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SDCC: Universal Shows Off Mummy, Death Race and Latest From Raimi

Sneak peak of Drag Me To Hell captivates audience

By Joey Campbell     July 28, 2008


Paul W.S Anderson, Natalie Martinez, Ian McShane and Tyrese Gibson at the San Diego Comic-Con 2008 Universal Panel for DEATH RACE(2008).
© Joey Campbell
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.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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jamalcolm 7/28/2008 11:02:29 AM
I saw this panel. It was great all around. I personally thought that Drag Me to Hell looked somewhat goofy. Scary Movie sprang to mind while I was watching it and that isn't a good thing. On the other hand, it did make me jump more than once and that was just in the few minutes shown. I thought that the Mummy looked like a lot of fun. I am a big fan of the first two and this new one seemed to capture the spirit of them. It looks like a lot of fun. It was interesting to hear that the reason Maria Bello wanted to be part of the movie was that she had always wanted to play Indiana Jones. Death Race looked fun and action packed-exactly what you'd want. It got a great review from Roger Corman who said that he'd thought the original was a good as it could be until he saw what they were doing with the new one.
fft5305 7/28/2008 11:08:21 AM
Instead of cursing the officer, which I'm sure would have reprecussions on the old crone's soul, should have tried Prosper.com. I just got a loan from there. No fuss, no muss. :-p Is it just me or does the trailer for Death Race pretty much give *everything* away?
JeribaDrac 7/28/2008 11:39:36 AM
I was also at this panel, and I would have to agree that Drag Me to Hell has potential to be a great return-to-form Raimi. If you remember, the Evil Dead series is almost equal parts horror and slapstick. Evil Dead leans more toward the horror, Evil Dead 2 is slightly more even, and Army of Darkness is a bit lighter, heavier on the comedy ("Alright you primitive screwheads, listen up! You see this? This... is my BOOM STICK! The 12-gauge double-barreled Remington. S-Mart's top of the line. You can find this in the sporting goods department. That's right, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Retails for about $109.95. It's got a walnut stock, cobalt blue steel and a hair trigger. That's right. Shop smart. Shop S-Mart. You got that?") I digress. I think that's what Raimi does so well, and why his Evil Dead movies are such cult classics--for both the horror fan and the horror passerby--and hopefully Hell captures some of that Raimi flair. I would guess the saving grace for the third Mummy installation is its cast. I can't imagine the story, which seems a recycled version of the first two, is compelling enough to garner the same popularity the first two did. Enter super-hot Maria Bello, Michelle Yeoh, Jet Li and the always entertaining John Hannah, and you've got yourself a picture. For me personally, I'll bet I'm entertained enough to enjoy the flick, but I'm counting on silliness, plot holes and a template script. Death Race I'll watch simply for the high-octane action. I have to agree with fft5305 ... if you've seen the trailer, then you've pretty much seen a condensed version of the film. Still, that could be said of a bunch of action flicks, but we like to see them 'cause they're fun, not because we're looking to be surprised. It doesn't look like Universal is necessarily churning out high art with these three, but it's not a bad 1-2-3 punch. And, let's not kid ourselves, Sam Raimi is doing what Sam Raimi does best, and I will likely sh*t myself throughout Drag Me to Hell. (Oh, and TDK owns son!)
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