Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Film Review: Drag Me To Hell

Good ol' Sam has stuck to his guns and stayed with the EC Comics/Pulp Horror Fanzine template that made Evil Dead 1 & 2 so great and everybody's in an uproar. OF COURSE "Drag Me to Hell" is awesome. Now I know people who know people who know Sam VERY WELL (as in editor Bob Murawsky, dog) and no way was he going to fuck up a little horror flick, because he's no doubt the same dude who made the Super-8s with Tapert, Ivan, Ted, and Bruce Campbell back in the 70s in Detroit with his dad's beat up Delta 88. Only now he's got some CG action going (but not TOO much). No doubt those jaded by all the brutal horror stuff out there are screaming about how something that's PG-13 (and it's a STRONG PG-13) with no blood and guts can't be scary and disturbing. Well, kids (and they are kids), this movie's not for you. It doesn't "push the limits" or "make a statement" in the postmodern sense of the nu-horror. What it does is deal with HELL (as in HADES) as a real frickin' fiery possibility, and if that's not heavy in the Miltonian sense of the old-horror, then what is?

DMTH reminded me of an extra long episode from George A. Romero's "Creepshow", a nasty morality play where bad choices lead to bad situations lead to...well...eternal damnation. Our heroine is a basic faceless do-gooder who gets trapped in a no-win deal that she'll never get out of. The "hero" is non-existent, as Jason Long's eternally suffering boyfriend actually ends up the one who actually "drags" her into the abyss at the end (I won't tell you how, and it's not really his fault; what Sam's dealing with here is fate with a capital F). They even throw in a cool mystic/fakir right out of a carnival (another EC Comics device), who tries in vain to aid the damsel in distress. Add a deranged seance (with shades of Ellen Sandweiss in "Evil Dead 1") that includes a talking goat, a pet sacrifice (complete with Raimi-esqe dry humor), and a Ten Commandments level grave resurrection and you've got a powerhouse of a little movie. And the ending? Awesome.

So go, make fun, say Sam Raimi made a "little" horror movie that people shouldn't care about. I say this is a heavy movie, man. There's theology, philosophy, grand drama of Dostoevskyan dimensions. Crime and Punishment, War and Peace, What goes around comes Around....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Film Review: Martyrs

"Martyrs" is the latest uber-horror-gore film from France, which means it MUST be awesome, no? The critics are drooling and twittering over this, so I had to check it out; for a first at Grim Horror, I had a viewing partner in crime, Dave Depraved of Grindhouse Releasing. We soaked up every drop on Dave's dad's 8000 inch hi-def screen and it wasn't pretty.

It starts out ok, where we see (in that typically modern torture porn hazy color-saturated quick jump pov flashback style) that some little French girl has been unimaginably tortured (but not sexually, as if that makes it all the more incomprehensible and hideous) in some Eli Roth inspired factory of dripping horror. She escapes, and becomes bff with another girl at the orphanage, and we are given the prerequisite flashbacks and whatnot. Cut to 15 years later and a seemingly normal family is having breakfast in the French countryside. Enter the abused girl, grown up all Rambo style, and she blows away Ma, Pa, and the two kids with a shotgun in nouveau horror broootal fashion. Apparently the farmers were the original torturers. But all is not as it seems of course. Her friend comes to the house for the cleanup and they are beset upon by some ambiguous attic-dwelling creature out of my beloved horror hack Richard Laymon's "The Cellar". The cinematography is all dark and whatnot like most horror movies these days and we're not sure if the mutant beast is in her mind or is another torture victim in the house, but it doesn't really matter; things eventually come to a point where the original torture girl kills herself (we don't really know why, but this is France, right?) and the friend becomes a pawn in the game of the evil torture freaks. This is where I completely lost touch with all seriousness as Dave and I turned the movie into an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 meets Philosophy 101

It seems this farmhouse is like torture central, a veritable museum of torture, with underground deprivation chambers, goth-inspired torture wear, and ersatz Einsatzgruppen shock troopers. Then there's "Mademoisselle", who looks like Pink Floyd The Wall's Mother as channelled by Devine, who spouts off Clive Barkeresque ponderisms about the importance of pleasure and pain, and transcendence through suffering. The screenwriters have obviously read the Cliff Notes for Nietzsche and seen lots of Marilyn Manson videos so they know what they're talking about. The final third of the movie is the girl friend ascending to martyrdom through ultimate suffering, until she finally reveals the secret of the universe. It's very brutal, very philosophical, very bloody, very French, and very boring. THESE FILMMAKERS HAVE SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO SAY!!

I liked "Inside" alot, and I even liked "Haute Tension" (despite the "twist" ending). They were intense movies like a roller coaster of doom; no message to impart to the viewer, just sheer horror on a very small scale. "Martyrs" brings in a whole subcultutre of pretentious decadence that just falls flat. Everybody's jaded, and the clique we see at the end of this movie is the same as the Italians in "Salo" and the businessmen in "Hostel". Totally empty. oo)))