Posts Tagged ‘It: Chapter Two’

So the other night on Twitter, I see Richard Chizmar (you know, that author/publisher I interviewed a while back?) tweet about this movie, The House of the Devil, saying he had to stop watching it thirty minutes in and could only finish it by the light of day. Obviously, I’m intrigued, so I went and reserved a copy from the library. And I finished it in one sitting after dark, so I think I can brag about that? Wait, I live in an apartment with noises, and part of the reason Mr. Chizmar couldn’t finish it was because he was watching the film in a dark, quiet house. Obviously, there’s a difference.

Anyway, on with the review!

Set in the 1980s and “based on true events,” The House of the Devil follows Samantha, a college student struggling to make ends meet. In desperation, she answers a babysitting ad she finds on campus and takes it. However, things get weird when she gets to the house. And once she’s alone with her charge, she learns that there’s more afoot than meets the eye.

Ladies and gentlemen, I may have a new favorite horror film!

So first off, this really does feel like a horror film from the late 70s/early 80s. In addition to the normal signs of a 1980s-set story (teased hair, Walkmans, and music from the best era for music ever, etc.), the movie was filmed with 16mm film, giving it that slightly filtered quality we know and feel so nostalgic about. Add in some yellow credits and some pauses during opening credits, and I could almost believe this film was made over thirty years ago rather than just eleven years ago.

I also love how this film builds tension. I know I use the term “slow burn” quite a bit, but it fits here. Director Ti West takes his time laying the groundwork and establishing our main character Samantha (wonderfully played by Jocelin Donahue, who embodies natural 80s beauty as much as Natalia Dyer in Stranger Things). Once we get to the house, things switch to showing Samantha’s increasing unease and paranoia. The camera work in these scenes is great, showing the heroine exploring the house multiple times, as if she’s not sure she’s really alone, while at the same time the camera films things in a voyeuristic way, like we’re the ones stalking Samantha, allowing us to share in her unease.

And that final third! Whoo-boy, things go zero-to-sixty real quick, and it is scary and thrilling to watch. I also like seeing how Samantha strikes a great balance between terrified final girl and willing to fight back. Usually in these films it’s either they’re screaming their heads off or they’re angry vengeance personified, so it’s a nice change to see a compromise.

As far as problems go, this film might be a bit too slow and quiet at times for some viewers. If you prefer your horror film have faster paces or not so many quiet points where characters just talk, this may not be the film for you. Also, there are some flashing imagery at the beginning of the final third that might trigger people with photosensitivity. It’s not as bad as IT: Chapter Two was, but it’s still something to keep in mind.

All in all, The House of the Devil is a wonderful homage to the slasher and suspense-horror films of the 70s and 80s. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.8. Settle into the couch, order a pizza and prepare for one of the best horror films you haven’t heard of. You won’t regret it.

Unless you have nightmares. In which case you may regret it.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about The Lodge, including that it was a new classic in the genre (or something like that. I may be paraphrasing). With the last couple of horror films I’ve seen since my last film review being average or below and not worthy of a blog post (*cough* Fantasy Island *cough*), I had high expectations. At the very least, I hoped it was worth the cost of parking at the nearest theater it was playing at.

The Lodge follows Aiden and Mia, a pair of siblings living with their father following the sudden death of their mother. On their trip to their family cabin for Christmas, their dad’s girlfriend Grace comes along to get to know the kids better. The kids are less than thrilled, partly because Grace is the lone survivor of a suicide cult headed by her father. However, when the kid’s dad has to go back into the city for work and has to leave Grace with the kids for a few days, several days of madness ensue. One that will push Grace to the brink, and maybe take the kids with her.

Oh my God, this film is terrifying!

The Lodge takes storytelling and suspense hand-in-hand and creates an atmosphere where everything feels up in the air. If horror is fear of the unknown and loss of control, then this film succeeds. I saw hints of twists that were to come early in the film, only to quickly forget them even when I see them again because the film convinced me nothing was certain. Add in creepy imagery, strange happenings, and jump scares that are few and out of left field for their utmost effectiveness, and you’ve got one hell of a horror movie.

