Drag Me To Hell – review

It’s no secret (read my books!) that I’m a bit of a horror fan. I like the dark yarns. Regulars will also know that I’m a bit of a Sam Raimi fan. I recently re-watched The Evil Dead and reviewed it briefly here.

So, when I heard about a new Sam Raimi horror film, I was there like a fly on a rotting corpse. I have to say, I really enjoyed it. It’s great to see Raimi return to his roots after outings in big Hollywood blockbusters like the recent Spider-Man flicks.

The basic premise behind Drag Me To Hell is nothing especially original. There’s an old Hungarian gypsy woman that is facing foreclosure on her house and goes to the bank for help. For reasons that I won’t spoil, a go-getting young loans officer refuses her an extension and the old gypsy curses her. The curse is a mighty powerful one which subjects the victim to three days of torment at the hands of the evil Lamia spirit. After the three days of torment the Lamia spirit arrives and, quite literally, drags the victim to Hell for all eternity. Seriously, don’t piss of old Hungarian ladies with dodgy eyes and nasty teeth.

drag-me-to-hell
Yeah, think twice before refusing her a loan extension.

So I won’t give away any more of the movie except to say that the opening shows an encounter with the Lamia back in 1969 and now this new curse gives the medium that failed then a chance at redemption. The film is packed with all the exciting action you’d expect as Christine Brown, the cursee in this case, desperately tries to understand what’s happening, convince her boyfriend that she’s not mad, seek the help of a fortune teller, seek further help from the medium I mentioned above and frantically try to rid herself of the curse.

This is a good horror flick. I’m one of those people that doesn’t jump on the outside. When a big shock happens I get a jolt inside, but never physically move. All part of my incredible physical training regimen and mad kung fu skills, no doubt. However, this film is packed full of shock moments like a month old severed head is packed full of maggots. Most of them you see coming and brace for the delicious shock – that’s half the fun – but a couple of these ones caught me out. I even physically jumped once, which is really unusual.

There’s the expected gross out aspects of a Raimi flick – eyeballs bursting from heads, eyeballs being stabbed with a fork, old ladies gumming your chin… you’ll have to watch it to see what I mean. These things benefit from far better special effects than Raimi had at his disposal in 1981 when he made The Evil Dead, but they’re still not really the best effects ever. They’re a little bit cartoony, which is a real shame.

Even so, Drag me To Hell is a great addition to the horror classics, with gore and mayhem, a truly brilliant seance scene and a good, scary story with plenty of shocks and screams. My only real complaint is that I saw the end coming a mile off. I think anyone would be hard pressed not to guess the denouement. Perhaps Raimi planned that and gave us something to expect, but I’m guessing that it was supposed to be a surprise that really wasn’t. If you want to know more about that, scroll down. If you don’t want spoilers, this article ends with this paragraph. The obvious ending, like the less than brilliant effects, is unfortunate but not enough to write this movie off. It’s classic Raimi horror fare and well worth a look if you like that kind of thing.

Now, scroll down for my analysis of the ending, with spoilers.

drag_me_to_hell-poster

SPOILERS – You have been warned.

Now, if you’re reading this I’m guessing that you’ve seen it or don’t plan to see it. Either way, a quick explanation of the key plot twist is this: The old gypsy curses Christine Brown by taking a button from her coat, fixing the curse to the button and giving it back to her. The Lamia will seek out, torment and then take whoever has this cursed item. Fair enough. You can’t destroy it or throw it away, but you can make an official gift of it to someone else and it will be that person’s soul that is ripped away to eternal torment, not yours.

So, Christine eventually realises that this is her only hope and struggles morally with who to give the cursed button to. She has the button in an envelope. Earlier in the film she gave her boyfriend a gift of a rare coin for his coin collection. He put that coin into an envelope for safe-keeping. As soon as Rham Jas, the fortune teller, tells her that she can give the button away and save herself, and puts that button into an envelope, we know exactly what’s going to happen.

Sure enough, she drops the button in the envelope in her boyfriend’s car, frantically searches, pulls out an envelope with a round thing obviously inside. She goes on to find that she can give the cursed item to a dead person, so digs up the old gypsy and makes a gift to her of the envelope. Not only did we see the end coming, she doesn’t even open the envelope when she gives it to the gypsy corpse. It’s not until the boyfriend reveals the button on the train platform the next day that she knows she hasn’t shifted the curse after all. Cue Lamia and pretty Christine is dragged to Hell.

Now, here’s how I’d have done it.

When Christine gives her boyfriend the coin early in the film, don’t show him putting it into an envelope. Just have him say something like, “Hmm, I’ll have to put this somewhere safe…” and move on with the film. When they have the near miss in the car and Christine drops her envelope with the button in it, don’t make a big deal about it. Just have her look down, move around the papers on the floor and pick up an envelope. We have no reason to think that anything is amiss. Of course, we’ll suspect something, but it won’t be as obvious as Tom Cruise’s love of alien lifeforms.

