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Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Drag Me To Hell - Unrated Director's Cut

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Kevin EK, Oct 10, 2009.

  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Screenwriter
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    DRAG ME TO
    HELL
    UNRATED DIRECTOR’S CUT
     
    Studio: Universal
    Film Year: 2009
    Film Length: 1 hour 39 mins (Same length for Theatrical and Director’s cuts)
    Genre: Horror (With Some Hints of Comedy)
     
    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
     
    BD Resolution: 1080p
    BD Video Codec: VC-1 @ over 25 mpbs
    Color/B&W: Color
     
    Audio:
    English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 @ an average 4.0 mbps
    English Dolby Digital 2.0
    Spanish DTS 5.1
    French DTS 5.1
     
     
    Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
    Film Rating: PG-13 & Unrated (Horror Violence, Terror, Language, Disturbing Images)
     
    Release Date: October 13, 2009
     
    Starring: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, David Paymer, Adriana Barraza
     
    Written by: Sam Raimi & Ivan Raimi
    Directed by:  Sam Raimi
     
    Film Rating:    3 ½ /5
     
    Drag Me To Hell is a return to basics by director Sam Raimi, who started his career by making lower budget horror films like The Evil Dead and its various sequels before finding himself at the helm of the massive budget Spider Man film franchise. For this project, Raimi works with a smaller budget (although at approximately 30 million dollars, this is not what I would consider LOW budget) and creates a truly scary experience. And I have to admit it’s a pretty intelligent film with a sense of humor to it. It’s not the kind of movie I’d normally watch, but there’s no denying that Raimi is a skilled filmmaker who still has the chops (no pun intended) to repeatedly scare his audience.   The basic story here concerns a bank employee (Alison Lohman) who turns down a leniency request by an elderly woman and finds herself under a demonic curse that manifests in increasingly horrific ways. There are plenty of the standard “cattle prod” scares throughout, but this is definitely a step above most other entries in the genre. One clear example comes in the form of a séance – something that was badly botched in The Unborn but here takes on a simultaneously scary and witty form. Again, this isn’t for all audiences, but fans of Sam Raimi will absolutely enjoy the mayhem on display here as a great return home. As an added bonus, the film begins with the pre-90’s Universal logo and ends with the classic “Visit Universal Studios” placard after the credits. One caveat: At the risk of spoiling anything from the movie, I must caution animal lovers, particularly pet owners, that this film rather gleefully runs the risk of offending you…
     
    For the home video release, Drag Me To Hell is offered simultaneously in its original PG-13 theatrical form and in a re-edited “Director’s Cut” that runs about the same length. I only watched the unrated version, but my understanding is that it is noticeably bloodier than the theatrical cut. I won’t say that it’s a cut above, as this would risk immediate flaming by outraged readers and Sam Raimi fans…
     
    Drag Me To Hell is being released on Blu-ray this Tuesday, with a high definition transfer in picture and sound, a bookmarking function, BD-Live access, and a collection of 13 brief featurettes that collectively run just over 35 minutes.
     
    VIDEO QUALITY   3 ½/5
    Drag Me To Hell is presented in a 1080p VC-1 2.40:1 transfer that displays a range of accurate flesh tones, and spotlights the various effects employed throughout the movie. There’s an appropriate amount of darkness here, and the black levels look solid. The CGI effects blend fairly well with the live action material, lending a bit of reality to images the viewer knows must be completely manufactured. I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread.
     
     
    AUDIO QUALITY   3 ½/5
    Drag Me To Hell is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English, as well as a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix and standard DTS mixes in Spanish and French. As you might imagine from the subject matter, the subwoofer and the surrounds come to life quite frequently here. Between the various cattle prods and the music throughout the film, the theater soundstage is pretty active. And the aggressive nature of Raimi’s storytelling and editing is buttressed by an equally aggressive mix. As with other horror films I have reviewed here, I must caution the viewer NOT to watch this with full blast sound after midnight unless you wish to scare the whole neighborhood, and then yourself when everyone comes over to thank you…
     
    SPECIAL FEATURES      2/5
    The Blu-Ray presentation of Drag Me To Hell comes with only a single collective featurette.   There is also the usual BD-Live functionality and the “My Scenes” bookmarking feature. 
     
    The Making of Drag Me To Hell (1080p, 35:08) – This collection of 13 Production Video Diaries provides a bit of behind-the-scenes material and some droll introductions by Justin Long, but it honestly doesn’t go very far toward explaining the genesis of this film. Essentially, the various diaries each spotlight a specific aspect of the film and provide some footage to explain how the film’s effects were achieved. There’s some quick interview snippets with the cast and creative staff, and several bits of on-set video, but I wouldn’t’ consider this the most in-depth examination. On the other hand, the film isn’t exactly asking for an in-depth examination, when you really think about it.
     
