Wednesday, January 17, 2018

DRAG ME TO HELL (2009) (2-Disc Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review)

2-Disc Collector's Edition

Label: Scream Factory 
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13, Unrated
Duration: 99 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1, Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1) 
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, David Paymer, Adriana Barraza

Sam Raimi's long-awaited return to horror following three mega-budget Spider-Man movies was a welcomed trip to the cinema for me, opening with a pre-credit sequence set in the late-60's we have a Latino couple bringing their cursed son to the home of spiritual medium Shaun San Dena to cleanse him of an evil spirit, the young boy having been cursed by a gypsy following an act of petty larceny. The scene is a fantastic opener, it comes fast and furious with an up-front gut-punch and slams a Drag Me To Hell title card up in your face, it certainly sets a tone. Moving ahead to current day we meet bank loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman, White Oleander) who is chomping at the bit for an assistant manager promotion, but her boss Jim Jacks (David Paymar, Night of the Creeps) has pitted her against office newcomer Stu (Reggie Lee, Tropic Thunder), a sycophant ass-kisser, a real conniving backstabber who is actively working against Christine to snag the promotion for himself. In an effort to prove she can make the tough choices required of management she turns down elderly gypsy woman Sylvia Ganush's (Lorna Raver, TV's The Young and the Restless) request for a third extension on her mortgage, the woman pleads with Christine but she turns her away. Embarrassed after what she perceives as being shamed the gypsy makes quite a scene, attacking the loan officer before  being escorted from the bank by security. At the end of the work day Christine walks to her car in a dark underground garage, where she  finds the surprisingly spry and vicious elderly woman waiting for her, the gypsy attacks her in a flurry of old had fury, cursing her with a demonic entity called the Lamia. The scene in the parking garage is pure vintage Raimi, with Christine defending herself with a stapler in close-quarters combat with he Hungarian woman, it's awesomely edited in a barrage of stylized action.

After surviving the attack Christine and her boyfriend Clay (Justin Long, Tusk) happen upon a fortune teller named Rham Jas (Dileep Rao, Inception) who becomes alarmingly frightened by what he sees in the poor girl's future, informing her that she has been cursed with the Lamia, a powerful evil spirit that will torment her for three days before dragging her to Hell. Nice guy Clay does his best to dismiss the warning, he's way to straight-laced to believe in any of this mystical curse bullshit, but nonetheless Christine begins to have nightmares and visions of the gypsy woman attacking her, also plagued by a taunting shadow spirit of the Lamia. She once again seeks the help of the fortune teller, and with his guidance offers up her beloved kitten as an animal sacrifice to rid herself of the curse, however, when her feline sacrifice fails to illicit the preferred outcome the fortune teller sends her to the medium from the start of the film. 

As the movie plays out Christine suffers from physical, visual and auditory abuse by the evil spirit who is inching ever closer, which make a dinner date with Clay's disapproving mother (Molly Cheek, American Pie)all the more awkward, especially when an eye emerges from her home baked slice of cake at the dinner table, causing the cursed Christine to flip her wig and make quite a scene. This might be a PG-13 rated movie but Raimi packs it with mouthfuls of gooey disgustingness, there's A LOT of spew being injected into poor Christine's mouth, from green embalming from a cadaver's mouth to grub-infested soil and eyeballs, it's gag-reflex inducing slice of horror-comedy that might upset a few stomachs along the way. The special effects are a mixed bag of practical, puppets and digital, some of the digital draws attention to itself but for the most part this thing stands up nine years after the fact, not too shabby at all.

There are loads of nods to Raimi's Evil Dead films, the way he puts his starlet Lohman through the wringer definitely recalls his torturous treatment of Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn), she's put through Hell before possibly being dragged there! The gore is toned down for the PG-13 rating but Raimi manages to sneak a lot of gross stuff into this one just by toning down the colors of the fluids here I think, the unrated cut offering more blood-colored gore as opposed to brownish in the theatrical, watching the theatrical version I wasn't too aware of the PG-13 rating, there's even a great overwrought nosebleed gag that turns into a geyser. The unrated cut offers some extended scenes with slightly more viscera, my favorite being the cat-sacrifice, it's way bloodier in the unrated version. There's a lot of great set pieces here, including the séance at the home of medium Shaun San Dena (Adriana Barraza, Babel) that goes bat-shit insane with the Lamia possessing a goat and one of the guests, it's both hilarious and also nerve-rattling, a cacophonous blend of visuals, gooey loony toon gags, and a slashing string score.

