Thursday, November 12, 2009

Modern horror sucks?

Good new horror isn't any more rare; let's face it, there's always been a lot of crap in the genre. The crap is just much more visible, because it makes money. But I watched two goodies from this year recently. Sadly, only one was released in theaters- Sam Raimi's take on the gypsy curse, Drag Me to Hell- while the excellent horror anthology Trick 'r Treat languished for a year until it finally went straight to DVD in time for this Halloween.
Now, I love Sam Raimi's work. Ever since we rented a scrungy copy of The Evil Dead, after seeing the claymation commercial and hearing tell of the infamous tree rape, his morbid sense of humor and Three Stooges comic timing have always tickled my funny bone. My favorite is still Evil Dead 2, mostly because it's still scary, unlike Army of Darkness, which has its own charms. Drag Me to Hell is a lot like ED2. The story? Christine Brown is a loan officer at a bank, hoping for a big promotion; the boss tells her she needs to make tough decisions. So when an old woman wants a third extension on her mortgage, she tells her no. Even when she begs, and throws herself at her feet. Bad move. Poor Christine- a farm girl who's moved to the big city, and wants to cast away her roots- gets ambushed by the old woman in the parking lot, assaulted by her grimy dentures and finally, made the recipient of what turns out to be the nastiest of gypsy curses. That of the lamia, the black goat of the underworld. She doesn't know at first, but when she goes to an Indian psychic, he sees the mark on her soul, Her boyfriend- Mac Guy Justin Long- is ready to pop the big question, but his rich parents look down their snooty noses at the "farm girl," and now her sudden superstitiousness makes everything go awry.
The evil spirit, the psychic tells her, will torment her for three days, then drag her soul to hell. It may be appeased by sacrifice, however... The demon's torments are imaginative, spooky and sometimes downright gross in the Raimi tradition. The story unfolds like a "Tales from the Crypt" episode, and we know Christine is going to pay for her lack of empathy. And who doesn't want to see a banker who's foreclosing on an old lady wake up next to a maggot-ridden corpse? Can she redeem herself? I loved this movie. It's not the scariest, or the funniest, but it's Raimi returning to what he loves, and it's great fun. Alison Lohman, of the underrated Matchstick Men, plays Christine and does a fine job. It's a big difference from her other roles, and she builds a believable, yet archetypal character that suits the story perfectly.
Raimi keeps us guessing to the end if Christine can fend off the lamia, shift its vengeance elsewhere, or appease the gypsy curse, and I loved every minute of it. A few minutes in the second act were tough to love, but who doesn't like falling anvils? The CG effects weren't the best, but they weren't laughable either. This one's a great rental for a spooky night of fun.

Trick 'r Treat is probably the best Creepshow-alike we'll see for a long time. I heard they were gonna remake that, and cringed. This is the way to go; interwoven stories set in a creepy suburban town on Halloween night, made by a storyteller not afraid to send slavering ghouls after children, show us who really wears all those sexy costumes, and have little monsters, both human and non- take bites out of our ankles.
At only 82 minutes, the anthology is trim and lean, yet manages to interweave its tales in a Pulp Fiction fashion without feeling derivative or letting its slip show. We begin with a couple cleaning up their decorations a little early, while a little Jack O'Lantern-headed urchin watches, with mischief in mind. Later, we get to see what a serial killer does on Halloween. And some girls try on costumes, like the favorite Sexy Red Riding Hood, and so on. And get hassled by a creepy vampire fan. Drunken swinger parents answer the door for trick or treaters, kids play pranks on each other, including visiting the local quarry where a bus full of deranged kids plunged into the water 30 years ago... and their spirits are not at rest. All the while, the local monsters are having a party of their own...
There are a lot of surprises in store, and the stories are all linked, so I'm being very tight-lipped about what happens. Just trust me, if you want a good horror anthology, this one's worth a rental. So why was it relegated to direct to DVD hell? The writer-director worked on Bryan Singer's abysmal flop Superman Returns, and this was made by Singer's production company. A damn shame; it's quite good, and lots of fun. I may have liked it even more than Drag Me to Hell! Anna Paquin and Brian Cox, plus the pedo from Happiness whose name I always forget, play very memorable roles.

4 comments:

Mercurie said...

I have to agree with you. While I do think good horror has been fewer in number than in past years (although I think the low point may've been the early Eighties), there are still good movies out there. I definitely want to see Drag Me to Hell and Trick 'r Treat both. I just got the latter in the post from Netflix and plan to watch it this weekend!

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I'm no fan of horror, but it does seem like a large amount of the BAD films each year are in this genre. Drag Me to Hell was enjoyable, I kept thinking they won't go there with the ending, but they did.

Reel Whore said...

These were both great films. It seems we can only get a couple of solid horror movies every year and these definitely top the list.

Alison Lohman was a trooper in DMTH. All the gunk and goo she had to endure.

Jay Amabile said...

I think Trick R Treat was WAY better than Drag Me To Hell.

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