The Curse Of La Llorona (2019)

The Conjuring universe is weird. It started off very good with the first movie, then it started spinning off into Annabelle (3 of them now), The Nun, and now this. There have been 7 completed films released in the franchise, with 3 more planned for the future. It’s time to admit, I don’t get it. I don’t get the massive success of them considering the average nature of them. I wouldn’t mind if they were different and they each had their own identity and distinct flavour, but so many of them are the same movie repeated again and again, maybe that’s what horror is now but I’m not a fan. A lot of scares are repeated too, I get the feeling if you watched these all in quick succession you’d struggle to tell the difference between a lot of them. Saw a chart that said horror movies can be categorised in 6 sub-genres: gore/disturbing, psychological, killer, monster, zombie, paranormal. So far, all of these films have been in the last category. I’m not asking them to suddenly do The Thing but I just want something different from what they’ve already released (really close to each other as well so you don’t even get time to forget the similarities).

So, onto this particular film. As you can probably guess I wasn’t too impressed, mainly because I found it really dull. Plus, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve already seen a lot of the scares before. I had an issue with the casting too. It’s a very Hispanic movie, set in Hispanic lore and traditions which are integral to the plot. Most of the cast are Hispanic, with one exception, the lead. She was played by Linda Cardellini, who you may know from Scooby-Doo.

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Yeah, much Hispanic.

I know, whitewashing happens, but it’s not usually this noticeable. The film isn’t even good enough to distract you from this. La Llorona is a real tale, it’s a genuine thing people believe and it’s a terrifying concept. So for it to be reduced to a cookie-cutter generic “thing goes woooo” is disappointing. Much like a lot of these films the “powers” are indecisive. There are moments where she’s in a perfect position to kill someone and then just doesn’t, despite that being her goal. There’s a point where the ghost is in a room alone with a child that she wants to kill, so she washes her hair. She does later hold her head under the water, so it ended with her doing the attempted kill, but it should have happened earlier and the only reason it didn’t was that the film-makers wanted a disturbing image. And it is a disturbing image, but it breaks the story.

Like I said, the legend of La Llorona is a fascinating one about a woman wandering the earth looking for her children so she can get into heaven. She kidnaps children and then drowns them. In the film this translates to her locking doors and doing that sudden “creepy forward movement” that these films love, then cut to black. This doesn’t always happen near rivers, which would have made it a more effective film. Actually a much more effective use of the legend is if the entire film was set in a campsite etc, somewhere near a river. As it is the film turns into a generic haunted house film for the closing section. It should have been set near a river for the entire film and used that. Would have allowed you to stick to the story, have more natural looking deaths, have an ensemble cast of children that you could slowly kill off (as opposed to killing two at the start, and that’s pretty much it), and would allow you to get better images (a mother watching La Llorona approach her child whilst she’s on the opposite side of the river unable to help would be an arresting image). This film has no differences from the other films in the franchise, and I cannot overstate how much of a wasted opportunity that is.

So in summary, not just a bad film, but a very disappointing one too.

Killer Kate (2018)

I watched the trailer for this before seeing it (something I try to do now with films with bad reviews that I haven’t heard about, a policy I have started since Wolf). The trailer for this got me hyped, it looked kind of shlocky but fun. Plus, the film was under 90 minutes so I thought it won’t overstay its welcome. That goodwill was evaporated in the opening scene. It wasn’t badly shot, it was just weirdly shot in terms of the editing and shot choices. It wasn’t a great introduction to some of the characters, with some showing traits which they don’t show for the rest of the film. It’s understandable that they would be behaving in that way within the context of what they’re about to do (kill a group of people), but if you have that in the introduction to them it feels like it’s a character trait, so for that to not happen is a bit weird. It’s also strange that that’s how they start the film. The first thing we see in this film is a scene about the group of killers, and it stays with them for a good while, which makes it seem like they’re the focus of the story, like we’re following their arc and seeing how they’re going to come together to work as a team to kill people. The actual main characters are a group of young women on a pre-wedding getaway. Out of the four of them, only one of them is introduced to the audience before the fifteen-minute mark, which is about twenty percent of the film. That’s kind of a big issue with this film, the timing. For a lot of the film, it doesn’t seem like it knows how to use the time it has so just pads it out. It’s an 80-minute horror-comedy, those should be really easy to fill time for. As it is so much of this just feels like padding. There’s an almost 2-minute scene where we watch two characters flip through TV channels, they then get a joint out, this isn’t mentioned again in the film. I know two minutes isn’t that long really, but the film is full of minute-long scenes which could be done in seconds, and they all add up to a lot of wasted time. There is a scene after that which had a really baffling moment for me, and I’m not sure if it’s just me being picky. There was a noticeable gap between songs in the background music, and it coincided with a break in the conversation. So you went from lots of noise, to just complete silence for about three seconds. I had to quadruple-check that actually happened and it wasn’t just my laptop screwing up, because that was just a really strange choice. At least after that, the killers make an appearance in the house. This was at the 40-minute mark, again, of an 80-minute movie. That’s way too long, WAY too long for a film like this. Especially one which didn’t even really set up the characters that well in the first half.