Audio/Video: Drag Me To Hell (2009) arrives on two-disc Blu-ray from Scream Factory as part of their Collector's Edition series, showcasing both the theatrical and unrated cuts of the film - both running 99 minutes - with new HD masters sourced from the 2K digital intermediate. The previous Universal Blu-ray was pretty fantastic to begin with, so the the image here is not surprisingly crisp and clean, as it was shot on digital it doesn't have traditional grain structures or inherent film flaws,  it has a pleasing clarity to it and looks great in motion. Colors come through strong with nice vibrancy and the black levels when called upon are deep and inky - no complaints whatsoever. Disc one contains the original theatrical  cut, disc two carrying the unrated cut of the film, both versions look identical to my eyes. 

Onto the audio Scream Factory offer up a choice of DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 track with optional English subtitles. The sound design for this movie is simply amazing, from Christopher Young's excellent and wonderfully dramatic,string laden score to the sound of flies buzzing around the room this thing packs a wallop on the surround system, loved it.  

Onto the extra we begin with disc one, the theatrical cut, which offers up the 35-minute production diary, which was the only extra on the Universal Blu-ray, adding some vintage EPK interviews and a trailer and TV spots. Onto disc two we get the unrated version with some meatier/new extras, beginning with an interview with star Alison Lohman who speaks about working with Sam Raimi and Lorna Raver, noting she was not into horror film and didn't know much about Raimi going in, having to trust his slapstick instinct since she had none, and not realizing how much Raimi had tortured Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell in the past, but feeling should could relate, as she suffered from stress disorder shingles following the shoot!  There's also a great interview with Lorna Raver who played the gypsy Sylvia Ganush, she also had no knowledge of Raimi's works prior to the shoot, describing a twinkle in Raimi's eye that usually indicated something mischievous was abut to transpire.  Composer Christopher Young shows up for a 17-min chat about his score, beginning by recalling his first viewing of the Evil Dead and knowing right then that he and Raimi were kindred spirits and that he wanted to work with him at some point. He describes the score and various themes used in the movie, his process and Raimi's way of cuing him into what he needed from the score. The second disc is buttoned up with an image gallery

This 2-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase, with a sleeve of reversible artwork, the a-side featuring a new eye-catching illustration from the CRP Group (Firestarter, Rabid, Species), the b-side featuring the original movie poster. This release comes with a limited edition slipcase (o-card) featuring the new illustration, the 2-discs featuring excerpts of the same artworks on the reversible sleeve. 

Special Features:
Disc One:
- NEW HD master of the theatrical cut taken from the 2K digital intermediate
- Production Diaries - with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with co- writer/director Sam Raimi, actors Allison Lohman, Justin Long, David Paymer, Dileep Rao, Lorna Raver, special effects guru Greg Nicotero, director of photography Peter Deming, and more… (35 min) HD
- Vintage interviews with director Sam Raimi and actors Alison Lohman and Justin Long (23 min) HD
- TV Spots (1 min) HD
- Theatrical Trailer

Disc Two:
- NEW HD master of the unrated cut taken from the 2K digital intermediate
-NEW To Hell and Back – an interview with actress Alison Lohman (12 min)HD
- NEW Curses! – an interview with actress Lorna Raver (16 min)HD
- NEW Hitting All The Right Notes – an interview with composer Christopher Young (17 min)HD
- Still Gallery (2 min)

I loved Drag Me To Hell (2009) when it first arrived in the cinemas, and it has become one of my favorite Raimi films, it has legs and holds up to repeated viewings. Sure, it's a bit derivative of Raimi's earlier horror films, but that's also what I love about it.  This 2-disc set looks and sounds great, but then again so did the Universal disc, the new extras don't feature any new Sam Raimi input so the double-dip worthiness of it is debatable if you already own the previous release. Surprisingly there's not any input from special make-up team of Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero who worked on the film, but if you're looking to upgrade this has some nice shelf appeal and the new artwork looks great, but the new extras aren't essential in my opinion, if it had a new Raimi interview or commentary it would easily have been an essential upgrade, but this is still an excellent release. 

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