Like many people I have recently developed a problem with Michael Bay, the director/producer behind such commercially orientated movies as the recent Transformers flicks and the incredibly dodgy (i.e. shite) big screen adaptation of Miami Vice. Michael Bay doesn’t really make movies at all anymore; instead he trots out overly long commercials for a wide range of useful products, from soft drinks to cars and movie tie-in happy meals.
That’s why so many people have difficulty with him, he takes the basic elements necessary to successfully sell you something and packages it in a special effects laden bag of crap with a Linkin Park soundtrack that he then chucks at fourteen year old boys, safe in the knowledge that the cash will soon come tumbling in. What really bothers me is how Michael treats his audience, like they’re just the worst kind of idiot who will buy anything; it’s as if he looks down his nose at the people who watch his movies. He’s supposed to be serving the audience in the cinema but seems to be more concerned with his advertisers and pushing their shit. As a salesman I’m sure he’s quite effective, but as a movie maker he really is the most base fucker out there!
Movies with too much CGI that treat their audience like fools have become a Michael Bay trademark of sorts, but unfortunately he is not the only film maker who operates like that.
Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell (2009) tells the terrifying tale of Christine Brown (played by Alison Lohman) as she tries to shake off her rural upbringing and make it big on the mean streets of L.A. as a loan officer for a high street bank. Scary.
Christine is up for a big promotion and this has an impact on the way she deals with a particular customer one day. An elderly woman of eastern European extraction, Mrs. Ganush, calls into the bank looking for an extension on her mortgage as she’s been ill and is having difficulty meeting her payments. The bank is about to foreclose on the loan and seize her house, so things are bad for Ganush. Christine decides to “make the tough decision” to impress her boss and declines the request. Ganush gets down on her knees and begs Christine to reconsider, but this just prompts security to throw her out, which shames the old woman terribly.
As many elderly eastern European women are (at least in the movies), Mrs. Ganush is in league with some kind of dark force and she puts a curse on Christine, promising that before three days have passed, Christine will be the one begging for help. Christine dismisses this of course, until that evening when, as she’s leaving the bank, she’s attacked by a sinister presence in the car park that turns out to be Ganush, who attacks her in a vicious manner using handkerchiefs and concrete blocks and bodily fluids.
Christine tries to shrug this off and seeks solace in her boyfriends arms. On the way home they stop so that she can get her fortune read. The fortune teller is well read and actually gifted in clairvoyance and he informs Christine that something terrible is cursing her and she’s in some serious trouble. The serious trouble is a demon called Lamia that torments its victims for three days before dragging them to Hell.
Christine soon takes the threat seriously and tries a variety of different techniques to shake off the curse, but as with any ancient evil there’s no guarantee that anything will work…
Drag Me To Hell has one of the most spectacular opening scenes in a film ever and the opening credits are a joy to behold in that they capture the essence of the great horror movies from the late sixties and early seventies. Watching the opening ten minutes of this movie reminded me of films like The Wicker Man and Witchfinder General, so I was full of hope and admiration from early on. As the movie progressed however my hopes and dreams were crushed and I was left a shell of my former self, angry for having been suckered in.
The main problems with Drag Me To Hell are as follows:
The Oscilloscope Effect:
The music gets quiet… there’s a shadow… then… BOOM!!! A REALLY LOUD NOISE!!! A FLASHING LIGHT!!!!!! SCARY!!!! Then the music gets quiet… there’s a shadow… then… BOOM!!! A REALLY LOUD NOISE!!! A FLASHING LIGHT!!!!!! SCARY!!!! Then the music gets quiet…
This is how each five minutes of the movie is structured. After the first two times it’s as boring as shit and it makes the film woefully predictable. If you’re a young man bringing a girl out for the first time then this would be a great film to bring her to (if she’s the sort to jump at movies. If on the other hand you’re a girl who doesn’t jump at this sort of thing then find a young bloke who does and bring him to see it – see, no sexism here!). Sam Raimi has used this trick in an effort to get you to jump as opposed to giving you a genuine fright and it’s an unfortunate patronising device. One reviewers comment on the DVD case is that DMTH is the “scariest movie of the decade” – trust me it’s not, being made to jump this way is not scary, it’s just a reflex from a loud noise.
The Bucket of Sick:
The other big problem is the dependence on gross-out scenes where bodily fluids and other materials are splashed into people’s mouths. The Ganush character pukes all sorts of things into Christine’s mouth at various times and while its gross the first time it happens too much. The puking is also a symptom of the other major problem.
The Xbox Live Subscription:
There is waaaaaay too much CGI in this film. All those bodily fluids and strange shadows are done on a computer and done badly. Other special effects that feature are just as bad, in particular the levitation scene is fucking appalling and is reminiscent of Scary Movie, with the levitating character literally dancing a jig just like in that film.
I love the idea of a horror movie about a curse, as a concept it’s a refreshing change from the run of the mill horror that gets made. But, Ganush had the ability to curse her enemies as well as having a propensity for violence, so how come she had such trouble paying the mortgage? For that matter, why did she have a mortgage at all? Couldn’t she use her powers to look after herself a little better?
And what’s the whole thing about Christine being fat as a kid? Was that just so the eastern European one could make a comment about how she used to be fat or was it about the ice creams? Ice Cream is mentioned at least twice and seems to have something to do with letting the audience know that Christine is under a little pressure. Really? No fucking shit Sherlock – she’s about to be dragged to Hell for an eternity as the plaything of the Devil and all his little goblins, I think it’s a safe bet that we could all figure out that she’s under a little strain (though it didn’t really effect her appetite).
One final big gripe. The poster/dvd cover is deceptive – the girl in the picture looks far hotter than the chick who’s in the movie:
Everything about Drag Me To Hell is lazy and commercial and that reinforces the notion that Sam Raimi didn’t care about his audience this time out. I wish I could have liked this movie more than I did, but I was deceived from the start, Drag Me To Hell was supposed to be more than it is.
Two Thumbs Down for Drag Me To Hell