How Do You Salva Problem Like Victor?

BEATNU

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Sorry for the silence and lack of updates here – I’ve had writing commitments that have kept me otherwise engaged!

Meantime listen to our new podcast looking at Jeepers Creepers and the dark legacy of Victor Salva. A convicted sex offender, Salva received most of his success AFTER doing jail time for his crime. In our new episode we take a look at Jeepers Creepers, and then in part 2 we will review Jeepers Creepers 2 and delve further into the real life horror of the movie’s creator. Interesting debates are sparked here – can you separate the art from the artist? Should we feel guilty for watching the movies that are created by people like Salva? If so then where do we draw the line? Salva was supported and funded by Disney and Francis Ford Coppola – so do we burn all our copies of The Godfather and The Little Mermaid? Once you scratch the surface this is a rabbit hole that has no bottom and is a continuous source of debate. We touch on it here in the first episode with much more to come in Part 2.

So settle down and listen below. And please give us your feedback! We need it like the Creeper needs eyeballs!

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HEREDITARY – SPOILER-FREE REVIEW

Reports from the festivals, particularly Cannes, have Hereditary painted as “this generation’s The Exorcist”. I made a vow that apart from the trailer I wouldn’t buy into any of the hype and, for the most part, I was successful. It doesn’t help that the afore-mentioned ‘Exorcist’ comparisons now happen to be splashed across buses and billboards the world over.

So does Hereditary live up to the hype – whether you’ve bought into it or not?

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Yes. And no. This review will remain spoiler free, but the basic premise involves a death. The movie opens with the obituary of Ellen Graham, beloved mother and grandmother. A refreshing spin on a familiar opening gambit, we get to meet the Graham family as they don’t exactly mourn Ellen’s passing. Mom Annie (Toni Collette) wonders whether she should be crying more, whilst son Peter (Alex Wolff) is equally as indifferent to her passing, more interested in getting stoned and chasing girls than shedding tears over his grandma. We come to discover this is due to the fact that Ellen spent much of Peter’s childhood estranged from the family. She did, however, bond with 13 year old Charlie, played by the unique and striking Milly Shapiro. Anybody who has seen the trailers will recognise Charlie’s face, as she has been by and large painted as the centre piece, a sinister, odd-looking child who could very well turn out to be the villain at the heart of the movie. But to say some surprises are in store would be an understatement.

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Hereditary excels in its slow-burn, scabrous view of the family unit. Through some surprisingly clunky exposition we get the lowdown on the Grahams’ trials and tribulations through the years in one fell swoop. Those looking for red herrings, twists and turns might want to be poised pencil in hand during this moment, where Toni Collette gives a harrowing performance whilst grappling with force-feeding the audience a ton of information. The motif of the dolls’ houses played up in the trailers is similarly utilised to full effect throughout the film. Ellen is an artist who paints her biography in scale models of her home, her history, and the most harrowing moments of her life before and throughout the film’s timeline. In laying its foundations with a slow paced introduction and exploration of the wounded family dynamics of the Grahams, before letting them have it full force with a series of nasty surprises, those ‘Exorcist’ comparisons seem justified.

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But whilst the movie scales giddy heights and plums murky depths in its depiction of very human horror – the destruction of an already fragile nest via intense grief and suffering – its handling of classic horror tropes left me a little cold. Seasoned horror fans will see the reveals coming a mile off. I won’t reference the movies that have told similar stories better for fear of spoiling the plot. But as I enjoyed that gradual build of dread and terror and cowered gleefully at some pretty nifty tricks of the light, I found that the smoke and mirrors did not herald the horrors I’d hoped for. So in that sense, Hereditary falls just short of the hype.

The performances are solid. Toni Collette is raw and heartbreaking – although I found her too emotionally articulate for somebody suffering such extreme trauma. On the downside Gabriel Byrne was underserved as dad Steve, who whilst sensitively portrayed as a man struggling to keep a crumbling family together, simply dissolved into the background a like some of the apparitions that appear as the film progresses. Ann Dowd, who brilliantly evokes sadism and self-loathing as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale, is another highlight as grief-groupie Joan.

So the story, as it reveals itself, is nothing new. And personally I have seen it done more effectively elsewhere. But as a horrifying and unflinching examination of grief, loss and the utter desolation of a family under fire from forces both inside and out of the spiritual realm, Hereditary hits the mark.

