The Gift
dir. Sam Raimi
Opens Fri Jan 19 at Metro and Pacific Place 11.

THERE IS A want somewhere between schlock and camp that Sam Raimi satisfies in his Evil Dead films. Raimi's insanely ambitious cocktail of terror and slapstick was so exciting that the entire genre of horror film was significantly altered each time he passed through. But ever since Evil Dead III: Army of Darkness, Raimi has been assimilated as a working Joe in the moviemaking factory. His candle has gone out in the Hollywood wind.

The Gift is about a woman, Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett), who has a special and unusual gift: She's psychic. She uses this gift to help the community. Then! She starts seeing bad stuff. A murder occurs. She uses her gift to solve the murder. It's just plain weird that Blanchett took this role; she's a beautiful lead in any film, but she does not save films. If Blanchett were not the lead, I'd believe this movie was a comedy of acting. Giovanni Ribisi is a buffoon, playing the most exaggerated poor young Southern fearless psychotic, who is suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder because he was molested. Although I liked seeing Keanu fat, he hasn't had any time yet to take a break from moviemaking and learn how to read lines. And the only interesting thing about Hilary Swank is, she's in the role of a woman whom her last movie character might have hit on in a bar.

Set passively in a Georgia swamp--the very landscape of horror--it's doubly disappointing that the true Raimi method of taking everything too far is absent. There are only brief flickers of his high horror style, including a dead woman wound in chains, swimming in a tree, one dead eye staring into the camera.

Raimi's signature big yellow car (which is in every movie he makes) is featured in The Gift. The car has always been the symbol of Raimi's ability to push things to the point where nothing works, and then going further until everything works. Unfortunately, like this movie, the car doesn't go anywhere, and the driver's side door is definitely off its hinge.

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