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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Drag Me To Hell (Unrated Directors Cut) [Blu-ray]

 

(Sam Raimi, 2009)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Universal & Ghost House Pictures

Blu-ray: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:39:05.773

Disc Size: 49,284,718,716 bytes

Feature Size: 22,169,892,864 bytes

Video Bitrate: 22.40 Mbps

Chapters: 43

Case: Standard Blu-ray Case

Release date: October 13th, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: VC-1 Video 

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3905 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3905 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS Audio French 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Spanish 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish, French , none

 

Extras:

• Production Video Diaries - in HD (35:08)

• D-BOX Motion Enabled

• Disc 2: Digital Copy

• BD-Live 2.0

 

 

 

The Film: 8
After his Evil Dead B-Movie series from 1981-92 and a brief stop directing the star-packed Quick and the Dead in 1995, Sam Raimi indulged himself in the rarified world of high budget and maximum production values. We’re talking Spider-Man here – all three of them, so far (and a fourth in production.) Last year Raimi returned to his B-Movie “roots’ with your basic horror genre keywords: gypsy-curses, blood spewing, insect crawling in and out of body cavities, sťance, graveyard and psychic phenomena. You want it – Drag Me To Hell’s got it. And it’s all done without the tongue-in-cheek flair of Army of Darkness. Quite the contrary - though many moments will provoke a reflexive chuckle from the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. Drag Me To Hell is a masterful early 1980s style (check out the older Universal logo that kicks things off here) horrorshow combined with the latest visual and sound effects and prosthetics.


The movie starts with a brief prologue that takes place - not in Transylvanian Middle Ages, but just a few decades ago in Pasadena, California. A boy is brought to a woman with occult gifts by his anxious parents. He is said to be hearing voices – and not the garden variety psychotic ones. Apparently the boy stole something from a gypsy and is unable to return it. He must pay. And pay he does.

Fast forward to the present day where Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) works as a loan officer. Christine has her eye on the vacant assistant manager position, but a newer, more ass-licking employee (Reggie Lee – who gave the second season of Prison Break something to die for) has the boss’s attention. Christine is apparently good at her job, but she has not yet made the necessary impression. In walks Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver), an old woman just this side of bag lady – in fact, that’s sort of her concern: She wants another extension on her loan or else the bank will foreclose and she will lose her home of God knows how many years. At first, Mrs. Ganush is piteously supplicating, but even after Christine runs her appeal by her boss (David Paymer), the old lady turns spiteful and curses poor Christine all to hell.

When Christine is attacked by Mrs. Ganush in the parking garage, it’s time for her boyfriend, Clay Dalton (Justin Long), to lend a shoulder of support. Clay means well, but he wasn’t there. We were, and this is no ordinary curse, we could assure him. In fact, someone else does tell him: Psychic Rham Jas (Dileep Rao) reads Christine’s fortune and is horrified by the curse that lies in wait. Clay dismisses the man as a charlatan who only wanted her money, which does not bode well for Christine who is about to suffer the tortures of the damned. But Christine is a plucky wench trying desperately to stay her ground as it opens beneath her.

 


 

Image: 8/9     NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

While not a particularly high-resolution image, the image retains the look of film, with some grain intact. Still, even projected onto a 100 inch screen, the picture quality should look more impressive than it would have in the theater. Except for certain effects, like the fires of hell, the filmmakers’ intent is to present a natural look to color and contrast, which is realized without complaint in Universal’s transfer to Blu-ray. Blacks are properly considered with just enough shadow information to keep us in the dark, but not so much as to make for a muddy image. I found no artifacts, enhancements, DNR or blemishes.

 

ED NOTE: Leonard has an incorrect setting that we have since tweaked and the original captures have been replaced with PNG files as the full resolution ones. Sorry for the inconvenience.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 10/8
Anyone who reads my column regularly knows I rarely give out 10s. For the more technical categories of Image, Audio and Operations, I am reluctant by default, figuring that perfection is yet to come. Well, nothing is perfect – whatever that means in this domain – but some discs are so astonishing or satisfying or clever, or all three, that to deny the ultimate score is just silly. Such a disc is Drag Me To Hell.

The idea here is to present a soundscape that feels natural, if creepily heightened, so that, together with its familiar and relatively unmanipulated picture, we accept what we see as real. In this way special effects like wire work and spectacular lighting can have their intended effect on our psyche.

We find a good example of this in the first scene where Christine is attacked by unseen forces who first make their presence known with loud noises in the walls and ceiling, creaking sounds outside the house, and crashing banging of pots and pans in the kitchen. These sounds are instantly recognizable and true, with perfectly realized timbres. When Christine looks up to acknowledge “footsteps” in the ceiling we reflexively do the same. If we have upstairs neighbors, the effect is truly mind-bending. All these effects are correct, if loud, and make corporeal the unreal visual effects that we see with our eyes. It is true cinema magic – and bloodcurdlingly goosebumply. (There was one sound editing mistake that pulled me out of the picture for a moment when our heroine failed to turn her head toward one of the early effects. We turned to look, but she didn’t.)

 

 

 

Operations: 7
The menu is laid out like other Universal Blu-rays. Arrows tell you which way to direct your remote, and the bonus feature instructions are detailed and intuitive. There is no U-Control for this disc. The single extra feature is the Production Video Diaries, which has a Play All function and can be chapter advanced through its 14 parts once inside. I will continue to rag Universal for its lack of any kind of disc art – a point off.

 

Extras: 5
Extra Features for Drag Me To Hell are limited to BD-Live, a Digital Copy Disc, and a 35-minute set of Production Video Diaries in 14 parts. Unlike many such titled features, this one is a high-value affair touching on all the usual bits we'd expect for a "making-of" "behind-the-scenes" documentary, and covering such areas as sound design, makeup, a set tour, Alison's wire work, a scene breakdown or two, and a short piece on Justin Long in character. Justin also provides the introduction to the diaries with a twinkle.

I have to say that despite seeing numerous behind-the-scenes bonus features over the years, this one had a freshness about it that was very appealing, besides being instructive and entertaining. The director, Sam Raimi, remained graciously in the background on most these segments, leaving others (Justin, Alison, Rao, and a host of production people to guide us through the making of the movie. We might moan the loss of a full length audio commentary, but these Production Diaries are very serviceable.

By the way, the run time for the Unrated Director's Cut is 14 seconds less than the Theatrical Cut. I guess something had to go to make room for more gore.

 

 

Bottom line: 8
Drag Me To Hell may be the best absurdist ”B” horror movie of the past I don’t know how many years. It gets a proper transfer to Blu-ray with one of the most convincing audio tracks on disc. Even without an audio commentary, the one extra feature is totally worthwhile. Bloody well recommended.

Leonard Norwitz
October 10th, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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