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For a spoilerific full rundown click the link below and listen to the latest episode of our podcast!

JL

Strangers: Prey At Night (review)

Knock, Knock, Knock… Is an unnecessary but long awaited sequel to one of my favourite films home?

Well yeah actually. Strangers: Prey at night is stalking it’s way into theatres 5th May, and luckily I managed to see it early at one of Odeon’s Scream Unseen events and can tell you if it’s worth the extortionate price of popcorn.

Well i suppose it all depends what you want from your horror sequels. Do you want them to give you a back story of your title villains, like the final girl is actually his sister or his mother was raped and impregnated by 100 maniacs? If so then you are… wrong. Seriously let’s stop doing this. Luckily this film doesn’t cater to your desires – the masked strangers remain just that. Strangers.

Perhaps you wish sequels and remakes just didn’t exist and great stories were left alone. That’s admirable, however I’m sorry I have to welcome you back to the real world where greed crushes artistic integrity on a daily basis.

Or maybe you accept that a horror sequel is never going to be perfect and the best you could ever hope for is sped up rehash of the original film with more 80s slasher vibes and a fabulously camp synth-pop soundtrack? Well if you are the final group then you my beautiful friends are in luck because that’s exactly what you are going to get with Strangers: Prey at Night.

This story works as a stand alone film and doesn’t directly follow on from the original except for the return of our three creepy villains; Doll Face, Pin up and the Man in the Mask, this time at summer camp a la Crystal Lake. They use very similar tactics and say similar lines from their first outing suggesting an order and routine to their kill. This time though they are annoyingly sloppy at times with their killings and the repeat of some line such as their motives for killing don’t work as well this time around.

Probably the biggest downfall of the film is that apart from the soundtrack and a different cast of victims the film has nothing new to offer. Yes I don’t want a a backstory for my villains but why not improve on the original and do some actual character building – is that asking too much? Apparently so. The half unexplained rebellious daughter story arc is so forgettable the film itself forgot to give any resolution to it. Except *spoiler* maybe you don’t have to go to boarding school if not your parents are dead. Yay – off to the orphanage instead!

On the plus side the son and dad are both super hot. Unfortunately, however the accidental incest I saw vibes come from the son and daughter instead, so my latent daddy issues are left unresolved.

I don’t know if the writers didn’t know how to write two good looking teenagers with no sexual tension or if the actors themselves couldn’t hide their own sexual tension but the older brother, younger sister pep talk felt like a date that was going well right up until, you know, the murder part.

Ok so now I’ve got my problems with the film out of the way let’s move on to the good stuff. It’s scary. Admittedly I might be biased as the original has always freaked me out a lot but it has been a long time since I jumped that high in the cinema. I was so wrapped up in the creepy slow build up to scares that I even forgot scares they wasted on the trailer weere about to happen and jumped even higher.

The mix of slow stalking and jump scares is fun and effective. The tension is built in a similar way to the original: faceless people, a loud knock on the door at night, knowing that they are silently watching you. However being a sequel and with a bigger cast the speed is increased and the 3rd act becomes more action based 80s slasher than the slow methodical horror it started as. Yeah, some jumps are cheap but it all manages to work because of the natural impending doom the strangers bring with them.

Probably the most interesting choice the film makes is to have some of our strangers unmasked as the story progresses. I was in two minds over this. My initial reaction was stop it right now I don’t want to see that it will take the horror away. However after my brain digested the scene I realised all it really did was emphasise how human these killers are. They look like every other family when the mask is removed and that actually makes the reality of them even more plausible and terrifying

The soundtrack is perfection and that’s not just my bias as a massive 80s fan. The way the music is used to punctuate the violence is equally menacing and entertaining. If you were as thrilled as me at the creepy use of Tiffany’s ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ in the trailer then the rest of the film won’t disappoint.

There is a definite ‘predator playing with its prey’ vibe throughout the film again and nowhere is this exemplified more than when one victim is trapped as the the Man in the Mask selects his music to kill them to, and Kim Wilde ‘Cambodia’ is an inspired choice.

The best use of the music and sound is during a pool fight between the son and the Man in the Mask. I don’t want to spoil this moment completely but Bonnie Tyler’s camp classic ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ is put to good use in a very fun and clever scene that was a real highlight for me.

