A hidden gem from Sam Raimi

Have you seen ‘The Gift’?

The Gift Sam Raimi Cate Blanchett

In the pantheon of Sam Raimi’s filmography, a moody supernatural thriller like the gift is probably the one you overlooked. After all, movies like Evil Dead, SpidermanY Drag Me to Hell they are more indicative of Raimi’s kinetic style and enthusiasm. As a Raimi fan, he understands the nostalgic reverence for his magic behind the camera, especially now that he’s back with Doctor strange in the multiverse of madness. Oddly enough, it is the firmness and moderation of the gift that makes it a fascinating gem in his work, rough edges and all.

Released in 2000, the gift it already shows the director gearing up for a studio blockbuster. Rosemary Harris and JK Simmons appear in this as a preview of Spiderman. Though she’s not a superhero (or an elven queen yet), Cate Blanchett is our hero and she’s backed by an all-star ensemble: Hilary Swank, Keanu Reeves, Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes, Giovanni Ribisi, Kim Dickens, and Gary Cole. the gift it was also co-written by Billy Bob Thornton. Rest assured, Raimi’s Oldsmobile does show up, though it’s not Ted Raimi or Bruce Campbell. It’s for the best, in hindsight.

Moody, dour and gloomy, the gift it’s a sea change for Raimi. This is him merging his wild horror sensibilities with the measured studio filmmaker he became in the late ’90s. Raimi would go nuts over Spiderman In time. and the synopsis of the gift it feels like him cunningly planting a flag for a Doctor Strange movie.

Blanchett plays Annie, a psychic who provides readings for anyone in Brixton, Georgia. This being the south, all treatment of her goes against the unconditional Christian beliefs of the community. She is reduced to being called a fortune teller or devil worshiper. Or “witch”, if the fans in town are being nice about it.

One night, Annie begins having visions of a murder, followed by torrential nightmares about where the body is buried. He finds himself in the center of the city’s attention as he helps the police search for missing woman Jessica King, becoming a witness in the murder case and eventual detective, as the mystery isn’t as open and shut as it is. It seems. .

It’s the rare psychic whodunnit. With a loaded ensemble and plenty of drama to go around, you get the feeling that everyone involved was chasing the Oscars of Silence of inocents Y The sixth Sense. Almost everyone is committing to the southern accent, just like almost everyone is crying in this movie. Regardless of the prestige of the awards, the gift It is basically a horror movie. Raimi trades the cabin for a small town and the vicious dead for abusers and murderers. Yes Evil Dead It’s the malevolent cabin race at full throttle, so the gift it’s a slow-burn southern gothic nightmare.

One of Annie’s clients is Valerie Barksdale (Hilary Swank), a woman ritually beaten by her husband Donnie. We could revel in Bruce Campbell’s persistent torture in the Evil Dead trilogy, but we’re in on the joke: the dead are essentially the Jackass team pulling a prank on Ash in a series of ever-increasing chunks. But here, there’s nothing funny about Valerie’s domestic abuse trial. Her bruises are shown in daylight.

From the start, we understand that Annie’s House is not a carnival stop for couples on a date night. Those isolated in Brixton seek refuge in Annie’s readings. Some pray to win the lottery. Others, like Valerie, are looking for morsels of hope to get them through the week. So of course her abusive husband puts out that flame too. It’s a different kind of possession story, and all the more terrifying because there’s no Necronomicon to undo the terror.

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This is a year after Keanu Reeves played the best good boy in Matrix. His unkempt beard and sheepdog eyes make for a scary twist. While Reeves plays a villain, he is not THE villain who killed Jessica King. Donnie is the redneck herring in the whodunit and the goofball asshole who ties everyone’s fate together.

One of the most disturbing sequences is when Donnie breaks into Annie’s house and drags his wife out. The camera work is as frenetic as a cabin besieged by a demonic entity, the camera shakes and hurtles towards the shocked faces of Annie’s children who have never seen such violence. But there is a Kandarian demon at work; he is a man. There is no music in the sequence to raise or lower the tension. It’s just Valerie’s helpless screams and the horror of an abuser maintaining his stranglehold on her victim. Donnie’s anger also makes victims of Annie and her children.