Thankfully this is followed by a really smart moment, someone knocks at the front door whilst the women are hiding. They’re not sure if it’s the police, or maybe the killers trying to trick them. In the end, it’s a guy delivering the pizza they ordered earlier. That was a very smart piece of writing, it was set up, and was done long ago enough that you forgot about it when it happened. It made sense. Which is baffling why they then rush through another part. A character is seemingly poisoned and collapses, we think dead. Then about thirty seconds later they wake up when they hear a loud noise. Personally, I feel it would have been better if her “death” lasted longer, and she made a sudden appearance later to save someone at some point. As it is her “death” seems really inconsequential. Her waking up doesn’t have a big moment attached to it either, she just wakes up and rejoins the main characters (and the pizza guy) before running away to get killed by Tiffany Shepis’ character. I mention her by name as even though she is only in the film briefly, she is brilliant in it. Her performance is one of the highlights of the film, she carries herself as someone who knows exactly what the film requires of her performance. Which, to be completely honest, is more than can be said of some of the others. A lot of the performances are a little, I don’t know, one dimensional? This is a big problem, especially with the lead. It’s the first leading role in a feature for Alexandra Feld (who is also one of the producers and married to the director), and she doesn’t really carry it off. She remains stone-faced throughout the entire film and never really feels like anything other than a character in a movie. Part of that could be the writing though, a lot of the characters don’t have much depth to them, and the dialogue is VERY “written” and unnatural. On the subject of the writing, I feel I need to mention the pizza guy again. The main characters lock their phones in their car so they won’t be disturbed whilst they’re there, standard way to stop the audience asking “why don’t they just phone the police?”. But the pizza guy, he doesn’t lock his phone away. In fact, he specifically mentions he tried phoning them on his way there, so she has a mobile phone. He doesn’t use it. He doesn’t use it when he’s there, and he doesn’t use it once he runs away either. We know this as the film soon cuts to the next morning and the police aren’t there (but what is still there? The blood on Kate’s face, for some reason she didn’t feel the need to wash it all night). And “but they don’t know the address” would be bullshit, as the pizza place would have had it listed so it could get delivered. “But maybe he died on the way”, again, the pizza place would have followed that up, he had deliveries to make after this, and if he didn’t deliver any of them then the place would have had a lot of phone calls complaining, so the company would know he didn’t get there, whilst having a list of where he was supposed to be, to be checked out. I mean, I guess the guy could have just completed all his deliveries and just forget to mention it, that would be consistent for how the characters act in this movie.

The fun of a film like this can be the reveal of the motivation, and this COMPLETELY fucks it up. The motivation; someone wants to make Airbnb etc look bad so his hotel gets more bookings. Seriously, that’s it. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that when the news mentions the attacks at the Airbnb, they’re highly likely to mention who owned that one, and his face will be plastered everywhere too, so his motel will also be negatively affected. His motive rant is essentially “urgh, Millenials”. He then gets shot and dies easily, much like all the villains in this movie. That’s a huge problem, none of the bad guys really seem like threats. There are two who are kind of threatening, and they’re the first ones to die. So after that we have; a neurotic guy who is basically Ed Helms but not, a motel concierge who just stays on the phone, and the old guy. There’s no “final boss” so to speak of the film. No “oh, the characters are in major trouble now THEY’RE there”. No sense of escalation, it’s really frustrating.

On the plus side; with the exception of some of the gore, it looks great. The film language isn’t great but in terms of just the general look it’s pretty good. And the music choices are exceptional, bringing a faux-retro 80’s feel to the whole thing. Other than that? I am really disappointed with this, truly. Not scary enough to be a horror, and nowhere near funny enough to be a comedy. I really wanted this to be great, and it’s a real disappointment that I didn’t even find it good.