Overall the film adds nothing much new to the original premise or the horror genre, even the ending is a homage to both John Carpenter’s Christine (1983) and Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). However it didn’t lose much of what made the original so bloody good. Don’t expect anything revolutionary and if you don’t like the original then don’t bother but if you did then expect to have a bloody good time on this journey.

I’d recommend you go and see it in the cinema for the full effect and if you are anything like me you will be checking the backseats of the car on the way home.

(SM)

You can hear Stephen’s review and our reviews of ‘Ghost Stories’, ‘A Quiet Place’ and ‘Terrifier’ in our new podcast. Just click below to listen!

A Quiet Place (Review)

a_quiet_place_still_3A Quiet Place (2018)

Directed by John Krasinski, who stars with real life wife Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place has crept up on the box office and reportedly had the best opening weekend of the year since Black Panther. Proof that positive buzz and good old fashioned word of mouth still has the power to make a genre outing a surprising success.

So is it any good? The answer is yes. In fact it’s very good. Smart and efficient and clocking in at a spritely 98 minutes – take note, please, a horror doesn’t need to be any longer than this – A Quiet Place packs a punch both in the fear stakes and also emotionally. Set in the near future where the planet has been invaded by spider-like creatures who are blind and hunt on sound alone, we’re thrown straight into the action as the Abbott family forage for supplies in an abandoned supermarket in a small town in rural USA. Evelyn (Blunt) and Lee (Krasinski) lead their three children barefoot and on tip-toes silently back through the woods towards home, a farm in the middle of nowhere. But tragedy strikes and we’re introduced to the terrifying alien threat in one swift and brutal attack…

Cut to months later and the Abbotts are picking up the pieces and surviving in silence, but to add another complication, Evelyn is now heavily pregnant. And newborn babies are not known for their silence… It won’t be a huge spoiler to reveal that when the baby comes along everything goes to shit and the Abbotts are thrown into a rapidly escalating battle with the monsters that lie in wait. And not all of them will survive to the finish.

A Quiet Place takes its time to get going but once the attacks begin there is barely room to breathe. The tension is hiked up to the power of ten as Krasinski’s script, refreshingly low on dialogue but a tad high on sentimentality, throws some pretty nifty set-pieces our way. The family take on the aliens in corn-fields (hello Shyamalan and Stephen King), grain-silos, a flooded basement, and at one point even in a bathtub…

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The premise – sound can kill – means the film absorbs its audience whilst at the same time encouraging them to be quiet! Who knew? In the rapidly infuriating multiplex culture of keeping the film noisy to cover the smart-phone obsessed chattering bag-rustling masses, here’s a film that actually quite cleverly silences its viewers. So not only are you more immersed in the action, but you’re actually less obnoxious at the same time. Win win!

The movie brings the scares, the tension, and excellent performances by the young cast who play the Abbott kids tug at the heart strings. Deaf actress Millie Simmonds is especially touching as daughter Regan (where have we heard that name before) who’s disability could prove to be the ultimate undoing of the marauding creatures.

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Being a hardened cynic I found some of the more sentimental moments a little queasy, but don’t let that put you off. This surprising and smart horror movie revels in treating genre fans to all the right tropes in all the right places, and reminds the jabbering masses that silence is golden.

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Now shut the fuck up and watch the damn movie.

(JL)

VERÓNICA (2017)

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

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Having been privy to articles from Ladbible and the likes declaring the latest Spanish horror on Netflix to be the most terrifying thing to hit our screens since Katie Hopkins, the Screaming Queenz were wondering if palms had been greased for such OTT superlatives to be thrown around. So with my eyebrow arched in its favourite cynical position I sat down to watch Verónica to find out for myself.

