Summer 2009 saw the birth of an interesting piece of terminology. Reflecting the success of titles such as Iron Man (2008), Terminator Salvation (2009) and the Transformers series, “robots hitting each other” has become a short-hand way of referring to the kind of shallow and crassly commercial genre film-making that is currently dominating Hollywood release schedules. Films not merely unintelligent but actually hostile to thought. Films designed to eliminate critical distance through the sensorial onslaught of bloated running times packed with explosions, violence and spectacle. Films that are the cinematic equivalent to the US using loud music to drive Manuel Noriega out of the Vatican embassy during the invasion of Panama. Given a cultural climate in which Hollywood is essentially using psychological warfare against its own customers, it is only natural that many of us should yearn for something more. Ever since the first trailers dropped, Neil Blomkamp’s District 9 has presented itself as a summer film with that little something extra : Science fiction that rises above robots hitting each other to become genuinely thought provoking and intelligent. However, the reality of District 9 is that what ideas it has are used up in the first twenty minutes, after which the film collapses into a mire of clumsy metaphors, poorly written characters and the kind of plot you would find only in the most hollow-skulled of video games.
Drag Me To Hell marks Sam Raimi’s return to the world of Horror from the sunny shores of Summer Blockbuster island. As with his three Evil Dead films, Drag Me To Hell straddles the gap between Horror and Comedy by combining elements of slapstick knockabout humour with the major keys, creeping camera-work and build and release mechanics of the Horror genre. However, for a film that seeks to trade so heavily upon its big visual set-pieces, it is not only poorly written but grossly over-written too.