Ben Is Back (2018)

Damn you Cineworld. This film, for whatever reason, wasn’t shown at my local cinema. It’s weird, they had trailers for it, and posters up, but then didn’t show the actual film. It’s a shame as I really wish I saw this with other people. It’s a film that’s crying out for witnessing alongside people so you can see their emotional reaction. I really liked this film. I thought it would suffer from being very similar to Beautiful Boy. In reality, all it does is make Beautiful Boy look worse. It makes it seem slightly more selfish in comparison. I’m not saying it was selfish, but that film ended with details about the family the film is about, whilst this one ends with details for addiction centres to contact if you’re suffering too.

There’s one other moment where this film definitely wins out for me: when it shows us WHY the character is addicted to drugs. He got put on highly addictive pain medication by his doctor. This information is showcased in the best possible way; by having Julia Roberts approach the doctor who prescribed them saying they’re not addictive (and who is now suffering from dementia), and basically calls him an asshole. It’s a great scene, and it’s one which showcases an ugly truth that the world tries to hide; the role of prescription drugs in drug abuse. Drugs addicts are usually showcased as having their journey start with “they wanted to be cool so sparked up a marijuana doobie at the discotheque with their fellow cool cats” or “Their parents asked them to tidy their room so they rebelled by injecting heroin into their eyeballs”. This allows us to not care about drug users as we see them as junkies and losers, which makes it easier to dehumanise them and support policies which harshly punish them (and ironically driving them more towards drugs). This means that any form of funding for addiction centres is pushed against because “they’re just loser junkies, they shouldn’t get government help”, so that money instead gets spent on expensive bottles of whiskey for politicians (that’s not a joke btw, the houses of parliament has a fully taxpayer-funded bar which has led to at least one politician getting so drunk he couldn’t vote, which is his job. If I drank at work I’d be fired). This film shows HOW addiction can start, and how it can happen to literally anybody with the way the medical system is operated which decides to just throw pain pills at everything because things like physical therapy will take too long and doesn’t make drug companies any money.

I guess I should actually start talking about this film, right? Fine *sulks*. I’m starting to really like Julia Roberts. I didn’t at first as I saw her as emblematic of what I dislike about Hollywood, style over substance with really bland stories which just play it safe, over sanitised films you feel you’ve seen before you’ve seen them because of how formulaic they are. Those films don’t allow you to see much performance as a lot of the characters are flat and don’t get to showcase much genuine emotion. Lately, she’s been in some films that show how talented she really is. Her performance helped to anchor Money Monster (which is a real forgotten gem), and she is BRILLIANT in the remake of Secret In Their Eyes. Her great run continues in this. Her anger, pain, and the emotional frailty this situation is giving her are all over her character and she performs them perfectly. Lucas Hedges also continues to show that he is really f*cking good. He’s in a weird position as he’s been critically acclaimed, yet hasn’t yet gone into full mainstream where you can use his name to sell a film to a casual audience. I feel he’s nearly there though. He’s just one film away from fully breaking through, and when he does it’s going to be magnificent. He has a great future ahead of him, and I look forward to it.

So yeah, if you get a chance to watch this, you have to see it. It’s that damn good. It’s emotionally devastating and beautifully ugly.

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

Film reviews are a weird concept. Not entirely similar to film criticism, yet it can’t be entirely different. You can write hundreds of words reviewing a film, yet they really only need a question and a one-word answer: Should I watch this movie? yes/no. That’s all it boils down to. And with this, the answer is yes, with a but. If you liked the first one (as I did, I loved it in fact. One of my favourite zombie movies), you’ll like this, if you disliked it, this won’t change your mind on the franchise. It has some issues of course. The Abigail Breslin sub-plot is essential to the progression of the film, in fact, it’s pretty essential to everything in the film happening, but that doesn’t mean it’s exciting. The dullest parts are the film are when it’s focusing on her story arc. I’m not sure why, I think it’s because out of all the new characters introduced, the one in that section is the most boring. Not only because he’s a pacifist (this film is known for having great zombie deaths, and his pacifism pretty much tells you that is not going to happen in his moments) but also because it’s sorely underdeveloped. You don’t get much information on how he’s managed to survive this long, whether he’s always been like that or not. There could have been a really interesting back story where he was happily killing zombies and in a moment of madness killed someone who it turned out wasn’t a zombie. That would have solved the issue of not having any kills and it would have made the character more compelling.