Then there are two ways to end it. Have her open the envelope when she’s trying to give the curse back to the gypsy, only to discover a coin. Cue panic, rushing to her boyfriend, he holds up her button and says, “I put that coin you gave me into an envelope for safe-keeping. You must have picked that up by mistake.” She’s frantic, enter Lamia and pretty Christine is dragged to Hell.

Or, and this is perhaps better, have her stuff the envelope into the gypsy’s mouth, under the assumption that the button is in there. We don’t know any different. The grave stone nearly knocks her out, she escapes, happy happy joy joy. At the station the next day, have the same button reveal by the boyfriend. She’s stares dumbfounded at the button. He says, “I put that coin you gave me into an envelope for safe-keeping. You must have picked that up by mistake.” And pretty Christine is dragged to Hell.

The second version is very close to the actual film, yet it’s far less likely to be seen coming so obviously. So, Sam Raimi, if you’re reading this, something to think about. (As if Sam Raimi reads my blog… But if you do, I’ve got a couple of novels out that would make great movies. Call me!)

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Friday guest post – Our Saucy Medieval Heritage by Michael Fridman

For the ever more infrequent Friday Guest Post, here’s something very entertaining from Michael Fridman, fellow Blade Red Press author and all-round interesting fellow. In this post he explores the legacy of language derived from our less than prudish past and some stories that are worth checking out for some olden days racy fun. There are loads of very cool links throughout this piece, so be sure to check them out.

Our Saucy Medieval Heritage

Guest Post by Michael of a Nadder Good writing is often harsh. It avoids euphemisms and lays out the bare truth behind a character or storyline. Say, in Alan’s Realmshift when Samuel Harrigan first s…oh never mind, just read it if you haven’t. Or in Catch 22 when Yossarian unexpectedly shows up not wearing any clothes (because he doesn’t want to). Sometimes the best way to make a point is with some crudity or ridiculousness.

Where does this tradition come from? I think the roots are partly in classic medieval literature. Now, we sometimes have strange ideas about the past. Probably because the past itself is strange. Being Spawn of the Satanic Sexual Revolution, we often associate “medieval” with sexual prudishness and the stranglehold of the Church (at least in Europe). There’s an element of truth to it. But it’s not the whole story.

Though official chronicles and epic romances can be quite pompous, the ordinary people weren’t much different from us. For example: as you might know the medieval European town often segregated people by profession — and named the street accordingly. Miller and Baker Street are examples that have survived unto today. Interestingly, prostitution was no different, with female prostitutes often congregating in a single street in a typical English town. Its common name? Gropecunt Lane (by now these streets have evolved to something more tame, like Grape Lane). The medievals were quite direct with their words and images.

But of course this goes beyond Street Naming Conventions in Britain in the 14th Century (now there’s a niche!) — because we probably owe a great deal in the sharpness of our “cutting edge” literature to works from the period:

The Canterbury Tales This is a very wide collection of stories which includes things like the Parson’s Tale — an indubitably boring sermon which is also the longest tale in the book. But there are also stories that will give American Pie a run for its money. For instance, The Miller’s Tale which rests on spinning religious bullshit to cuckold an absent-minded husband, presenting an arse out the window when being asked for a kiss and other acts of High Courtly Love.

Gargantua and Pantagruel Forget Douglas Adams, this is the original Trilogy in Five Parts. A great satirical classic, it has in my opinion much more hidden meaning and allegory than any religious text. Rabelais makes fun of every aspect of his society, including a graphic description of Gargantua’s diarrhea which drowns most of Paris, a list of about 250 items you can append before “fool” when insulting someone and a climax where the characters go into battle with an army of fried pig intestines. Go figure.

The Decameron This was the partial inspiration of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and shows that the Italians were also open to glorious crudeness. More so than Chaucer, this collection is known for every saucy combination imaginable. Of particular note are tales of the sexual adventures of monks and nuns — probably a more accurate reflection of reality than the celibacy “ideal” promoted by official sources. My personal favourite is the First Tale of the Third Day. The author gave each tale a quick one-line summary. The translated summary for this one is “Masetto da Lamporecchio pretends to be deaf and dumb in order to become gardener to a convent of nuns, where all the women eagerly lie with him.” Believe it or not, Castle Anthrax in Monty Python and the Holy Grail wasn’t 100% original…

But That’s Not All. Of course crudity is not specific to medieval Europe. It can happen:

  • Before — the first recorded British joke from the 10th Century isn’t half bad: “What hangs at a man’s thigh and wants to poke the hole that it’s often poked before? A key.” Better than the Sumerian one, that’s for sure.
  • After — the classic Tristram Shandy can be considered as a 500p dick joke. But no spoilers here.
  • Outside Europe — if you read the proper Arabian Nights (not the abridged versions with familiar “family-friendly” tripe like Sinbad the Sailor) you’ll find that some stories will make a reader of Playboy blush.

And thus, I recommend reading some of these wonderfully-risqué works, or at least appreciating the great debt we probably owe them today.

To see more rants by Michael check out his blog at a Nadder.

