O, THE HORROR, THE HORROR: Reviews of A Dark and Stormy Night and Drag Me to Hell

A Dark and Stormy Night is a satire of those old locked room murder mysteries, the ones where people are trapped in some remote location, which means that when someone turns up dead, the murderer has to be among them (Agatha Christie is the true master of this type of plotting). It was written and directed by Larry Blamire, who also made the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra and I must first state that I turned off that movie about ten minutes into it. Lost Skeleton… was supposed to be a satire of 1950’s sci-fi when in reality it was just a satire of bad writing (not the same thing). This one works much, much better because the satiric targets are more accurate. It takes place in an isolated mansion (constantly shown in beautiful miniature) during a rain storm that has destroyed the only roads out. It’s all a lot of fun, though the funniest bit goes to Betty Garrett, that nonagerian and alumnus of such films as On the Town, who plays an elderly woman who seems to have wandered into the wrong isolated mansion. In the end, it’s only an extended Monty Python or Carol Burnett skit and it never really rises to the level of Young Frankenstein or Shawn of the Dead, but it’s still a very diverting time in the theater.

Though the critics will try and tell you that Drag Me to Hell is not a jump and go boo movie, in the end, that’s all it really is. So in the end, it’s probably best to say that if you like this sort of thing, it’s just the sort of thing you’ll like. The heroine, played by Alison Lohman, is a loan officer who lives in a house that for some reason has an anvil tied to the ceiling in her garage (just in case you want to drop it on someone, I guess). She is approached by an elderly woman wanting an extension on her mortgage. When Lohman refuses the loan, the woman curses her. It then becomes clear that the woman is one of those characters one only sees in movies, someone who has ultimate power that enables her to do anything except, conveniently for the author, pay her mortgage (sort of like that joke about psychics who have a “going out of business” sign in their window—didn’t they know?). The script is written by Sam and Ivan Raimi and directed by Sam Raimi, who seem to have an odd oral fixation that says more about them that I want to know and definitely makes me want to pass the next time I’m invited to their house for dinner. In the end, what’s really wrong with the movie is that the authors can’t seem to decide whether Lohman’s character is someone who has no one to blame but herself or is someone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time stuck in an existentially cruel universe that will punish you for the littlest infraction. The authors either want it to both ways, or more likely, just don’t care, the better to jump and go boo you. For a much better film with a similar structure and idea, see Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon.

So tell me what you think.

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