    BD-Live - This Blu-ray includes access to Universal’s BD-Live online site, allowing for the viewing of trailers online.
     
    D-Box- This Blu-ray includes D-Box functionality for those viewers that have this feature in their home theater.
     
    Digital Copy – A digital copy is provided here of the unrated director’s cut.
     
    Subtitles are available for the film and the special features. A full chapter menu is available for the film. The Blu-ray menus also include the “My Scenes” bookmarking feature and a BD-Live User Guide. 
     
    IN THE END...
    Drag Me To Hell is sure to be a hit with fans of Sam Raimi’s earlier work, as well as with horror fans looking for some fun during the Halloween season. I admit that I’m not much of a horror fan, but I was certainly impressed by both the confidence of craft and by the obvious wit on display here. Sam Raimi fans can rest assured he hasn’t completely devoted himself to the webslinger, and this Blu-ray is a great way for them to enjoy his latest offering. (And yes, that pun was intentional…)
     
    Kevin Koster
    October 10, 2009.

     
  2. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?

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    I watched this yesterday and really loved it.
    Normally horror or slasher films are not on my list to watch but I knew i would enjoy this one.
    If it's a funny horror film I'm in and this one was really fun as well as scary.

    The shot of an anvil and what happpens after it falls was a riot.

    This was a great film and I liked it at 4 stars out of 5.
    The audio seemed to be better later in the movie then in the beginning, until about 15-20 minutes in the sound sound seemed to me to be slightly low and even a little scratchy but once the stuff starts to happen it was much better.

    Kevin, what do you think the sound needed to be better then 3.5 for you?
     
  3. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Screenwriter
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    Tony,

    I debated giving the sound a higher rating, but wound up just settling where I was. It's simply a matter that the mix is of a kind with most other horror films I've reviewed here - run the low volume, build up the creepy music, empty out the atmosphere and then jab the audience with the cattle prod. It's effective and aggressive, but nothing that felt like I should go to another level with it.

    I didn't notice the scratchiness, to be honest.

    I agree with you that Raimi shows he knows exactly what he's doing here. If you're a Raimi fan, particularly of his earlier films, you'll have a blast here.
     
  4. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    I enjoyed this movie. It's definitely Sam Raimi getting back into an Evil Dead 2 mode.

    Did they keep the old 1970's and 80's Universal logo at the front of the movie for video? I can't imagine that they'd change it from the theaters but I figured I'd check. Call me anal.
     
  5. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Screenwriter
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    TravisR,

    The older Universal opening is on the header for the movie, and the "Visit Universal Studios" placard follows the end credits. Raimi has a great sense of humor.
     
  6. MartiD

    MartiD Auditioning

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    Kevin,
    I am Marti D. Humphrey CAS , the Re-Recording Mixer on "Drag Me To Hell".
    I saw your review and noticed on your score of "The Audio" which you gave it a low score.
    And then I read your reason above. I am shocked!
    Especially when there are other reviews that give it all scores in the 90's or 4.5 stars.
    Here is a link to some other reviews:
    http://www.cinemasquid.com/blu-ray/movies/details/drag-me-to-hell?movieid=10630&locale=all

    This mix was far from "ordinary". It was dynamic with every element given it's proper
    balance within the timeline. While it would be nice to get 100's everytime I have trouble with
    the reason for your score. Especially if it's on BluRay.
    I look forward for your reply.
     
  7. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?

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    What happened to the post by Marti the sound mixer?

    nevermind, I know what happened now.
     
  8. MartiD

    MartiD Auditioning

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    TonyD,
    Yes, what did happen to my post? did i raise a question about the rating and it gets deleted ?
     
  9. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?

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    Or it was another reason, I don't know.
     
  10. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Marti --

    Your post was not deleted, nor would it be. When you hit "submit", you should have received a message indicating that, because you're a new member, the post was being held for moderation. This frequently happens with posts from new members that contain links, and it is an automated process.

    As soon as I saw your post in the moderation queue, I cleared it. It now appears in its original position. Thanks for understanding.
     
  11. MartiD

    MartiD Auditioning

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    Michael,
    It was only because of the post by TonyD asking what happened to "Marti's Post" did I ask.
    Thank you for your reply.
     
  12. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?

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    Marti, Now that is figured out, Welcome to the forum.
     
  13. MartiD

    MartiD Auditioning

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    TonyD,
    Thank you. Looking forward to some more discussion on the sound of "Drag me To Hell".

