I've seen a few more new films over the past two weeks, bringing my total of 2009 films up to 13, a very high number for this time of year. Usually there are few films of interest until later in the year, but the new films at the Jeonju film festival, the release of new films by Korean auteurs, and a few interesting genre exercises have made this first half of the year relatively strong.
The most recent three films I have seen in the theatre are all explorations of familiar genres: Bong Joon-ho's Mother, Rian Johnson's The Brothers Bloom, and Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell. The best of the group is the later, a great, fun, low-budget horror homage by the now very mainstream director Sam Raimie. Of course, this isn't actually "low-budget", but rather, like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse (2007), a tribute to those films, the difference being Raimi was once an actual director of these types of movies with his Evil Dead trilogy. Any fan of horror films will be familiar with what Raimi is up to and there are plenty of great and inventive sequences on display here. But, for the student of horror films this one works on an ideological level as well, with a pretty clear critique of capitalism and the "values" it embodies. This is another way in which it is a throwback, recalling the great cycle of horror films from the 1970s. The Brothers Bloom is the most self-conscious and self-reflexive of the bunch, a con film that uses the genre as a metaphor for myths and storytelling in general. It is too heavy-handed and the ending is not successful, but it is very well-written and acted and I quite enjoyed it on that level. Mother, Bong's deconstruction of the maternal melodrama, is not a very "fun" film, especially over the first half. But, after Bong has set up his plot, the concluding act works very well. It also is dark and unusual enough to stick in the mind.
All three films are still in theatres here and I think they are all worth seeing, and Raimi's in particular is really one that works great in the theatre with an audience. But, just a warning, it's a loud one.