©2009 Big Empire Industries and Randy Shandis Enterprises
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This week:
Drag Me To Hell

Filthy says:
"Because movies shoud be fun."

Here are some things I hate: getting colds; assholes not getting colds; not being able to turn invisible at will; hippies; having webbed feet; when the utility company calls me dirty names; this guy from junior college with Kenny G hair who pretended he liked bebop and girls thought he was cool; the way cats can see into my soul and hiss at me for being a bad person; and paying ten fucking dollars to see bad movies with a bunch of teenagers. I can only control the last one.

I don't know why teenagers and I are the only people who see a movie its first weekend. What pisses me off, though, is that it's way less important to them than it is to me. They have other shit going on, like text messages and parties and all their cool shit like rollerblades and Garanimals, while all I've got is a pair of "Steve Garvey's Stylin'" brand shorts from K-Mart shorts and a cell phone that dispenses chiclets. Plus, I can't figure out where those Goddamn kids get all that money. They wave around twenty-dollar bills at the ticket window like there's more in their pockets while I count out my admission in quarters and dimes as the line forms behind me. I always hope the kid behind the counter loses track and I can get in for $9.60. As coldhearted and shiftless as kids are today, though, they can count change pretty fucking good.

With nothing but heaping loads of shit pouring down the screens this weekend, I took my money to the Elvis Cinema at 64th and Sheridan, where second-run heaping loads of shit are only $3.50, and the concessions are way cheaper too. Fuck the new releases, I want to spend the loose change I found in the rec center locker room on popcorn and cologne from that machine in the bathroom.

When I pay full price for new movies I expect people in the theater to keep their mouths shut, unless they have something really important to say. I frequently do, like "Don't go in that abandoned house!" The standard for manners is way lower at a discount theater. I remember seeing a triple feature for 99 cents at the Vogue Theater in Chula Vista, CA after being kicked out of Tijuana. As their ad in the paper said, it was a "Festival atmosphere." People brought blankets and fried chicken, the seats had stuffing torn out, there was a beach ball bouncing among the patrons and the clink of beer bottles filled the hall. The plus was that my shoes didn't stick to the floor--so long as I kept them placed directly on an old pair of Keds that did. The Elvis Cinema is similar. The popcorn is stale, the soda a little flat, and a band of pre-teens girls wouldn't shut the fuck up. But it was all so damn cheap that it was hard to get mad. Sort of like with Chinese toothpaste: how can you get mad about dying if it only cost a buck and you don't have any cavities?

For my $3.50 I saw Drag Me to Hell, a movie I suspected I blew it by not seeing opening weekend, and it was pretty fucking good. Sam Raimi is the director of about three-hundred-thousand movies, including the mediocre Spiderman series, the pretty good A Simple Plan and the simply awesome Evil Dead 2 (along with the good Evil Dead and the lousy Army of Darkness). Drag Me To Hell is somewhere between the first two Evil Deads. It's first and foremost meant to be a good time at the theater.

Drag Me To Hell declares its campy intentions right at the beginning with a purposely overwrought and faded vignette about a Mexican boy who stole a gypsy's necklace ad is now cursed by a demon goat. Pretty traditional low-budget horror stuff. The opening is followed by credits from an early 70s drive-in horror movie. The rest looks more modern, but has the aesthetic of those old, low-budget American International pics with a lot of wind, crashing noises, shadows and shrill violin to punctuate the on-screen action.

Mousy Allison Lohman is a bank employee who hopes for a promotion but has to first prove to her boss that she can be tough. She turns down an old woman's application for a loan extension. The old woman is a gypsy and curses Lohman through one of her possessions--a button, but not before losing her dentures and trying to gum the girl to death.

Lohman's boyfriend is the equally mousy and sort of dead-looking Justin Long, and he isn't as sold on the curse as she is. But he lets her see a palm reader who warns her of the curse and its course. After seeing a bunch of devilish goat images and shadows, and getting knocked to the ground by something unseen, Lohman seeks a way to get rid of the curse. First she tries sacrificing her kitten, then through a seance involving a very cute, but foul-mouthed goat. When that fails, she must transfer the curse to another person by giving him or her the button.

Lohman first plans to give the button to a coworker who wants the same promotion as her but is sleazy and underhanded. Instead, she discovers she can give it to the corpse of the gypsy who cursed her. She makes a trip to the graveyard to dig the woman up and plant the button in her mouth. Of course, as tends to happen in graveyards, it pours rain and Lohman and the dead woman bob about for a while in a flooded, open grave.

I love Evil Dead 2 because it turns a lot of horror-movie conventions upside down, and is fucking funny doing it. Sam Raimi showed he knew that horror movies are supposed to be more fun than gross or scary. That the premises of most horror movies are silly. It also has some recurring motifs such as the main character repeatedly getting his head smashed, many colors of gushing ooze and blood, and characters being lifted by invisible forces and slammed into things.

Drag Me to Hell was made to entertain, and happily. It's not scary or gross; it's more cartoonish. There are gross things in it, like being gummed, or a mouthful of embalming fluid, a bloody nose that violently spurts like a teenager's zit and dentures that shoot across a room. But these are all funnier in a gleeful, comic way than they are disgusting. The movie's chills are traditional: rattling wind, some clanging pots and creeping shadows. These are all tools of the low budget moviemaker who couldn't afford monsters. Raimi probably can, but he understands the value and built-in expectations of the old techniques.

Where Evil Dead 2's motifs were the blood and head injuries, Drag Me to Hell's seem to be mouthfuls of disgusting shit. In addition to the embalming fluid, Lohman swallows a few bugs, blood, grave water and a few other things. There are also many opportunities in Drag Me To Hell for people to get lifted and slammed comically into walls. One character who, hovering midair, does a nice little jig over a lake of fire.

Raimi has a weak cast. Lohman looks and acts like a softer version of that woman on The Office that everyone used to secretly think was hot until they found out everyone else also secretly thought that. Long has about as much charisma as he shows in those computer commercials. But they aren't the focus. The focus is on how much fun, and how silly, a horror movie can be. Raimi does a hell of a job of that. And all for just $3.50. Four Fingers for Drag Me to Hell.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



The clichéd Peter Travers of Rolling Stone

Away We Go is "Absolutely extraodinary! Away We Go sneaks up and floors you! Don't let anyone spoil the secrets in this delicate dazzler. See it and then start talking. You will."

Public Enemies is "A landmark crime saga. Explosive! One of the best movies of the year."

Bruno is "Outrageous. You'll hoot and holler. The hilarity is stratospherically outrageous. A comic call to arms... Make the shameless, sidesplitting Bruno numero uno on your funny-time list."

Yes, he really wrote "funny-time." How sad.

Filthy's Reading
Cormac McCarthy - Blood Meridien

Listening to
Fountains of Wayne- Welcome Interstate Managers


Planet Earth