    Take care,
     
  14. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Screenwriter
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    Marti,

    I just logged on to the site and found your response in this thread.

    Sorry for not checking it earlier.

    I'm sorry that my rating appears as low. I believe I said the mix was "effective and aggressive", of a kind with the film itself. As I said, I debated taking the rating up to a "4" but settled where I was. I didn't think I was giving you a low mark, or disrespecting your work. A low mark for me is "2" or lower. "3 1/2" is pretty darn good. When I get up into the "4" or "5" range, it's usually a different matter for me. I particularly keep that in mind for Blu-ray titles.

    We had some discussion about this kind of thing about a year and a half ago here - specifically about watching out about giving out "Highly Recommended" on too many reviews. And I've been mindful of that ever since.

    I hear what you're saying about the other reviews at other websites. I try not to base my ratings on other reviews, other than to make sure that I didn't miss something really obvious that everyone else has picked up on. (I've also learned to check the forums here, as there may be discussions already brewing about some titles before I can post the review.) By the same reasoning, I also don't necessarily dismiss an audio mix or a picture transfer just because another website or blogger has a problem. (I'm wary of the current practice of posting screengrabs as part of an attack on a DVD's PQ - since movies, well, MOVE...)

    I'm glad to know a member of the show's crew has been able to see the review and can participate in this forum. My first exposure to the film was actually about a year ago, when I worked with one of the ADs. We kept trying to bring her in to help us but she kept telling us she was supposed to work on something called Drag Me To Hell. Which kept getting the response from us of "You're working on WHAT?"
     
  15. MartiD

    MartiD Auditioning

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    Kevin,
    That you for your response. However the point I am making is that you went into this review by saying

    This is where I have trouble. There is much more than as you say

    Your feeling towards a Feature film like this has clouded your objective side of things especially as I originally pointed out on the link to the other reviews.Hopefully the Moderator Michael Reuben will chime in.
     
  16. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Screenwriter
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    Marti,

    In all honesty, I am not seeing the problem here. Your quote from my review includes my acknowledgment of the confidence of craft in this film. I noted this in my review in more than one place, and I noted it again in my response here.

    I need to ask if you believe that I would need to be a horror film fan in order to provide a proper evaluation of this DVD. I honestly do not see that as an issue.

    I noted the solid work done by your department, as well as everyone else involved in the production. I certainly didn't give the film or the Blu-ray a bad review. If I wasn't giving the Blu-ray an extremely enthusiastic review, that simply reflects my taste - not any reflection on the work on display. This does not mean that I can't be objective about the technical details - please be aware that I have gone through several horror genre films both on Blu-ray and standard definition in the time I have submitted reviews to HTF. The comments you see from me in my second quote reflect that the mix is similar to others of the same vein. That doesn't mean it's a bad mix - it means that this is exactly what you would expect and want from this genre.

    I would be happy to hear any comments from the moderators here - if I have misspoke, I'd be happy to correct the situation.

    Thanks for your participation and your feedback.
     
  17. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?

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    Kevin you haven't mispoke(?), you gave your opinion and that's what your review is suposed to do.

    Many people think that an opinion different from their's is an incorrect opinion.
    I'm not sure that's what is happening with Marti or not.

    You or anyone shouldn't write a review based on what he thinks the people expect him to say.
     
  18. Adam Gregorich

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    Marti- Welcome to the forum. I understand that you are dissatisfied with the star rating, but we don't police our reviewers. The rating Kevin uses is entirely up to him. In Kevin's last post he addresses your concern about him being fairly able to grade the technical merits of the film despite the genre. I think you may be dwelling too much on the 3.5 stars and what that did to the score at Cinema Squid and not enough on the actual text of Kevin's review, where he is complimentary and speaks favorably of the mix.
    Thanks again for contributing to the discussion on this title. While we are on the subject would you mind talking about the sound design on this film?
     
  19. MartiD

    MartiD Auditioning

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    Adam,
    I will gladly answer any questions about the Sound Design of the Film.
    But before I do Adam, have you listened to it carefully, I mean listened to it?
    If you have then you will see why it deserves more than a 3.5 stars.
    Especially since Kevin states

    THIS IS ONE OF THE REASONS WHY I QUESTION THE RATING!!!

    This is a Remarkable Mix and for Kevin to say

    "Cattle Prod" !

    Any more slanted than that?

    It just doesn't add up.
    How about this Adam, why don't you and Michael watch it (together if possible) and let us here know your HONEST
    ratings for the "Audio" part of the Movie.
    After that I will be glad to answer your questions.
    Thank You,
     
  20. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?

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    hmm, well, Kevin already gave his "honost" thoughts so I guess that's it then.
     

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