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Set in Madrid in 1991, the films follows its titular heroine as she struggles to help her work-all-night-sleep-all-day mum to raise 3 kids, whilst navigating the horrors of adolescence and awaiting her first period. Deciding life isn’t already grim enough Verónica takes to the school basement with her gal pals and plays around with a Ouija board during – you guessed it – a solar eclipse. Grieving the loss of her father, Veró wants to make contact. It won’t be the mother of all spoilers to tell you she doesn’t get hold of her dad – there’s someone or something much more dark and sinister on the line. And once she’s made contact, her demonic new friend isn’t going to leave without a fight…

So is the film indeed a shit-your-pants frightfest unlike anything we’ve ever seen before? Well… no. But for the rest of us out there once bitten twice shy after Netflix gave us the Cloverfield shitpile, I can reassure you… it’s actually not bad. In fact it’s quite good. Every demonic Ouija board haunting trope is thrown into Verónica. Troubled family life, recent bereavement, creepy kids drawing shadowy figures, there’s even a creepy old blind nun, not to mention nods to everything from Nosferatu to Paranormal Activity. But such clichés can be forgiven in a film that cranks up the emotional punch with sweet and quirky performances from its cast, primarily children who are neither terribly wooden or precocious.

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Veró’s battle with her burgeoning womanhood, high school politics and a largely absent mother are obvious but well-played. The horror of a girl’s first period is driven home with a surprisingly gruesome scene involving cannibal children that stands out like a blood-stained mattress. The film falls down with its use of dodgy CGI but then regains its scare factor with glimpses of the demon in the shadows, reflected in the TV screen (hello Signs) and leering through plate glass doors. And a decidedly downbeat ending draws the film back from the sentimental edge it teeters on just at the last minute.

So despite it being overhyped, Verónica is still worth your time. A few good scares, not to mention a synth soundtrack with more than a few nods to the original Nightmare on Elm Street score, and solid performances, mean it won’t disappoint.

While you’re here, have you heard our new podcast looking at Silence of the Lambs? If you like jizz jokes, bad Jodie Foster impressions and want to hear our opinion on whether the film is transphobic or not, click the link below:

JL

Beautiful Stranger

The Countess comes to Liverpool…

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We’ve been talking to Liverpool Pride about bringing queer horror to a scouse audience and they could not have been more excited. As a result, one of our favourite movies EVER is coming to Picturehouse at FACT for Halloween. Well, the day after to be precise. On Wednesday 1st November 2017 ‘Daughters of Darkness’ will be screened to an unsuspecting audience. This under-appreciated gem needs a new audience… and we’re hoping people crawl out of their crypts to enjoy it. But why?

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“I’m just an outmoded character, nothing more. You know, the beautiful stranger, slightly sad, slightly mysterious, who haunts one place after another. Two weeks ago in Nice and Monte Carlo, two days ago in Bruges….”

The gays love a tragic heroine. Throw in the glamour of this beautiful shadow of a woman languishing in the heat of the South of France, sipping cocktails and longing to be eternally youthful and you’ve got camp dynamite. Only we don’t pick up The Countess in Nice or Monaco, but in a rainy, out of season, desolate hotel in Ostend. However we do get languishing, we do get cocktails (of the troubling green variety), and we do get a tragic figure… if not a heroine, then a timely echo of the youth-obsessed culture we’re more immersed in than ever…

Countess Elizabeth Báthory doesn’t fill her face with Botox to maintain a youthful glow – but the blood of virgins. By any means necessary. She swans across Europe, her cape billowing in the wind, shimmering in an impossibly glam outfit that she got from Marlene Dietrich, with her companion du jour at her side. Right now it’s Ilona, the glum-faced young beauty styled after Louise Brooks. The Countess isn’t particularly interested with finding a hunky young man to carry her hat boxes and tuck her in at night (or should that be at dawn?), but with nubile young women just desperate to be plucked from a life of patriarchal servitude and treated to a life of luxury, trailing on her aristrocatic fur coat-tails from one penthouse to the next. Only Ilona doesn’t look too happy about it. At one point she even moans “You call this living?” The Countess, obsessed with the surface beauty of eternal youth and bourgeouis excess, fails to acknowledge that she’s not saving enslaved women and liberating them – she’s just taking them out of the frying pan and plonking them mid-sizzle into her cool blue fire. She doesn’t particularly care whether they like it or not, they just have to match her purple ostrich feather ensembles and look good on her arm at the ambassador’s party.