Another issue is at times it feels like the characters are still getting to know each other, the character relationships don’t feel like they’ve all been together for 10 years. There’s almost zero development from the end of the last film to the beginning of this one. Nothing has happened off-screen in terms of how they treat each other, and it’s a bit weird and makes you realise these aren’t real people, they’re characters in a movie.

There’s a moment at the start where they introduce three new kinds of zombies (Ninjas, Homers, and Hawkings), these classifications don’t end up meaning much in the end and are really only there to set up another classification later in the film. We get a few Homers (really stupid zombies) in the film, but I feel we don’t get enough Hawkings (very smart ones) or Ninjas (silent and quick). That could have been used to set up some good horror scenes, and it’s a shame that it feels like they didn’t really use them.

Now onto the plus side; the chemistry between the cast is still great and is a great example of a studio taking advantage of catching lightning in a bottle in terms of actors. When you have something like that it can be a mistake to bring a new person in. It’s why I was slightly concerned with how heavily featured Zoey Deutch was in the trailers, especially as her character seemed pretty one-note and like her main reason to exist was to drive the plot forward by putting them in danger with her stupidity. Thankfully she slots in beautifully. Plus she’s not stupid, not really. She would have been 14 when the zombie outbreak occurred, so most of her formative years were spent hiding in a freezer. As such she’s stuck in a state of arrested development alongside long-term isolation (the film hints that she was at the same place the infection started, so she has been in the same place, alone, for 10 years). Her character meshes well with the other characters too, allowing them to get some great comedic lines in. Rosario Dawson also slots in brilliantly, albeit for nowhere near as long.

So to answer the question about whether you should see it, you definitely should. It’s exactly what you think it is, and exactly what it needs to be. It even features an opening scene set to Metallica like the first one. Now if another one is made, lets hope it’s not 10 years later again. Oh, and make sure you stay for the mid-credits scene where Bill Murray kills zombies whilst just walking around being Bill Murray.

The Day Shall Come (2019)

Anybody who has spoken to me for more than a few minutes knows I LOVE the work of Chris Morris and have been a fan of his since I first saw The Day Today being randomly repeated at some point in the late ’90s after Never Mind The Buzzcocks. I consider it the most important show to shape my comedic stylings and tastes, particularly in regards to British television. This is partly because he always works with such a great team of people;  Steve Coogan, Rebecca Front, Doon Mackichan, Mark Heap, Simon Pegg, Kevin Eldon, Riz Ahmed, Benedict Cumberbatch, Armando Iannucci, Charlie Brooker, Julian Barrett etc are all people I first became familiar with through their work on a Chris Morris show. This continues in this film, with a GREAT performance from Marchant Davis.

So yeah, it’s fair to say I hold the work of Chris Morris in very high regard. This can work against him as I have such high expectations means that anything less than great is regarded as a disappointment. As such this is a slight disappointment. It is funny but more “slight laugh to self”, not as many laugh out loud moments as their should be. The satire at times seems a little unfocused. Because it’s based on lots of different stories there are moments where the film is so concerned with telling those stories that it doesn’t tell a narrative as quickly as it should. It feels like a piece of work for people who already like Chris Morris, I can’t imagine someone hating Four Lions but then liking this. That being said, when it does hit, it hits fucking hard.

Often people say “it’s funny because it’s true”, that definitely applies to this film, but since it’s Chris Morris, it’s kind of depressing for the exact same reason. That’s why I do love this film, I found it very funny, but I do also find it hard to be incredibly excited about it. It’s the kind of film that makes you realise that the world is fucked and the current method of dealing with terrorists is not fit for purpose and is more pre-occupied with results than accuracy, it would rather jail 1000 innocent people than give them trials and find out they’re innocent. It’s the kind of film that should inspire you to fuck shit up and fight against unjust laws, yet also makes you realise that doing so would do nothing, it’s hopeless to fight against and try to change things, so you just have to curl up in a ball and weep at the current state of affairs.

Still funny though.