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Blog book tour Day 10 – The End (for now…)

We’ve reached Day 10 of the blog book tour. It’s been a lot of fun! I noticed this today over at Ruthie’s blog:

Sorry for the interruption

I just wanted ot let you all know that I am still here, but due to having my computer down for the next two weeks – I have limited usage and time with a computer until then.

In two weeks, I will be back with Quote of the Days!! and more reviews! So please do not leave me, as I am not leaving you. Stupid computer!!!!

LOL

Anyways, I got a sec to tell everyone this, so please stay tuned. I will be back!

Crikey that’s a lot of exclamation marks. So that would explain the elusive Day 7 of the the tour. Hopefully Ruth will post the MageSign review when her computer woes are past and I’ll be sure to let everyone know when she does.

Meanwhile, on with the last day of the tour. To wrap things up I’ve got a guest post at The Furnace, the very interesting blog of Lord Shaper, where I talk about what inspired the novels RealmShift and MageSign and what’s happening next. (I should also point out that I mention the new book at the end of that article. I can confirm here that I have started writing that new book, I’m very excited about it and there will be the occasional cameo of old friends).

So, let’s wrap this thing up with:

Blog book tour Day 10 – The Inspiration for RealmShift and MageSign at The Furnace.

Don’t forget that for the duration of the tour (until July 29th) you can get ebook editions of both RealmShift and MageSign for just US$1 each. This is an offer exclusive to Smashwords. The beauty of that is that Smashwords offer the books in a variety of formats, including Kindle friendly .mobi editions.

To get your special priced copies all you have to do is enter a discount code at the checkout. This will change the price from the usual US$3.50 to a special price of US$1. Go here for RealmShift and enter code ZR95S at the checkout; go here for MageSign and enter SF97B at the checkout. And don’t forget that you can get my novella Ghost Of The Black: A ‘Verse Full Of Scum from Smashwords for free all the time. Click here to grab your copy of that. Please spread the word about this special offer and hopefully lots of people will take advantage of getting two novels for just two bucks. Can’t say fairer than that.

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Blog book tour Day 9

So the blog tour train rumbles onwards. Today I’m at Musings Of An Aussie Writer, the blog of Aussie horror writer Brenton Tomlinson. At BT’s blog I’m talking in a bit more detail about what’s involved in indie publishing, what opportunities and pitfalls there are and what I think the future holds.

Blog book tour Day 9 – Indie authors and the future at Musings Of An Aussie Writer

Don’t forget that for the duration of the tour (until July 29th) you can get ebook editions of both RealmShift and MageSign for just US$1 each. This is an offer exclusive to Smashwords. The beauty of that is that Smashwords offer the books in a variety of formats, including Kindle friendly .mobi editions.

To get your special priced copies all you have to do is enter a discount code at the checkout. This will change the price from the usual US$3.50 to a special price of US$1. Go here for RealmShift and enter code ZR95S at the checkout; go here for MageSign and enter SF97B at the checkout. And don’t forget that you can get my novella Ghost Of The Black: A ‘Verse Full Of Scum from Smashwords for free all the time. Click here to grab your copy of that. Please spread the word about this special offer and hopefully lots of people will take advantage of getting two novels for just two bucks. Can’t say fairer than that.

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Blog book tour Days 7 & 8

Well, the first hiccough in the blog tour strikes today. I haven’t heard from Ruthie over at Ruthie’s Book Reviews. She was due to post a review of MageSign on Sunday as Day 7 of the tour. She let slip on her blog back on July 20th under the heading “Books I Read Last Week”:

MageSign by Alan Baxter – Read and loved it, but you have to wait until July 26th when Alan comes on over for a visit to read the review!

So that’s promising. She read and reviewed RealmShift back on June 14th and gave it 4/5. Here’s hoping for a similar result for MageSign. Anyway, I hope all is well with Ruth, but thought perhaps the best thing would be to move on with the tour and hope that Ruth and her review catch up in a day or two.

So, on to Day 8. I love this one – it’s a great idea. Pat Bertram, author of A Spark Of Heavenly Fire, has this great site called Pat Bertram Introduces… On this site she features interviews with the characters from novels, rather than the authors. It’s a really cool concept and I had a lot of fun answering interview questions in-character. So, head on over to Pat’s site and check out the interview with Isiah, protagonist from RealmShift and MageSign.

Blog book tour Day 8 – Pat Bertram introduces Isiah, hero of RealmShift and MageSign

Don’t forget that for the duration of the tour (until July 29th) you can get ebook editions of both RealmShift and MageSign for just US$1 each. This is an offer exclusive to Smashwords. The beauty of that is that Smashwords offer the books in a variety of formats, including Kindle friendly .mobi editions.

To get your special priced copies all you have to do is enter a discount code at the checkout. This will change the price from the usual US$3.50 to a special price of US$1. Go here for RealmShift and enter code ZR95S at the checkout; go here for MageSign and enter SF97B at the checkout. And don’t forget that you can get my novella Ghost Of The Black: A ‘Verse Full Of Scum from Smashwords for free all the time. Click here to grab your copy of that. Please spread the word about this special offer and hopefully lots of people will take advantage of getting two novels for just two bucks. Can’t say fairer than that.

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