They say be careful what you wish for. I grew up in the eighties, a golden era for horror, but also a time when censorship was rife. I recall watching slashers like Halloween or Friday the 13th and wishing those kills had been more graphic. Yeah, I was that kid; a bit of a gore-hound. These days it’s different. Censorship hasn’t got the strangle-hold on the genre it once had, and that can be a good or bad thing depending on your taste. For me it’s an all you can eat buffet!
Terrifier is my first introduction to freaky homicidal clown ‘Art’, initially showcased as part of the short ‘All Hallow’s Eve’. Here he stalks a bunch of individuals on Halloween night, picking them off in increasingly brutal ways. Immediately I found this is an effective horror icon and one of the most messed up looking creations I’d seen in a long time. His sheer presence makes the movie, let alone the way he playfully despatches his victims. The characters, as wafer-thin as they are, managed to get me routing for them and wondering who might survive. Unlike similar movies they’re not all that annoying either (apart from one drunk girl).
Director Damien Leone was clearly working with a low budget, with all the cash obviously put into some decent practical effects that thanks to the help of some slick editing make each kill really pack a punch. The acting varies from passable to very amateurish, and the movie seems to wallow in it’s clichés a bit too much. Yet we do get some great camera work and an effective, grainy 80’s aesthetic, meaning I still came away impressed. Certainly not for everyone, but if you’re serious about horror, this is one to see.
Stephen King has always been a great writer of children characters, often portrayed as outsiders and free of that Hollywood cuteness we often see. They’re relatable and often complex on a par with their adult counterparts. This latest adaptation, a sort of remake of the 1990 two part TV movie and a closer interpretation of King’s book has a group of school kids all seemingly haunted by visions of the same creepy clown. It begins with the disappearance of one kid’s younger brother and soon these kids find themselves thrown together to face an evil that has lurked in the town for decades.
Although at first a scary movie in typical sense, with an over-bearing orchestral score and a reliance on jump-scares, this thankfully focuses on character for the most part and presented this viewer with children to really care about and rout for. There’s overly-vicious bullies seemingly out to beat up any nerdy kid for no apparent reason, and parental supervision is either completely absent or abusive. So demonic clown Pennywise is free to lure in his next victim and only the ‘losers club’ can do anything about it. Bill Skarsgård, at first a strange casting for the role previously filled by genre favourite Tim Curry … is a revelation; creepy, unpredictable and mischievous, whilst at times genuinely frightening. The way the movie has Pennywise playing of certain kids fears is well done even if that ‘hair in plug hole’ sequence seemed plucked from another movie. With that said, the movie isn’t afraid to go for the jugular and some of the violence is pretty brutal even when aimed at children (that opening scene). So I was impressed at how this movie simply went for it, wasn’t trying to tame itself for a wider audience and piled on the scares and gore to full effect. It’s also surprisingly effective as a coming-of-age story, leaving quite an emotional impact on me towards the end. The young cast also do a great job, especially Sophia Lillis (looking like a younger Elizabeth Olson) and Jaeden Lieberher.
Director Andrés Muschietti (Mama) has delivered a thrilling and freakily effective experience that’s despite a few clichés is well cast and left this viewer thirsty for more. Let’s just hope ‘chapter two’ isn’t the let down the second half of the original movie was.
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