Joker (2019)

To say this film had a lot of buzz is an understatement. I mean, IT: Chapter Two had a lot of hype, but absolutely nothing compared to this. The closest I’ve seen this year was Avengers, and that had over a decade of build-up. Expectations were very high for this, and it kind of met them. That’s mainly due to two things:

  1. The general tone. Particularly at the end of the film. This is a Gotham that makes sense to exist. In previous films, Gotham has just seemed like a normal town, albeit with organised crime. This Gotham seems hopeless like the whole place is just sinking, spiralling down to oblivion. The architecture is run down, there’s no sense of “wow” to it. You won’t get this Gotham as a lego set, it’s just too horrible. It’s a cesspool of filth that needs cleaning, this is a Gotham that NEEDS someone like Batman.
  2. Joaquin Phoenix. He’s phenomenal in this. Physically he’s just perfect. At times he seems to contort his body into an almost inhuman shape, like his body is a cocoon he is trying to escape from.

You come out of this film exhausted. It’s the film equivalent of having your face scraped along a road, albeit a really smooth and polished road. There is a roughness to this film, but it’s a slick roughness, like those guys who spend hours getting their hair elegantly dishevelled. I think one of the biggest issues I have with it is that it’s kind of predictable. There’s not much that will surprise you, everything happens as you expect it would. For something like this I feel it needs to subvert expectations in some way, and except for “this is dark and realistic” this doesn’t really do that. We’ve all seen this movie and story before, so even when it is at it’s best, it doesn’t feel unique enough to stand out among the crowd. In particular, the death of the Waynes feels so familiar it’s a weirdly dull moment to put that close to the end of the film.

The absolute worst thing about this movie? There’s one scene where he dances down some stairs alongside a Gary Glitter song. That’s convicted paedophile Gary Glitter, on the soundtrack to a major movie in 2019. You’d think someone who worked on the film would have pointed that out. It’s a moment that completely takes you out of the film as it’s impossible to hear one of his songs and not feel really creeped out.

There was a worry that this film would serve as an inspiration for assholes. That a large amount of disaffected white men (and lets face it, it would be white guys) would see this movie and think “yes, the world also mistreats me, I held a door open for a woman earlier and she didn’t even offer me sex. I’m going to kill people, I’m a hero”. Considering this film is about the character inspiring a movement, these fears weren’t completely unfounded. After seeing this film I think it’s less likely to be the case, purely because of how utterly pathetic the character is at times. He’s shown to be terrible with people, not that smart, not charismatic as himself, and not funny. Anybody who would see this as a role model is beyond hope in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, you do feel sympathy for the character, he is mistreated by a lot of people, and the healthcare system in general. The turning point is when he’s beaten by three suited asswipes. He shoots two of them in self-defence, then hunts the third one down and executes him in cold blood. It’s at this point he goes from “oh no, poor guy” to “oh, he’s an asshole” and it is superbly done. A lot of the deaths in here are really good actually, there’s one in particular which is so brutal it’s incredibly uncomfortable, in a good way. The moment where he shoots someone on live television didn’t really work as well for me. I get what they were going for but I think it would have been more effective if we saw more people watching the broadcast to really hit home what’s happening. We get the reaction of the studio audience, but that’s pretty much it. The chaos that follows that scene is so intense it gives you a sense of dread for society in general, so that’s good. Now, the closing scene, it feels a bit too “arty” and “this is deep” to be an effective closer. It kind of works but I feel could and should have been better.

So in summary, you DEFINITELY should see this film. You may not enjoy it, but you will like it. It’s intense, exhilarating, and features one of the best performances you’ll see in a long time. It’s not a “greatest movie ever” film, but it’s definitely going to be a highlight of the year.

The Kitchen (2019)

I was quite excited by this, it seemed like an interesting an fresh story (albeit one based on a comic book series so not entirely original) starring Melissa McCarthy in a not “I’m fat and swear a lot, this is comedy” role. It seemed like an interesting idea. So I was kind of disappointed with the final product. The whole thing seems like a bunch of wasted opportunities. It does have to be said how good the central performances are though; McCarthy is great in it, as is Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss, my favourite performance though is Domhnall Gleeson, who is quietly building up a REALLY solid filmography in terms of performance; Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Star Wars etc. His performance in this is kind of terrifying in a great way, he seems like a cold-blooded killer. The cast does lead me to one of the big issues with this film; there are too many bland characters. There are people who you are supposed to recognise so you can be like “Wow, I can’t believe their relative did that”, but you don’t recognise them so it just seems like someone did something and you don’t get the importance of it until it’s revealed by dialogue later on. I think part of this is because it builds up characters as important threats, and then just kills them without fanfare. This means all that time spent developing that character feels kind of wasted. The twist near the end also doesn’t seem to land. I think the reason for that is because it’s supposed to be a big deal, but happens so close to the end that the ramifications of it never hit home, especially since about 4 minutes after the “big betrayal” there’s a “we need to put aside our differences and work together” scene which ends the film. So really it had no impact on the plot at all. I’m interested to read the comic this is based on, just to see if it makes the same mistakes.