Annie’s nightmarish visions, then, seem like a reprieve. Raimi knows how to dial in the surreal with his proprietary zooms and tilted angles. (Prestidigitation fans can detect precursors to Lorraine Warren’s psychic detection). But at least those shards of fear are waiting for the sun to go down and only Annie can take them. Donnie Barksdale’s terror, on the other hand, is ever-present. His threats can break into his house, pick up his children on the street, and haunt their lives 24/7. Annie closes the door for fear of Donnie, not the dead girl intruding on her sleep cycle. Even the most vengeful ghosts and demons come with rules or limits. Donnie has none.

As the trial gets underway, we learn that Donnie’s abuse is an open secret. Characters appear who witnessed his beatings and looked the other way. The town is haunted in the sense that characters like Annie and Valerie should move out and never look back. Annie’s “gift” means that she will have to deal with everyone’s ghosts because the authorities won’t intervene unless there is a body.

Among Annie’s clients is Buddy Cole (a serious Giovanni Ribisi) who struggles with his own victimization. Buddy’s father sexually abused him as a child. No one came to his rescue, leaving a broken man on the verge of exploding. It’s up to Annie to pick up the pieces.

Annie’s only backup comes from the warnings from beyond the grave. Raimi’s description of these ghosts is not at all different from how he illuminates living characters. Ghosts can be anywhere, because there is a lot of unfinished business in any corner of any home, including Annie’s. She may have a big heart and an open door, but others’ unresolved baggage traumatizes her children and eventually leads to her own breakdown.

The most harrowing shot in the film isn’t one of demons or corpses. It’s a close-up of Annie taking the stand where her defense reduces her to nothing. For a showman like Raimi who loves turning and turning the camera, it is when the frame is more still that it ends up being more convincing. It allows her lead actress to work her magic.

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Because for a moment we forget that it’s not Annie’s trial. However, it seems that the town has gathered to witness the public shaming of her. It’s legitimately unnerving, and there’s no blood or jump scares involved. It’s just a series of brutal questions combined with a heartbreaking performance from Cate Blanchett. We’re in the courtroom with her, and we’re also guilty of watching Annie collapse on the stand.

Blanchett’s casting is what sells the traumatic sequence of events. (She is Galadriel, after all. She passed the test!) With any other actress, the story would read like emotional torture porn. But with someone as gifted (sorry) as Blanchett, we not only buy her vulnerability, but also her resilience and strength. Raimi used Bruce Campbell’s flawless chin to revel in physical comedy and cheekily parody the ’90s male action hero. With Blanchett, Raimi lays it bare: being a woman in this town is a daily trip to hell and back. .

While the whodunnit premise is the film’s weakest element, it reveals the depths of male violence. The killer turns out to be Jessica King’s fiancé, Wayne Collins (Greg Kinnear). Wayne kills her because she had been having an affair. Her promiscuity disrupted his dream of a perfect home.

Wayne is positioned at the beginning of the film as the endearing common man. Being the principal of the school, he shows concern for Annie’s son. And he’s the only character who really wants to talk to Annie. But behind his nice-guy facade is someone discreetly volatile. At least with heavy Donnie, there are no illusions. In Raimi’s horror movies, evil can take many forms: the dead, mad scientists, or the kind eyes of Greg Kinnear.

Annie, in the end, is the last girl. She survived the loss of her husband. She survives Wayne’s attempt to cover up her crime. The nightmares may subside, but her horror story is far from over. Donnie will be exonerated and there is no guarantee that his tirade will stop. It’s the real horror movie that ends on the line the bad deathThe final scream of on camera. Raimi, fortunately, closes the film with a family portrait. Annie stops looking at people’s futures for a moment, allowing herself to mourn her husband and be with their children in the present.

the gift it’s a sea change for Sam Raimi, an opportunity to make a different kind of horror movie. It’s domestic horror about supernatural horror. Some may find it convincing, others trying. Sure, some performances work better than others, and the characterization can be one-note or cartoonish at times (Jessica King slept with the defendant AND the prosecutor is more of a soap opera than a compilation). That’s especially true of Annie’s compound meltdowns that are too much for any one character, fictional or not. Nevertheless, the gift it’s a fierce early showcase for Cate Blanchett, and an exceptionally sober Raimi horror film that’s well worth watching.

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