The four central characters also do an excellent job in their roles. Aiden is played from Jaeden Martell, who played Bill Denbrough in the IT movies, so he’s used to horror films, and puts it to use here. His sister is played by Lia McHugh, who also have a history in horror, so they bring the experience. But more than that, they know how to play siblings brought close by tragedy, to the point that I forgot they were actors.* Riley Keough also is excellent, showing the stress of the situation on a woman already psychologically and emotionally vulnerable so well. It’s honestly a delight to watch.

I can’t think of anything bad about the film. Doing so would be nitpicking. I will let you know that if you prefer horror films be filled with CGI and lots of jump scares (the opposite of me), this film may be a bit too intense for you. Trust me, most of the theater were freaking out in our seats. Even when nothing was happening on screen (or seemed to be happening, anyway).

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving The Lodge a 4.8 out of 5. Nerve-wracking, twisty and twisted, you’ll be freaking out from the first jump scare to the haunting ending. Grab a blanket and someone to watch it with, and get ready to squeeze their arms tightly. Believe me, it’s that scary.

*And maybe wondered their relationship was incestuous. Hey, it’s an R-rated horror film, boundaries are hazy at best if it helps the story along.

Do I really need to say anything? No, we all knew I was going to see this movie opening weekend, and that I would post a review soon afterwards. The only question is, besides what did I think of the movie, is why the review is being posted so late at night. Answer: I went with a couple of friends to Oktoberfest Columbus for drinks and only just got back a little while ago. Now onto the review.

IT: Chapter Two picks up the story twenty-seven years after the ending of Chapter One. A violent gay-bashing reawakens It, who begins another reign of terror upon the people of Derry. Mike Hanlon, the only member of the Losers Club still in Derry, calls back his friends, who have forgotten most of their memories and need to recall what they’ve forgotten in order to stop It once and for all. Unfortunately, It wants them to come back. It enjoys having enemies. And It wants to finish what they all started twenty-seven years ago.

I’ll be honest with you: I was disappointed with this movie.

There’s stuff here to enjoy, don’t get me wrong. The adult versions of the characters not only look like grown up versions of the kids we met two years ago (who show up a lot in this movie, and I really can’t tell they’ve been digitally de-aged, even though that’s what happened), but they put their all into the characters and do it so well. Bill Hader as the adult Richie Tozier, for all his inexperience in the horror genre, does scared very well, and steals just about every scene he’s in. Bill Denbrough is given a decent character arc tackling his ongoing guilt regarding his brother’s death. They actually do the giant spider form some justice in this film, as well as the scene with Adrian Mellon being beaten to death by homophobes.

Stephen King himself has a great cameo in the movie, and they managed to work in an in-joke about King’s writing (namely that he doesn’t know how to end a book)* by having people say Bill doesn’t know how to finish a novel. And I approved of some of the changes to the story for the film, especially one involving a secret of Richie’s and putting Stan Uris’s suicide in a new light.

However, there was a lot I didn’t care for in this film. One thing I didn’t like was how everything just seemed to be spelled out for our protagonists. In the first film, you watched the characters figure out everything–It’s 27-year cycle, how all seven of them need to be together to fight It, how It has many different forms, including a clown–and that was great. People who knew the source material got to see them figure out the puzzle (I’m told this is called dramatic irony) and those who weren’t pieced things together with the characters. But in Chapter Two, EVERYTHING gets spelled out, mostly by Mike. He’s practically one big info-dump, which takes away some of the sense of mystery.**

Not only that, but It’s power in Derry seems to be downplayed in this film. In the first film, they do a great job conveying how much power It has over Derry and its inhabitants, but I did not get that sense as much during this film. I could’ve also used further exploration of It’s origins. I’m not asking for Maturin and the Macroverse (I’m not unreasonable), but I would’ve loved to see a bit more otherwordliness and maybe a scene going into how the form of Pennywise arose (fans were teased a scene like that after the first film). Kind of made Pennywise less threatening to me, actually.