I guess my big problem is I found it hard to give a shit about it. Especially once Elisabeth Moss’s character died, I found myself not really rooting for the main characters. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t rooting against them, I just wasn’t rooting for them; I flat out didn’t care about them. This review is shorter than normal, usually when I don’t like a film I can find a lot to talk about, I’ll use the issues I have with the film to kickstart a rant about something, I can’t work up the energy to do that with this. It’s left almost no impact on me at all. To the point where in a few years I’ll see a trailer for this this somewhere, and completely forget I’ve already watched it.

Still, Margo Martindale is awesome in it.

Ad Astra (2019)

This was the perfect movie for me at this time, it’s just what I needed. The last film I watched was so bad it almost put me off the concept of film, and the concept of enjoying things. This film put me back on track. It’s glorious as fuck. It looks magnificent, there’s not even a single second where you don’t buy into everything you watch on screen. I was sold in the opening scene when a space station blew up and people plummeted to earth (horrific way to die when you think about it by the way) and the way it looked meant this scene which could just look like a standard action scene, instead looked as terrifying as it would be in real life. Really, think of how that scene would play out in most films; it would be loud, lots of screaming, but you won’t feel anything. You’d be very aware you’re watching a movie and that there is no suffering on screen. This is the opposite, you feel everything that happens.

It’s not just the visuals, the sound work is great too. Well not just the sound, the use of silence too. Far too many films are scared of silence or don’t utilise it properly. When it’s used effectively it’s one of the best tricks in a filmmakers arsenal. This is doubly so in two specific genres; horror and sci-fi. The sound of silence can really help drive home isolation and nothingness. We’re so used to some form of background noise that complete silence is incredibly unnerving to experience, in a good way.

Now onto the bad; I felt this movie was lacking emotional depth. There’s a moment at the end which is supposed to be a huge emotional moment but for whatever reason, it didn’t really hit home. I think it might be because the entire film was building towards something happening, and then it did happen it wasn’t executed very well and just seemed kind of bland. Also, the narration was unnecessary.

There were also a few moments where it dragged slightly. Not as much as you’d think though. It’s a long film, and A LOT of the film is just padding, but it kind of works as these are the moments where the film breaths and truly comes into its own. Some of the wasteful scenes do highlight another problem with this film; disposable side characters. Brad Pitt’s character is undoubtedly the main character, but that would be a weird film to watch for two hours, so the film brings in side characters for very brief moments. Sometimes they just tell him “your dad killed my parents” and then help him on his way, sometimes they worked with his dad years before they had an argument and stopped talking, and sometimes they want him to detonate a bomb on a planet to kill his dad. Either way, these characters all only appear for a few minutes and then are never referred to again. Also, it’s kind of weird how his entire character is his dad, even in terms of how other people relate to him. Look at all those characters I just described, they’re all focused around his dad, not him. As such he doesn’t really get chance to develop much of a character, I realise that could be the point to show how we live in the shadow of the sins of those that came before us, but the character spends most of the film on his own, it’s important he is well defined and this just about doesn’t manage it.

So in summary, see this, and see it a cinema, it’s what it deserves. This film is crying out for a big screen and immersive experience. And it’s great to see Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland again. Side note; Donald Sutherland would be a great voice for an animated movie.

IT: Chapter 2 (2019)

Is this the best horror movie of the year? Well it’s definitely better than Ma and Escape Room, and scarier than Happy Death Day 2 U and Child’s Play. The only one that can really match it is Us, which I loved. I think this Us is better, but only marginally. It’s not so much what this film is lacking which brings it down, it’s what it contains; far too much. This film is far, far too long. It’s almost 3 hours long and doesn’t need to be. There’s a lot of padding, a lot of repeating what we already know, and a lot of things that don’t go anywhere. Not just scenes, there are entire sub-plots which aren’t really necessary. Yes, it was good to see Henry Bowers as a psychopathic adult, but it barely adds anything to the plot and if you cut it out it wouldn’t really affect the plot. He may have been important in the book, but they’ve changed over things, and he was so ineffectual that I don’t think anybody would have really missed him. The opening is also a waste of time, if I’m being honest. It’s about two gay characters being attacked by a homophobic gang, ending in one of the two being thrown off a bridge where his partner witnessed him being attacked by Pennywise. It looks like the gang of homophobic assholes are going to be a big fixture in this film, like Bowers was in the first film, but they never appear again. Also not appearing again; the surviving character. He witnesses his partner being eaten by Pennywise, and is never seen again in the film. He could have been an important part, an outsider in the Losers club.

