original that, in my opinion, could have been so much more. A team of fake ghost hunters find themselves in over their heads when they are hired to investigate a haunted house. In contrast to The Open House, Malevolent at least has a plot even if it isn’t all that original. What this movie lacked in character development it made up for with some cheap jump scares and disturbing gore. It’s too bad because you sense that Angela might actually have a gift, that there is something more going on with the Jackson family, and that there is a real story behind the haunted orphanage.
Rings, on the other hand, is simply the sequel after the sequel. Enough said. Watch it if you want to see The Ring again, but with lesser characters attempting to tell a new story that is really a failed attempt to resurrect the old plot. For me, the best part about the movie was the poster.
If I had stopped at 7 movies in 7 days, then I would have kept up with around a record of half new films, but what’s the fun in that? The week started with Kubrick’s version of The Shining, a film I have a love/hate relationship with. Lately I am more love than hate, but the ending steals a bit of my soul every time I see it. I can get past everything else, and I have, but I still have not reconciled the final scene.
Favorite all stars this week included The Omen, Oculus, 1408, and The Conjuring which, 5 years after it was released, still holds the honor of the scariest film I have seen. Close seconds are Constantine and Mine Games, a film that I happily get lost in as I see something new every time. Insidious 3 rounded out the reruns. Far from being an all star, it is a prequel after the sequel that actually holds up.
Check back for a review of Halloween as the Allmans take a rare trip to the theater on opening weekend.