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If Ilona hates the ‘life’ she’s been blood-sucked into then her luck might just be in. Because when we check in with the vamps we meet newlyweds Stefan and Valerie, fresh off an overnight train having had a whirlwind marriage, en route back to England where Valerie is to meet Stefan’s formidable mother. But all is not what it seems. Stefan is a sadistic misogynist who believes women should do his bidding, and Valerie is far from happy. Stefan is also keeping a pretty big secret about his Mother – one I won’t spoil here but let’s just say the film’s queer credentials don’t end at Sapphic vampirism…

So begins a ridiculously camp and stylish tale of the seduction of Valerie by Countess Elizabeth. Made in 1970 (released in 71), the film is loaded down with problematic attitudes to both women and homosexuality. But never let that get in the way of a good horror film. Especially one as beautiful as this. Delphine Seyrig – the best damn Marlene Dietrich you’re gonna get post-Marlene Dietrich – imbues her immortal lesbian vampire with both a coquettish brass nerve and a sad, longing vulnerability. In a film with more than its share of humdinger lines and hammy performances she’s shockingly plausible as a seductress, and engaging to the very end. Whether she’s spreading her sparkly cape to warm the chilled shoulders of her shivering charge and resembling a Weimar-era giant bat in the process, or recounting graphic tales of torture whilst sipping her crème de menthe in the hotel bar, you just cannot get enough of her. She carries the film, with the other players curled at her feet. Eagle-eyed viewers of a certain age may notice that posh-boy-wifebeater Stefan is played by John Karlen, who smartened up his act ten years later, got a job on a building site and married Mary Beth in the role of Harv in Cagney and Lacey. Or you might just be too distracted by his ever-so-short tomato robe and slippers. Not to mention the fact that he treats poor Valerie like absolute dirt.

But rest assured he gets his comeuppance. This being a 70s Eurotrash lesbian vampire movie, it’s not long before Valerie falls under the spell of the Countess. Ilona, for all her whingeing, isn’t going to be happy about that – and neither is Stefan. The blood flows in some of the most awkward and inexplicable death scenes you’ll ever witness. For softcore horror fans – don’t be put off by this. The blood is minimal. However there’s plenty of nudity, with an impromptu naked moon dance from Ilona that has to be seen to be believed.

You’ll come out scratching your head – what was the film saying? Was it demonizing misogyny, the aristocracy, or was it aligning homosexuality with deviance and decadence? Or was it subverting the genre with the marabou slipper suddenly on the other foot as the Countess toys with Stefan’s masculinity and casts him aside to swoop in on his new bride? Maybe you’ll still be under the spell of the Countess and you won’t care. Whatever happens, sit back and let this languid, beautiful movie wash over you.

Fans of Screaming Queenz will remember our podcast on the movie. But if you haven’t heard it then click away below. There are spoilers so beware…

Get your tickets for this screening here. We’ll be there, possibly in our purple ostrich feathers. Come and get your teeth into it and we’ll have a good old laugh in the bar after!

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Bottoms up…

JL

GERALD’S GAME (2017)

Mild spoilers ahead…

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The hype machine has gone into overdrive for a certain Mr Stephen King in recent months. First ‘It’ opened to record numbers and became the highest grossing horror movie ever, then over on Netflix an altogether darker, more cerebral piece of work from the maestro of the macabre slipped in quietly to give us nightmares into the wee small hours. That would be ‘Gerald’s Game’, and what a game it is.

Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood star as Jessie and Gerald, who after eleven years of a slowly dying marriage, decide to head out to their lake house in the middle of nowhere to spice things up. What begins as an innocent sex game involving handcuffs and Viagra soon spirals into a rape fantasy and death. You only have to watch the trailer to know Gerald bites it pretty early on, keeling over from a heart attack and leaving Jessie chained to the bed with nothing but her personal demons and a very hungry rabid dog for company…

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I must admit, whilst looking forward to seeing Gerald’s Game I did wonder how they could spin out 1 hour 47 minutes of a woman chained to a bed. For the most part my worries were unfounded. Once Gerald drops dead things spiral pretty quickly. We go full throttle into Jessie’s psyche and no disturbing stone is left unturned.

One thing Stephen King has always excelled at is taking our primal childhood fears and making them a very real, terrifying reality. Fear of the dark. Monsters. The hand reaching out from under the bed. The nightmare flipside of the nuclear family. The horror of parents turning a blind eye when they should be protecting us. The desperate loneliness of insomnia where everything is at its blackest and most hopeless. All of these take centre stage.