Despite the excessive runtime, there are a lot of things that are underutilised, one of which is Pennywise himself. There is also a problem with consistency, you’re not quite sure whether things are real or illusions, so you don’t know whether things have consequences, and it’s arguable about whether the film itself even knows. It also features possibly one of the most embarassing scenes in 2019 horror when a really tense moment suddenly has a really out-of-place use of the song “Angel Of The Morning” in a way that I think was supposed to be comedic, but it didn’t really work at all as it was the coda of a really intense section.

Arguably, I think this film would have been better as a trilogy. The first one as the younger characters, the second one as the older, and the third switching between the two (or switch the third and second one). There’s too much story to tell so you can’t do it all in this period of time. For this to have worked they would have needed to make all 3 at the same time, which would be fine. It also would have cut down on the flashbacks in this movie, which threaten to overrule the story. It’s hard for a lot of the flashback scenes to work that effectively because they lack tension. The reason for this is because we know the characters survive as we’ve seen the older versions of them, so we know that no matter what, nothing too bad will happen.

Despite that, despite ALL that, I did really enjoy this film. When it was creepy it was incredibly unsettling, and when it was funny it was very funny (with two notable exceptions). The performances are also great, McAvoy continues to be one of the best performers in every movie he’s in, all the cast from the first movie continue to be great too. The real MVP though; Bill Hader. I didn’t know he had this performance in him, he nails every aspect of the character. His jokes, his guilt, and his insecurity are played perfectly by him.

It does also feature a semi-distracting Stephen King cameo though. Although that cameo does consist of him telling a character who is clearly based on him “I like your books but your endings suck”, which made me laugh. So yeah, definitely go see this, preferably at the cinema for the best experience.

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (2019)

I saw a trailer for this months ago (I think was about March), and as such, I had forgotten some things about. Mainly, how violent it was. For some reason, in my head, it was like Goosebumps (a severely underrated film btw). You know, not “scary”, but “spooky”, the kind of thing schools would show at Halloween. Yeah, I’m a f*cking idiot. The director, Andre Ovredal, previously directed the Autopsy Of Jane Doe, and is currently working on a film version of a Stephen King novel. So that’s a good indication that this film is not for kids. It’s not exactly aimed at die-hard horror fans either though. It’s aimed at that middle ground. It’s not quite “My First Horror Movie”, but it is like the third or fourth one you watch to help establish yourself to the genre once you realise you like it and want to find more.

This won’t end up in my list of scariest stories of the year, but I will still highly recommend it. The first story (about Harold the Scarecrow) is a truly disturbing piece of body horror, but it’s just too restrained to be truly effective. I’m not asking for full gore, but a little bit more would have helped it a bit. Considering the limitations, Ovredal did a fantastic job here. An uneasy sense of dread hangs over the entire film (kind of reminds of the film Ghost Stories from a few years ago). Even within slightly comedic moments, that sense of fear never leaves the screen. The effects on the “monsters” are also remarkable, genuinely creepy. I’ve looked at some of the illustrations in the book some of the stories are based on, and he nailed it, especially the Pale Lady. I’m not that familiar with the series as a whole, but I can’t help but feel fans of it will be pleased by what they say.

The acting, now horror movies aren’t known for great performances, but they’re getting better. This is towards the higher end of the talented performances spectrum. There’s one performance I wasn’t a particular fan of as it just annoyed me, but looking at reviews and comments I seem to be the only one as a lot of people considered this character a highlight, so what do I know? Zoe Colletti is a revelation as the lead, even if she did remind me of someone I know for a lot of the film. Michael Garza has the potential to be a great obnoxious anti-hero in a family-friendly television series.

I saw this the same day I saw IT: Chapter 2. They’re kind of similar films, young kids in a bygone America fighting evil (for parts of Chapter 2 anyway), as such it would be easy for this to look weak by comparison, especially since it’s going towards a younger audience. I loved IT, and I will say that this film stands proudly alongside it