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DVD Zone: November 2009

| November 16, 2009

Drag Me To Hell

Watching director Sam Raimi return to the horror genre he redefined is like rediscovering water in August. With seemingly nine out of 10 horror flicks these days reduced to mere torture porn, Raimi’s deft touch serves notice to everyone working in the field just how it’s supposed to be done.

Although his body of work varied in scope and tone from the crime drama A Simple Plan, to Kevin Costner’s 2,000th baseball flick For Love Of The Game, to, of course, the Spiderman franchise, to many he will always shine brightest as a horror director. With his Evil Dead series, he took the conventions of the genre and turned them on their ear. Not only did he deliver superb frights, but he did it with a wicked sense of humor that made you laugh just as hard as you cringed.

Enter Drag Me To Hell, perhaps his finest film to date.

Alison Lohman plays a meek middle-management type who’s doing her best to climb the corporate ladder, but just can’t seem to get it done. As she’s attempting to snag the coveted assistant manager’s job at her bank, she finds herself in the position of having to deny a loan extension to an old gypsy woman. Seriously, when has that ever produced good results?

Of course, when you mess with gypsies in the film world, a curse is sure to follow. In this case, it involves the demon Lamia, a spirit that basically fucks with you for three days before . . . wait for it . . . dragging you to hell.

In Lohman, Raimi has found an actress who effortlessly pulls off both the scares and the comedy in perfect fashion. He even has the audacity to ask the audience to believe Mac-boy Justin Long as a college professor. Brilliant.

The disc features a multitude of behind-the-scene features, as well as two different versions of the film – the original PG-13, and the unrated “director’s cut.”

The un-rated one is much gooier.
Film: **** Features: ***1/2

You Weren’t There: A History Of Chicago Punk 1977-1984
Factory 25

Chicago has always had an inferiority complex regarding its status as “the second city.” And when it comes to the punk scene in the late ’70s/early ’80s, that status drops to about the eighth or ninth city. While New York had the Ramones and L.A. had Black Flag, Chicago’s scene failed to launch anyone to national prominence, and those who were successful never reached too far beyond regional acclaim.

You Weren’t There: A History Of Chicago Punk 1977-1984 seeks to rectify that injustice.

Meticulously researched and exhaustive in scope, You Weren’t There covers just about everything and everyone involved in the scene. From the notorious punk clubs such as La Mere Vipere and Oz to the forerunner bands such as Tutu And The Pirates and Mentally Ill, to the actual success stories like Naked Raygun and The Effigies, the film’s loaded with interviews and insight from anyone who was anyone.

Particularly fascinating are the segments that show a city at its most dysfunctional. From the opening days when anyone decked out in punk drag was immediately targeted for verbal abuse as “faggots,” to the city’s vendetta against punk clubs. Oz owner Dem Hopkins relates that while the city, and Mayor Jane Bryne in particular, were always trying to shut down gay clubs he owned, they were absolutely irate over the punkers.

The only problem with You Weren’t There is it might be a little too in-depth. While the interviews with artists such as Earl Letiecq of The Effigies, Jeff Pezzati of Naked Raygun, and Steve Albini of Big Black are a wealth of history, the film gets to a point where some involved resort to sniping at one another and other elements of the times, including Albini’s oft repeated feelings about the magazine you hold in your hands. (That’s O.K., Steve, you don’t have to love us for us to love you.)

But these are minor quibbles, as You Weren’t There is essential viewing for anyone who thinks punk began and ended with the Ramones. Features include more live performances from both then and now.

Film: ***1/2 Features: ***

Category: Columns, Monthly

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