But the true horror of this piece – and of Jessie’s life – is (mild spoiler) child abuse. With more than an echo of the wonderful film adaptation of Dolores Claiborne, we’re treated to a red-tinged flashback to a solar eclipse that heralded the end of Jessie’s childhood at the hands of her father. The nuanced performances and writing around this portion of the movie bring out the manipulative depths a child abuser will go to to keep his secret safe, and in a truly heartbreaking scene we see the trauma a young Jessie goes through as she’s emotionally blackmailed into keeping shtum. This is a rare thing indeed in any movie let alone a horror movie, to see writing and characterisation of such depth.

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Which is why it’s almost inexplicable that in the last fifteen minutes of the movie we’re treated to a script that suddenly is so schmaltzy and on the nose you start to wonder if it’s flipped into a parody of what we’ve been enjoying for the previous 90 minutes. Being a connoisseur of the camp, the trashy and the bad, I could appreciate some of the humdinger lines and wrap-it-up-in-a-pink-bow resolution in a tongue in cheek way. But seriously, having gone through the traumas we see Jessie endure for the majority of the movie, my jaw was on the floor at what the movie then became.

This in no way detracts from the film experience so don’t let that put you off. There were two moments during Gerald’s Game where I screamed and shouted in horror – you’ll know the moments when you see them. One that will put you off that burgeoning foot fetish for life, and the other that will make you wince in agony along with Jessie. The film GOES there with the horror. If you saw ‘It’ and, like me and the other Screaming Queenz, thought whilst it was a good movie it lacked the depths of horror that only Stephen King can bring? Well this movie has that in spades.

Of the two much-hyped King adaptations (I’m not even going there with Dark Tower), this one brings the pure horror that ‘It’ lacked.

Gerald’s Game is one worth playing. Just keep an eye out for The Moonlight Man…

JL

IT (2017) Review: the threequel 

Stephen Moore gives his pennyworth on Pennywise…

IT was the most highly anticipated horror of the year. IT failed to deliver on its promise of a truly scary version of the classic Stephen King novel. IT was still one of the most enjoyable films so far this year. IT was IT… you get IT.

In the lead up to the release of this film I was swept away down the storm drain by an effective trailer, a plot that is still as scary as when it when it was conceived and a heavy sense of nostalgia. This will no doubt lead to massive profits for the film and guarantee it receives it sequel but may also lead to one major criticism at least by seasoned horror fans. IT just isn’t scary.

I was really excited to be genuinely terrified and creeped out by the film but it never really got there and I think there are three major factors that contributed to the lack of scares.

The film’s premise means we tap into those early childish irrational fears such as clowns, creepy paintings and errrrr germs apparently? For the most part though people largely grow out of these early fears as they enter adulthood and unless you happen to have a phobia of one of these things many of the scares are unlikely to do more than gross or weird you out.

The film also has a heavy reliance on GI effects instead of practical, and some moments that are meant to be scary look a bit plastic and silly. Many a time I was left unsure if I was meant to be scared or supposed to laugh at ‘creepy picture woman’ chasing the children. Finally we have a reliance on jump scares over tension. I’ve come to accept jump scares are inevitable in mainstream horror now and can often let out a shrill shriek when one is particularly effective but in order to be scary I need to be put in a tense state… Something that really never happens. Every time the film starts to build up tension or scare it either pulls its punches like when it refuses to delve further into the horrific racially motivated arson attack on the Black Spot and with Beverly’s sexually abusive Dad… or it breaks the tension with a witty one liner or hilariously childish and perfectly crude dick joke.

Now I’ve got my main complaint out of the way let’s discuss what makes this one of the most enjoyable films of the year. In the previously definitive TV version of the novel the main star was undoubtedly the incredibly enigmatic performance of Tim Curry as Pennywise the dancing clown.

Bill Skarsgards incarnation is a perfectly respectable performance that separates itself enough from Curry’s version to keep me happy but he is not the shining star of the show in this version. Instead the main stars of the show are the extremely talented and funny cast of children. I don’t say that sentence lightly as my usual feelings toward child actors are less complimentary and more homicidal.

All of “The Losers Clubs” managed to impress me at different times and in their own way but the two leads Bill and Bev are both fantastic. Bill’s loss of his little brother Georgie both propels the story forward and grounds it at its most insane times. He is an engaging and believable hero and leader of the group with his endearing stutter just adding to the likability of his character. Bev the female of the group delicately balances her Tom Boy thrill seeking ways with her sensitivity and caring for others. One of my favourite character moments is when Bev discovers Ben’s (aka Tits) love for New Kids on the Block and she simultaneously mocks him and keeps his secret from the others.

