Since the release of the first segment of Stephen King's IT in 2017, horror fans have been pretty much spoiled with back to back better than average genre fare. The crop has been so high caliber it's hard to believe there was ever a time when weeks and weeks would go by without any worthwhile releases. We've had it so good lately that a movie that emotionally resonates and is chuck full of visionary images of horror can somehow be shrugged off and deemed simply passable or even disappointing. I don't get it. I loved the ever so epic IT: Chapter 2 and can't imagine the source material being handled much better. Yeah, I guess it is a little long with its somewhat flabby and redundant midway section but you know the
And hip-hip halleluiah, Chapter 2 has the admirable audacity to jump right into the deep end opening its curtains to the deadly homophobic hate crime that haunted the hell out of me when I first read the book. I don't care what anyone says, this scene (which is based on a real incident that took place in Bangor, Maine in 1984, two years before IT was published) is crucial to me; it sets the tone of the entire tale and pretty succinctly tells you everything thing you need to know about the not as friendly as it looks town of Derry (I'm sure they thought of including the incident in the 1990 miniseries for exactly zero
Some folks will tell you IT Chapter 2 goes a little overboard with the CGI and borderline cartoonish special effects and I guess that's just a matter of personal taste. I personally appreciate that you never know when a rubbery looking, eight-foot-tall funhouse denizen is going to jump out of nowhere and chase someone with arms flailing about and slimy drool pouring from its lips. If there is a reason such an abomination might vomit all over a character to the tune of Juice Newton's "Angel of the Morning," I have no idea what it is, but it certainly adds unpredictability to the bonkers phantasmagorical swirling smorgasbord, which is right in line with King's hallucinatory original intentions. Yep, there's an absolutely shameless tribute to JOHN CARPENTER's THE THING plopped down in the middle of this flick and it's almost way too on the nose and yet, King himself referenced Universal horror icons (Wolf Man, Mummy, Gill-Man) of the original time period in the book so I guess it's fair game. It's a little gimmicky, a little cheap but what the hell kind of horror fan is going to complain about such a thing? Pennywise's ultimate boss battle form saves his big expressive head and tacks it onto some kind of part scorpion/part spider/part Beetlejuice creature that's a little trying on my too-slow peepers but hey, I'm old enough to remember when rendering such a monstrosity would be impossible so I'm here to happily digest it. It probably all looks a little too visually similar to the climax of the first film (maybe a contrasting color scheme may have helped?) but I still think it looks better than any attempt to faithfully create how things go down in the book ever would. Thankfully Muschietti seems to understand what's translatable and what's not and his shorthand saves the day. There are a couple cringe moments I guess, I found
It's not often we get a horror movie with such a vibrant romantic element either. I know I'm a sucker but I'm still shocked this movie was able to get me to ship a Beverly (JESSICA CHASTAIN) and Ben (JAY RYAN) union so hard. Which brings me to another strong element- if ever there was ever an Oscar award given out for casting this baby would be a
Believe it or not, READY OR NOT is about as satisfying as thrillers get. It's all kinds of suspenseful, hits you with tasty blasts of true horror and the pitch-black humor that weaves throughout is exactly the right effortless tone that never ventures into the too broad and annoying zone. The unremarkable trailer misled me to believe I was in for the standard, been-there, done-that affair but R.O.N. cleverly plays against genre expectations, guides you into areas you'd never assume existed and ultimately pulls off a completely unexpected (literally) explosive conclusion. It's kind of an irresistible combination of old school parlor room mind game mixed up with survival horror and smothered in satanic cynicism. Plus it all takes place in a sprawling mansion complete with secret doors, dumbwaiters
SAMARA WEAVING (THE BABYSITTER) portrays Grace, a woman about to dive into marriage who finds herself intimidated and
WEAVING owns this movie (although I gotta give props to ANDIE MACDOWELL as the menacing matriarch as well). Grace is such an appealing and relatable horror heroine. She bumbles and fumbles and makes bad judgment calls and succumbs to her own vices and is, in general, a beautifully flawed, exquisite mess. She doesn't secretly know karate or build elaborate Rube Goldberg booby traps on the fly either. What makes Grace even more relevant is her well-earned ferocious anger. It's glorious. At some point, she's just plain exhausted and royally pissed and so rightfully incredulous as she asks the sky, "What the fuck is wrong with rich people?" There's something so authentic about the fury that WEAVING emboldens Grace with, her every scream, curse and frazzled wail rings true and feels legit. As the character enjoys a congratulatory exhale from a cigarette at the end of the film (which strongly echoes Veronica (WINONA RYDER)'s casual smoke at the end of HEATHERS) it's almost difficult to believe she is the same character we started out with. The emotional journey she endures (through optimism, doubt, passivity, paranoia, anger, rage, profound exasperation and finally shrugging blasÃ© victory) is one harrowing yet richly rewarding (and sometimes hilarious) haul.
Who doesn't love a haunted house flick? The problem is some reach for subtlety and grab uneventful and long-winded instead. THE EVIL seems to know that it doesn't have the mastery required to go the suggestive route so it pulls out all the stops and puts on a real show. This is a haunted house movie where things go down and they go down in your face (utilizing old school effects, thankfully.) It flirts with silliness and plays with many a clichÃ© but you can't accuse it of not delivering. RICHARD CRENNA stars as a psychologist who along with his wife and a merry band of victims decide to restore an old house with a troubled past. The group are separated and dispensed of one by one with the clockwork of a slasher movie and a man-eating lawn makes attempts of escape appear hopelessly futile.
THE EVIL was filmed in a real castle in Montezuma, New Mexico and, per usual, the utilizing of an actual space with authentic history pays off. Frankly, the location alone is more than enough to recommend this movie. THE EVIL is more frivolous fun than under the skin unsettling, but it's not completely brain dead either. Unlike many a haunted house flick, it comes off as generally interested in the supernatural. An eleventh hour, from left field,