Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, May 25, 2009

Drag Me To Hell offers up another slice of sinister social scares

Coming to a theater near you next weekend is Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell,which is a return to the horror genre for him only this movie appears to be more of a hardcore fear fest without those wacky bits of whimsy that he's known for(as in the Evil Dead movies and even Dark Man).

An interesting allure for me to this movie is the sharp social commentary that the plot has,rather all too timely. The story's heroine(played by Allison Lohman)is a loan officer who refuses to extend a mortgage for an old woman in order to get a promotion at work. The old lady decides to take revenge by making the phrase "go to hell!" take on a more literal meaning:

Now this isn't the first horror movie to take on a sociopolitical edge or even to get all metaphorical about what the monsters really mean. It is,however,purposely unsubtle about this, which is a nice change of pace that the genre really needs right now.

In that spirit,let's take a look at a few other examples of in-your-face scary films intent on slashing away at social boundaries. Wes Craven occasionally hits a nerve or two that's not just for gore purposes as in 1991's People Under The Stairs.

The villains of that piece are a twisted brother and sister act(who call each other "Mommy" and "Daddy")that gouge the urban neighborhood they dwell in with high rentals,torment children and horde their ill gotten gains(along with their mutilated brood)in the basement. Their Ron and Nancy Reagan resemblance is no coincidence,to be sure:

Abel Ferrara's take on vampires in 1995's The Addiction has a double dose of biting commentary as it twists the chic of being a junkie along with the pseudo intellectual preenings of over privileged college students on the New York scene.

At one point in the story, the newly made collegiate vampire(Lili Taylor)seeks guidance from a mysterious stranger(Christopher Walken)who claims to have a strong handle on their shared condition.

After awhile,it becomes clear that he's just as much of an intellectual con man as any of the sleazy professor types that our blood craving heroine(no pun intended)would run into on campus:

Clive Barker's short story about a legendary boogieman coming to life in the midst of London slums translated well to film in Candyman and didn't suffer in the least by being reset in America. Director Bernard Rose elegantly wove in both visceral terrors and chilling culture clash by having his nightmare creation be a victim of long ago racism about to be discounted as a threat due to the findings of an upper class white woman.

Despite the sorry sequels made to this(which only focused on the gut ripping part of the story),the original film makes a very strong argument to those who dare to assume that they can keep far above the fray of lives less fortunate than their own and profit from their pain without any payback-you know what happens when you assume,right?:

No discussion on this subject would be complete without a tip of the hat to George Romero. The postmodern granddaddy of the zombie as metaphor genre is still fighting the good fight there,by keeping those brain eating menaces up to date for our times.

While Land of the Dead seemed to be the last word from him,Romero couldn't resist taking aim at the YouTube/MySpace generation with Diary of the Dead. The movie didn't get as much fanfare as Land,but certainly seems to have used the video diary format more effectively than the overrated Cloverfield:

Drag Me to Hell may have a tough time climbing to the top of the box office charts,with all of the big blockbuster flicks and family friendly films pushing and shoving their way up,but I do hope that audiences seek it out in large numbers. No matter how hokey or incredibly obvious the special effects and characters may seem,horror movies can still make a stronger impact and more lasting impression on viewers about the state of things than any high minded cinematic sounding board can:

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