I started this review by discussing how IT fails to be an effective horror film but what I didn’t explain is that this isn’t really a bad thing… it’s just not what I anticipated. Instead of a straight up horror film we have a fantastic summer adventure with friends, a coming of age story that just so happens to have a supernatural undertone in the form of a dancing murderous clown and to be honest I’m not that mad about that.

As the group bond and form stronger friendships you enjoy being with them for the summer and seeing all these relatable and sweet first moments of adulthood unfold. Although one particularly well played scene of the boys watching Bev sunbathe was a little different in my life.

There are lots of beautifully played child-becoming-adult moments like this, from first crushes to a funny and endearing scene where Bev tries to hide the fact she’s buying her first tampon from the boys. Saying that when coupled with a later scene involving a whole lot of blood in the bathroom It was perhaps a little too much of a menstrual cycle analogy than I was prepared for.

There are a few other flaws, such as the underuse of certain characters and a massively shortened research of the towns history that I would have like to have seen more of but overall the film is as fun as a good old rock fight. I’m overall impressed by the film, I thoroughly enjoyed spending the summer with our pint sized heroes and look forward to a rewatch. I am, however, skeptical of how the adult based sequel will capture my attention. It either needs to turn up the horror which I doubt it will or choose another genre to be based on with the horror once again being more incidental than the main attraction but I say bring IT on!

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SM

IT (2017) Review

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Vague spoilers ahead…

I’ll tell you this straight off the bat. I think the original TV mini-series of It (1990) gets away with murder thanks to nostalgia. We saw it at just the right time, and hit the TV airwaves at just the right moment, for it to somehow become iconic and deemed terrifying. Same goes with Salem’s Lot. But watch it now and you might have a different opinion.

So when it was announced that Pennywise would be returning for a new outing on the big screen I, for one, welcomed the idea. Having read the tome of a novel, which needs a damn good edit but is utterly enthralling and almost unbearably dark in parts, I thought that maybe the new film would honour it better than the TV version. I had high hopes. And for the most part I was not disappointed. I really hoped it wouldn’t be a shot-by-shot rehash of the ‘original’ as people call it. And evidently, the team behind ‘It’ (2017) felt the same way.

The movie goes out of its way not to look or sound or feel anything like the 1990 effort. From the very start, whilst Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) helps his little brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) build that paper boat, there’s a notable absence of ‘Fur Elise’ being played by mom on the piano, obviously an iconic moment from the mini series. The action is moved from the barrens to the sewers and the old house on Neibolt, with no mention of dam-building, and the updating of the action to the 80s are all obvious – and successful – attempts to distance the film from it’s 1990 counterpart. Whilst obvious similarities will be drawn when Georgie is chasing said boat down the street in torrential rain, all fears of a remake vibe are set aside when we’re introduced to Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise. Nobody is ever going to touch Tim Curry’s performance but what we have here is a whole different ballgame. As Pennywise toys with Georgie and offers him fun and frolics in a subterranean big-top, Skarsgård is clearly pulling out every trick in the book to separate himself from the shadow of Curry – and for the most part it works. It’s no massive spoiler to say Georgie meets his fate early on – but this is a more ferocious, fiendish death scene that doesn’t quite go where you’re expecting it to…

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Speaking of unexpected, in It we get that rare thing in a mainstream horror movie. The emotional gutpunch. Director Andrés Muschietti draws out performances from his young cast that are loaded with authenticity and heart. Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard makes Richie Tozier loveable, annoying and hilarious in equal measure. He does a roaring trade in ‘your mom’ insults and swears like a trucker – you know, like real kids do. Jack Dylan Grazer is old before his time and riddled with anxiety as hypochondriac Eddie, and poor Ben Hanscom, awkward secret poet and christened ‘tits’ because of his chunky frame, is sweetly played by Jeremy Ray Taylor. But the standouts here are Lieberher as Bill – throwing aside the shadow of tragic Jonathan Brandis to give us a new hero we totally believe, and Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh, who at fifteen looks about ten years older than some of the boys. Wasn’t that always the way in school? Whilst some of the boys seemed to actively recoil from puberty, the girls towered above them and strode into early adulthood ahead of the pack. And that’s Beverly, dealing with buying her first Tampax, taking on bullies at school, and absolutely flooring the boys with her sophistication and beauty… whilst dealing with the hideous reality of life at home with her abusive single father…

