It Chapter Two


Viewed 01 October 2019. Cinema

I only have vague memories of the original made for tv two parter in the early nineties – but I strongly recall being underwhelmed by the second part. However having liked the first in this re-adaptation, I sat down to this with anticipation and optimism. Twenty seven years after the events of the first movie, following an incident involving a young man as well as several disappearances of various children, it’s time to get the losers club back together in hope of putting an end to that f***ing clown, once and for all.

In the hands of the same director and with solid choices made when casting the adult counterparts of the first movie’s young cast, I was quickly drawn into this again. It’s filmed with panache and no end of style. Like last time there is a focus on character that works brilliantly, with a welcome dose of flashbacks to the young cast delving deeper into the gang”s friendship where clearly additional scenes were filmed rather than just copy and pasting from the last movie. It helps build up each individual character and made me care for all of them – very important when Pennywise turns up to deliver a wealth of set piece scares.

It’s here with a reliance on said set pieces that the movie falters, and it quickly dawned on me the approach here was maximum frights instead of gradual menace, meaning some of those scares just aren’t earned. It helps that the set-pieces are often imaginative and visually freaky – there’s just so many of them it does get exhausting. Thankfully performances across the board are great, with names like Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and especially Bill Hader all delivering.

This may be a sequel that considers bigger is necessarily better … more subtlety and a stronger sense of mood (with a need for about 30 minutes chopped from that run time) would have made this equally as good as the first movie. As it stands, this makes up for such shortcomings by still being solid entertainment that’s well acted and brings the story to a (albeit drawn out) decent enough conclusion.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

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Viewed – 20 August 2019. Online rental

Director Jordan Peele has made quite a name for himself after the Oscar winning racial-tension thriller Get Out. He’s certainly a bold new voice in a largely stale genre filled with sequels and remakes. In this, his second effort, a woman along with her husband and kids head to a beach community for a holiday, where when she was a child a bizarre incident happened that has haunted her all her life. However after meeting up with some friends, as night draws in a weird group of strangers turn up outside the house who look exactly like them.

Initially I thought this was very much like a copy of The Strangers mixed with Funny Games., but as it progressed it became so much more. Firstly, Peele’s direction is slick, visually interesting and coats the movie in a thick unnerving atmosphere. Moments of humour only slightly eleveate the tension but work well to create a surprisingly relatable tone with characters I quickly grew to care about. One joke involving an Alexa-like device was just brilliant. Performances, especially considering the cast are mostly playing two parts are decent with a special mention going to Lupita Nyong’o who delivers a very layered duel-performance that’s at times quite chilling..

The overall concept is clever on paper, but as the movie drew to a close I felt it got a bit confused, causing an avalanche of questions in my head that begged me to re-evaluate what I had been watching. That can be great but in reflection, I’m not sure if it entirely works. However for such a visually captivating, well acted and often thrilling experience this remains one of the most purely entertaining horrors I’ve seen in a while.

Verdict: 4 /5

Look Away


Viewed – 06 July 2019. Online rental

Occasionally a concept will grab my attention immediately and this eerie thriller is one such example. A bullied, introverted schoolgirl finds herself turning to her own reflection who’s sinister intentions gradually start to take control.

A story about a teenage girl, fitting in at high school , bullies and going to the prom whilst hiding a potentially deadly secret. Yep this certainly has echoes of Carrie but also brings in a few other elements such as the doppelgänger / alter-ego, peer pressure and a surprising amount of (attempted) eroticism. However as sexy as the movie tries to be, even when blended with the supernatural … a rather pubescent-looking lead actress made for, occasionally uncomfortable viewing. It’s also a movie that wastes potential on a clearly undeveloped script.

Which is a shame, as the dual performance (with some clever camera trickery) by relative unknown India Esley is decent and support from Mira Sorvino and especially Jason Isaacs means this isn’t quite the straight to VOD it otherwise appears to be. Yet the ending was unsatisfying with the movie giving too many hints at a larger story that’s ultimately left to the viewers imagination. In other hands that may have worked but here … it just doesn’t.

Verdict: 2.5 /5

Brightburn


Viewed – 19 June 2019. Cinema

I love it when I go in blind to a movie and come away surprised and impressed. This novel take on the superhero origin tale has a young couple, desperate to have a child get their wish granted when one night something falls from the sky. Soon they discover a baby boy and decide to bring it up as their own. However as he grows older ‘Brandon’ begins to develop violent tendencies and before long it becomes clear this little fella ain’t going to become superman.

A cast of familiar faces headed by Elizabeth Banks and a strong central performance from Jackson A Dunn as Brandon, makes this sci-fi horror immediately intriguing and under the watchful eye of producer James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) this is smart, refreshing and rather freaky. Atmosphere is piled on in a Twilight Zone meets Friday the 13th kind of way and liberal doses of effective gore (glass splinter to the eye?) and a great build up to some pretty messed up moments … I was quite taken back by this out of nowhere gem.

it plays loosely with some horror movie cliches (investigate the weird noise) and the ending left me contemplating sequels – asking where can they take such a concept? Yet that’s a good thing regardless whether we get any of that. If you’ve grown tired of all those comic book adaptions and fancy something a little different, check this out.

Verdict: 4 /5

Summer of ‘84


Viewed – 23 April 2019 online-rental

Eighties nostalgia is really trendy right now and as someone who grew up in that decade I’m certainly in approval. In the wake of hit Netflix series Stranger Things, breakout horror It Follows and that recent IT remake, this has a similar group of teenage friends during a time when a series of children disappearing lead the Police to believe they have a serial killer on the loose. One kid, a nerdy conspiracy-theory obsessive jumps to the conclusion that the mysterious man on his paper round might be the killer.

This is very much Goonies meets Fright Night, and the likeable gang of kids certainly bring back memories of both movies … as we watch them stalk and investigate their neighbour and gather evidence. It’s not quite the horror the trailer has you believe, more a comedy-drama filled (likely intentionally) with cliches – the hot girl next door, the outcast kids, parents who don’t listen etc. The movie also rushes over smaller details that become important later on (sighting a kid in the man’s house – blink and you miss it). Yet the movie kept me guessing and with some clever use of red herrings and decent twists, I found myself really invested.

In its reliance on nostalgia it loses a bit of its own identity and characters beyond the main protagonist are wafer thin and under-explored. The ending however floored me. Recommended.

Verdict: 3.5 /5