We also get a lot of CGI in this film, which is ugly and comes with enough flashing lights that I left the theater with a strong headache. And while the final battle was awesome at times, the way it ended left me feeling less than impressed (really? That’s the final shot of Pennywise you went with?).

Oh, and before I forget: the tone. One criticism of the first film is that the tone’s a little inconsistent at times. However, it’s worse in the second film, with jokes and music that doesn’t fit popping up every other minute. I mean, can we leave the joking to Bill Hader and just keep things consistent? I want to be scared, not giggling at one-liners.

There are other things I could say, but I’m going to just leave it at that. On a scale of 1 to 5, I think I’ll give IT: Chapter Two a 2.5 out of 5. Perhaps I psyched myself up too much for this film, but it did not fulfill my expectations. Also, don’t see this film if you have any sort of photosensitivity.

I bought this Pennywise doll after the movie. No matter what you think of the second movie, this is the best version of Pennywise, and I wanted something to celebrate that.

On the bright side, Chapter One still holds up, and will for years to come. We may never get an adaptation of IT in any format that will satisfy everyone, but at least Chapter One will always be the closest to doing so. And of course, Joker and Doctor Sleep come out next month. Those should settle our scary clown and Stephen King itches, respectively.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Goodnight, and pleasant nightmares.

*Which I don’t agree with. I can count the number of his books I’ve been disappointed with the ending with on one hand, but that’s just me.

**Also, wasn’t he supposed to be a recovering addict in this film? I mean, they kept saying in promotional interviews that he was, but the only evidence I saw of that was an empty beer bottle and one Native American vision journey. He comes off more as obsessed to me: obsessed with Pennywise and his childhood friends. Worrisome, but not evidence of a recovering addict.

 

It’s been over a week since I last wrote a blog post, so I just wanted to let you know I haven’t died and either become a ghost or returned to my home dimension. Of course, every blog post needs a subject, so I thought I’d update you on the many projects I’ve got going on. And believe me, it’s a lot of projects.

Rose

Now, I’m sure you’re aware that Rose has been out for about two and a half months at this point. What more could be happening with that? Plenty, actually. Firstly, there’s an audio book on the way. Yep, Rose is going to be in audio format. Now, I can’t share many particulars on that just yet, but I can tell you the audio book will hopefully be out in the next month and will be available from Amazon and Audible.

Which of course means I need to do a lot of work to make sure that the paperback, ebook, and audio book do well and get into the hands/devices of plenty of readers and listeners. Hopefully it all pays off.

And in the meantime, if you haven’t checked Rose out yet but want to, you can find it on Amazon, as well as on Amazon UK and Amazon Canada. Take a look, and if you enjoy the book, let me know what you think.

River of Wrath

Dante Alighieri, author of “Inferno.”

Some of you may recall that last year in the days before Halloween, I finished a novel called River of Wrath that was partially inspired by Dante’s Inferno. Since then, I haven’t touched that story once, but that’ll change soon. I have a beta reader who’s working his way through the book and says he’s going to be done soon. Once I get it back from him, I’ll get to work on editing it, with the goal of having the second draft done by Halloween. After that, I’ll hopefully be able to find a publisher for the story. River‘s a little too straight horror for Castrum Press, so I’ll have to look elsewhere. But I think there are plenty of publishers who might be interested in this one. With any luck, I could have River out some tie in 2020. Fingers crossed!

 

 

 

National Novel Writing Month

I’ve got something for NaNoWriMo this year, just wait and see.

As many of you are aware, November is National Novel Writing Month (though at this point, a name change should be considered, as it’s pretty much international at this point). During NaNoWriMo, participating authors try to write an entire novel of fifty-thousand words before November 30th, or about seventeen-hundred words a day. This’ll be my first year since college that I’ll be participating, and I’m almost done doing research for the book. I don’t expect to make the daily word count or even the final goal for the challenge (and even if I did, I doubt the resulting story would be high-quality. That’s what editing is for!). Regardless, I’m going to try and see what I can accomplish. I even plan to take some time off at the beginning of the month to help me get it done. With any luck, I’ll get enough done that by the time I return to work, I’ll have made significant progress on the story.

