SDCC: Universal Shows Off Mummy, Death Race and Latest From Raimi (Mania.com)

By:Joey Campbell
Date: Monday, July 28, 2008

Universal Pictures brandished a bevy of its biggest soon-to-be-released projects before a large crowd of interested fans and press at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend. The studio debuted exclusive footage from The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Death Race, Land of the Lost and Drag Me to Hell. Accompanying the trailers and never before seen footage was a series of panel discussions, rounded out by audience questions and plenty of impromptu humor.
Judging by audience delight, the highlight of Universal’s four-pack of features was the early footage for Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell (spring 2009). “Hell” represents the eagerly awaited grand return to the horror genre for Raimi, who described the film as a “simple, campfire ghost story.” Allison Lohman plays a loan officer who refuses a loan to an old crone, who enacts her revenge with an old gypsy curse, setting in motion a string of thrills and chills that threaten to fulfill the promise of the movie’s title.
Two exclusive short clips, finished only three weeks earlier, had the audience both shrieking with fear and rolling with laughter. Some of the more deranged elements shown in the clips include a stapler attack to the face, a denture-less bite and insect-ridden projectile vomit.   
Though less than overwhelming, the trailer hints at a darkly colorful story, imaginative sets and Raimi’s calling-card first-person camera angles. Justin Long and Dileep Rao costar but alas, Raimi noted, there will be no Bruce Campbell cameo. On a related note, however, Raimi did report that Evil Dead 4 is certainly “in his wheelhouse.”
 

Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello headlined a cast panel promoting the latest update to Universal’s Mummy franchise (in theaters August 1). The latest installment moves its trademark CGI-leaden adventure story from Egypt to the Far East, where the O’Connell family (Fraser, Luke Ford and Bello standing in for Rachel Weisz) battles the walking, shape-shifting remains of a once entombed and mummified Chinese emperor (Li). 

 Yeoh and Li are rumored to face off in the movie during a scene that’s been hailed as the “fight all of Asia has been waiting for.” The film, described by cast members as the largest Western film ever shot in China (budget-wise), is counting on extensive visual effects and Indiana Jones’ style cliffhangers to continue the success of the earlier Mummy films. Footage revealed at SDCC boasted, among other things, ferocious but friendly CGI yetis, a sonically powered mummy, as well as lots of explosions, fisticuffs and not-too-subtle slapstick action.
 

Another well-received sneak preview was the reimagining of Roger Corman’s Death Race 2000, this time just called Death Race, and helmed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil). Taking place in a dystopian future where maximum security prisoners compete in a deadly car race, the story centers on an ex-con (Jason Statham) forced into high speed action by a nefarious warden (Joan Allen) with her own sinister designs.

 The Death Race Panel included Allen, Statham, Anderson, Natalie Martinez, Ian McShane, Tyrese Gibson and a surprise appearance by Roger Corman. Unseen footage promises that Death Race will have a healthy heaping of action and violence. One scene shows a masked Statham break the neck of another driver, right before a character named Machine Gun Joe (Gibson) kicks a man from a speeding vehicle into a steel girder.
“The movie is NASCAR to the death in the future on the internet—what more do you want?” said Ian McShane.