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IT: Classic Horror Reborn

Seven pre-teen outcasts overcome their fears to confront a shape-shifting creature that takes the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown and awakens every 27 years to feed on children in It (2017), the latest film adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel of the same name.

Written by Chase Palmer and Cary Fukunaga and directed by Andy Muschietti, It was filmed on a budget of $35 million and grossed over $117 million in its opening weekend. It revives classic American horror by delivering more than just jump scares. It was genuinely scary, but also at times heartfelt, funny, and sincere.

It‘s success is even more surprising given its director’s lack of experience. Andy Muschietti, an Argentine screenwriter, has only directed one other full-length feature. To entrust the long-anticipated reboot of one of Stephen King’s most iconic horror tales to an inexperienced director is, well, incredible. That he actually pulled off making It into a blockbuster will ensure a long career. It‘s opening box office earnings completely eclipse The Sixth Sense‘s and that film made director M. Night Shyamalan a household name.

I’m not a Stephen King fan and I don’t get the fascination with clowns. I never read the novel or saw the 1990 TV mini series staring Tim Curry, so I came to the theater without any preconceptions aside from bits and pieces of things I’ve heard about It over the years. Like most Stephen King novels, the horror element is a vehicle for exploring other issues, issues related to family, coming of age, bullying, confronting mortality, etc., all of which appear in this story.

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First Impressions of IT

I watched It (2017), the latest film adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel of the same name, in a packed theater this weekend. I’m not a Stephen King fan and I don’t get the fascination with clowns, but I have to admit there is a lot of genuine excitement surrounding this movie.

I never read the novel or saw the 1990 TV mini series staring Tim Curry, so I came to the theater without any preconceptions aside from bits and pieces of things I’ve heard about It over the years. Here are some of my first impressions:

  • A good horror movie is also a good movie. This was a good movie–it was genuinely scary, but also at times heartfelt, funny, and sincere.
  • It was set in 1989, so there are nostalgic elements, but It doesn’t bash you over the head with nostalgia.
  • In one scene, there are posters advertising A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, which came out in 1989. I thought it was fitting to make reference to that franchise because many of the effects in It are reminiscent of A Nightmare on Elm Street, especially when the hair comes out of the sink and pulls Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) toward the drain.
  • All the child actors in this movie are great. In a film that pits children against adults, the children are funny, relatable, and courageous, while the adults are creepy, sadistic, and often indifferent.
  • That being said… There are almost too many protagonists. I realize the film is just copying the number of characters in the book, but it’s difficult to become attached to the characters when there are so many. I don’t even remember their names. There’s the fat kid, the black kid, the girl, the stutterer, the one with asthma, the Jewish one, and the pervy one. There’s seven altogether… I think.
  • I’m not sure what to think about Bill Skarsgård‘s performance as Pennywise the Clown. Again, I’m not afraid of clowns and don’t think they’re creepy or funny. But Skarsgård pulled off a performance that was at the same time creepy, threatening, and maintained a weird air of innocence.
  • I’m not sure if this was a malfunctioning projector or what, but everything in the movie seemed really blurry.

Look for a more complete review on Monday! One last thing: This movie is the first of what I assume will be two parts. My understanding is that the book and mini series shows the protagonists as kids and again as adults. It (2017) only covers the period when the protagonists are kids.

Annabelle: Creation – By the Numbers Horror

A group of orphans and a nun battle a demonic force personified by a creepy-looking doll in this latest installment of the The Conjuring UniverseAnnabelle: Creation is a prequel-sequel to Annabelle (2014), a fictional account of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s battle with an allegedly possessed Raggedy Ann doll. This film departs entirely from reality, imagining an origin story for the doll. Both critics and audiences seem to enjoy it. Overall, it had a few eye-rolling moments, but it had a few genuinely scary ones as well.

Annabelle: Creation was written by Gary Dauberman and directed by David F. Sandberg. Both Dauberman and Sandberg are relatively new to their craft. Dauberman is known for previously writing Annabelle (2014) and the low-budget Swamp Devil (2008), and Sandberg has directed several short films and Lights Out (2016).

The filmmakers’ inexperience is probably why this movie doesn’t take any risks. It is a strictly paint-by-numbers modern American horror film. It is filled with obvious bloopers, like Samuel Mullins “tickling” his daughter’s feet when she’s wearing shoes. Contemporary horror cliches abound, including an isolated, creepy old house, an unrealistically large stone well, contorting body parts popular since The Ring (2002), and police who seem strangely indifferent despite horrible crimes having been committed.

Also, someone should tell the filmmakers that Catholic nuns can’t hear sacramental confessions. Only a validly ordained priest or bishop can hear confessions and absolve sins.

Though Annabelle: Creation adds nothing new to the genre, its popularity shows this is what horror audiences want to see. It opened at the top of the box office, pulling in approximately $35 million its opening weekend. Anecdotal evidence also attest to the film’s popularity. The theater was packed when I went to see it, in stark contrast to Detroit (a far superior movie).

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First Impressions of Annabelle: Creation

I watched Annabelle: Creation this weekend, a prequel-sequel to Annabelle (2014). It’s the first horror movie I’ve seen since last year, and I read several reviews praising it for improving on the original. Honestly, I never saw the original and I’m not a fan of the “The Conjuring Universe” (although I did enjoy The Conjuring). Overall, Annabelle: Creation had a few eye-rolling moments, but it had a few genuinely scary ones as well. Here are some of my first impressions:

  • Annabelle: Creation only warrants an ‘R’ rating for a handful of gory scenes that could have easily been toned down to make it PG-13. In other words, if your movie is going to be rated R, make it rated R. This prequel-sequel relies primarily on thrills; it isn’t gratuitously violent, has no nudity, and there isn’t even any swearing in it.
  • The movie is filled with obvious bloopers, like Samuel Mullins “tickling” his daughter’s feet when she’s wearing shoes.
  • Contemporary horror cliches abound, including an isolated, creepy old house, an unrealistically large stone well, contorting body parts popular since The Ring (2002), and police who seem strangely indifferent despite horrible crimes having been committed.
  • Religious imagery, prayers, and exorcism/binding only seems to work when it’s convenient for the plot.
  • Lulu Wilson, who plays a courageous girl named Linda, was also in Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016), which just happened to be the last horror movie I saw in theaters. She’s a talented young actress who I hope eventually breaks out of the horror genre.
  • The film reminded me of the most terrifying episode of a children’s show I’ve ever seen: an episode of Webster called “Moving On,” which aired just after Halloween in 1984. Webster explores an old Victorian house with a room that’s always locked. Inside, there’s a life-sized doll sitting in a rocking chair. It scared the shit out of me as a kid.
  • Did Annabelle need so many characters? At least two of six orphans are kinda just “there” and don’t contribute anything to the plot.
  • I did appreciate the inclusion at the end of a Raggedy Ann doll that looked like the real Annabell doll, as opposed to the sinister, wooden prop used for most of the movie.

Look for a full review coming soon!