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And so comes the gutpunch. The reality of Beverly’s abuse, Bill’s grief at losing his little brother, not to mention Ben’s bullying and unrequited love, actually prevail over the horror of Pennywise. At its core the novel delved into the absolute trauma it can be to just grow up, make it into adolescence and come out the other side intact. And that is where this film flies high. The 80s nostalgia isn’t particularly overdone, but the truthful portrayal of the adventure – and the real life horror – of just being a kid, of that last summer you spent with your group of friends before everything changed, before shit got real – that’s what resonates in this movie.

So much so, the actual horror tropes suffer as a result. We get jump-scares, we get creaking floorboards and clowns hiding under dust sheets. The set-pieces evoke elements of Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist, even more recent horror hits like The Conjuring and Insidious, and whilst some of the jumps are efficient and jolting, the horror element never quite matches the teen drama. With a lesser script, poor direction and a weaker cast, that could result in a muddled overblown mess of a film. But because you care so much for the characters and the overall package is so well done you forgive it. You go along for the ride – an epic one at two hours fifteen. But it never feels too long, nothing drags.

And yet in parts I felt like cuts had been made. After the George intro we’re introduced to Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs), with a story tweaked from the novel where he lives with an overbearing Grampa (Steven Williams looking mighty fine in his old age). But after his opening scene he vanishes for over half an hour. Similarly Stan (Wyatt Olef) is given hints of a story that then vanish and he’s ignored for most of the film. Also Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) slices and dices his way on to the screen but feels underused. You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s a three hour version out there somewhere, but given that I got through over two hours and could have watched more, I’d welcome that director’s cut.

Maybe it’ll have the darker elements only hinted at in this release? Pennywise offering Eddie a BJ, the real death of Patrick Hockstetter, the racially-motivated mass murder at the Black Spot? All were absent here. I also found it interesting that Henry Bowers was clearly an evil racist but never once used hate speech when attacking Mike – although ‘faggot’ was thrown around with (cough) gay abandon. So whilst I easily forgot the mini series I couldn’t quite let go of what was STILL missing from the novel…

So a flawed film but mainly brilliant. Go in with an open mind. Forget Tim Curry (I know, sacrilege), put your preconceptions to one side and revel in a film that for the most part is beautifully made and a luminous cast who will make you laugh and – if you’re a sap like me – cry too. Yes the frights are nothing we haven’t seen before, and it’s not quite as terrifying as it wants to be… but for a mainstream horror it delivers much more than you’d expect.

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That said, with a film that makes it through the gate mainly because of it’s young cast, I think for It, Chapter 2, they’ll have their work cut out to make anything as good as this. Bring it on, Pennywise…

JL

Previously, on Screaming Queenz…

We’ll be back after our little Summer break next week. Meanwhile have you caught up on all our podcast episodes so far? Here’s a selection for your delectation. A mix of vampires, witches, Italian slashers and good old-fashioned monster movies. All of them come with an unhealthy dose of camp humour, poor taste and disgusting language!

From Peter Cushing to porno, the references for Fright Night come thick and fast…

So who the fuck died and made the Babadook a gay icon? With a little help from The Village People we decipher just why this demonic children’s fable cashed in on the pink pound…

Who knew the eternally young Lost Boys would ever hit 30? Well they just did, so reminisce with big hair, 80s power rock, and the dark underbelly of Hollywood paedophiles…

Which witch are you? A badass 90s high-schooler or a psychadelic 70s lesbian with a penchant for S&M? Check out our two-parter on witches in horror, both parts here:

Do you like giallo? We love giallo. What the fuck is giallo? Find out here:

There’s like 37 more episodes for you to get your teeth into over on SoundCloud but you can also hear them via Podbean and Itunes, links below. So listen, laugh, loathe if you must. Get in touch and let us know your thoughts, get me on twitter @jonnylarkin or email us at Screamingqueenz@gmail.com!

JL

http://screamingqueenz.podbean.com

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/screaming-queenz/id1070845275?mt=2