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Caffeinated Clint : Funny, Blood!

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I lived at the cinema as a kid – and that’s not an exaggeration. My mother worked at the local Village Cinema, and being that she was without partner at the time (and didn’t have enough money to fill her tank up with petrol, let alone afford a nanny), I’d be forced to come along with her – plonked in a soft cinema cushion to watch whatever was showing that given day.

I remember zigzagging through the foyer, checking out the posters for all the upcoming movies (it’s funny the things you remember – I still remember spotting the poster for “The Outsiders” for the first time), in-between viewings of films. And it didn’t matter what was on, I watched it – “Annie” (probably saw that half-a-dozen times in its initial theatrical release), “The Pirate Movie” (remember it? Christopher Atkins?), “Two of a Kind” (I recall it having ‘advanced screenings’ – – how that campaign backfired!), “The Breakfast Club” (don’t know that I quite got the ‘message’ at the time – but that Emilio Estevez sure did dance funny!), the “Star Wars” trilogy (for a while there it seemed like Lucas’s space saga would screen as a triple feature most Saturday afternoons), “Staying Alive”… the list goes on.

The film’s that stuck in my mind though, and could very well have led me on my path (whatever that path is), were those campy horror classics of the 80s. You know what I’m talking about, right?– “Blood Diner”, “Deadly Friend” (Remember the ads!? How cool were they!? The campaign was actually reminiscent of the one Lionsgate used for the “My Bloody Valentine” remake this year), “Ghoulies”, “Evil Dead II : Dead by Dawn” (just had to see that the moment I spotted the ad for it in the paper – – dude! Smiling skull-face! Bring it on!), “Fright Night”!….

And when I think of those kinda films – old-school horror films that truly scared the brown out of ya, whilst evoking uncontrollable giggles, I find I never think of anything past 1988 (“Scream” and so on, are different – I don’t think anyone was truly ‘scared’ watching those flicks; they’re too self-referential and unlike the earlier films, not played as earnestly). Even as I type, I’m finding it hard to come up with an example of a film ‘like those’ in recent years….. well, one I’ve seen prior to this year anyway.

Thanks to Sam Raimi, we’re all (well, everyone that’s not going to see that cinematic migraine – “Transformers : Revenge of the Fallen”) going to experience that feeling of the ‘cinema hoot’ again. The film is called “Drag Me to Hell”, and I tell ya, it made me feel like a 12-year-old kid all-over-again. The only thing missing? Shy pre-teen date, oversized bucket of popcorn, and my cassette walkman. But otherwise, This is it! This is a return to good old silly, scary cinema!

There mightn’t be a guy in crimson tights scaling tall buildings in Sam Raimi’s latest, but there’s still a wealth of cobwebs, creepy crawlies and all sorts of disgusting things shooting from the most unexpected places of the human body. But Peter Parker and Mrs Ganush are definitely from different worlds.

After riding the cash-cow that is the superhero-movie genre the past few years, “Drag Me to Hell” marks Raimi’s return to the world of horror – or rather, the horror/comedy. The filmmaker, who made his name as the director of the cheap, low-budget “Evil Dead” series (a film he shot at college with friends, which later went on to become a bonafide box-office smash, and now, cult classic), makes a formidable return to the scare-factory here… serving up a film that’s calculatedly amusing, but equally as frightening. If there’s one thing you can say about Sam Raimi, it’s that he knows how to give audiences a good time.

Performed ever-so-earnestly by it’s core cast, but directed with a scrumptiously over-the-top and slightly camp undertone, the Sam & Ivan Raimi-penned pic plays out like an old-school horror movie that’s been rewritten by Stephen King (in fact, the storyline’s not that dissimilar to King’s “Thinner”). It’s the tale of Christine Brown (the always-wonderful Alison Lohman), a loan officer whose forced – if she wants that job promotion, she better! – to evict an old woman, Mrs Ganush (a wonderful Lorna Raver) from her home – only to end up cursed by the “shamed” old bat. Haunted by an evil spirit and misunderstood by a sceptical boyfriend (Justin Long), Christine seeks the aid of seer Rham Jas (Dileep Rao) to save her soul from eternal damnation.

You’ll be both on the edge-of-your-seat, and beside it in fits of laughter – as our heroine encounters all sorts of hilariously ghastly creatures (largely, the repulsive old bat at the center of the picture) and finds herself embroiled in a rather ridiculous situation. It’s the perfect balance of lunges and laughs – which, as “Evil Dead” fans will attest to, is a Raimi specialty.

“Drag Me to Hell” is a watertight masterpiece. It’s truly one of the funnest and most frightening pictures in years; I personally can’t recall having this much fun at the cinema. And if you don’t feel the same way – you might want to pay a visit to the mortuary; you could’ve passed away in your sleep.

I implore you, check out “Drag Me to Hell” before it leaves the multiplex and your only option is to experience it on a 52-inch television set.

Side Note : Sam Raimi has given me both the worst (“The Grudge”) cinematic experience and now the best (“Drag Me to Hell”) in recent years.

To end, let’s check out the trailers for some of the great funbag frightfests of the 80s….

Deadly Friend (1986)

Ghoulies (1985)

Fright Night (1985)

Evil Dead 2 (1987)

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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