And as for what I’m writing for NaNoWriMo, you’ll just have to wait. I’ll announce what I’m working on when we’re a bit closer to November. Though I can tell you this: it’s going to be a very strange and unexpected story. Which I think means it’s going to be a lot of fun, both to write and to read.

A new short story collection is on its way!

You read that right. I’m putting together another collection of original short stories. And I know I’ve made that promise before, but this time I’ve made significant progress towards that goal. I already have several stories, novelettes and novellas on stand-by for the collection, and am working on finishing up a few other stories for it.

Sadly, at this stage the collection’s still gestating, so to speak, so it would be premature to state its contents, what it’s called or when/how I’ll be releasing it. However, as soon as I have that information, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Other

Castrum Press will be putting out a call for alternative history short stories for an anthology soon, so I’ll be editing up my Arthurian short story Mother of the King soon. Since I’m already one of their client, I hope that’ll help get the story in, but as you would expect, this sort of thing depends greatly on quality, timing and luck.

And here on the blog, I’m getting ready to write the next part in my series of marketing posts, as well as another anime recommendations list (because when you’re me, you devour anime like Scooby-Doo devours everything edible). Hopefully I’ll find time for both of those before the month is out.

 

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I think the next time I post, it’ll be after seeing IT: Chapter Two. I’m looking forward to it!

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

A sketch of Cthulhu by HP Lovecraft, and an embodiment of cosmic horror.

Earlier today, I read a very interesting article about how cosmic horror is evolving from the state it was in when HP Lovecraft pioneered the genre, courtesy of Bloody Disgusting (you can read the article here). To sum the article up, the author states that cosmic horror originally had little room for emotions other than fear. The idea was to explore a vast cosmos filled with powerful entities and secrets that humanity can’t begin to grasp. Humanity, and our ideas and emotions, are inconsequential to these beings, and they are too much for us to fathom. However, lately the genre has been used to explore emotional themes such as closure of grief or to overcome childhood schisms and trauma.

I thought it was an interesting article, so I shared it among my fellow horror writers (as well as reserved some of the films mentioned in the article from my local library). And the responses I’ve gotten so far have been rather telling. One author I’m friends with mentioned that horror, including cosmic horror, has always been used to explore themes of emotions and the human experience. Sure, that sometimes involves things so outside the human experience our mind can’t comprehend them, but in the end, they deal with every day human fears of how much we matter, whether we’re alone in the universe.

Look at IT, for example (and yes, I am excited for Chapter Two. My sister and I are even trying to arrange to see it opening weekend). While it is about a shape-shifting being fond of the form of a clown and the people who stand up to him, it’s also about dealing with the change from childhood to adulthood, how reality hardens you and destroys your sense of wonderment. Very relevant to the human experience, underneath the clown make-up.

Another person in that discussion also mentioned how, in the age of the Internet, Twitter, and all the human-made horrors, some people doubted the need for cosmic horror. I mean, isn’t everyday news bad enough? Who needs alien gods with tentacles when you have mass shootings and human rights violations?

Well, not necessarily. Think about how, despite all the “connections,” we live more hermit-like and isolated existences these days. We live very much alone. And seeing all these awful things in the world, one can feel powerless. The world is just too much to handle, it seems, let alone take on.

And that’s cosmic horror in a nutshell. Humanity feeling small, our lives not ours to control, but at the mercy of forces that don’t care one way or the other about our well-being. It was a common enough feeling for many after WWI when HP Lovecraft was building the genre, having experienced the trenches, the gas, and the flamethrowers. And it’s still a common feeling today.

And so long as that feeling of hopelessness and isolation in the face of a seemingly senseless, uncaring world is part of people’s lives, there will be an audience for cosmic horror. The genre will evolve and change, but the swirling darkness that birthed Cthulhu and other monstrosities will always be at its core.

But what do you think? Is cosmic horror evolving? What direction do you think the genre will head? Are you, like me, actually an entity from beyond this planet or realm whose true form induces all who see it to madness? Let’s discuss.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, goodnight and pleasant nightmares.

So in case you missed it, yesterday MGM released the first trailer for their new Addams Family movie, which is due out in October. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’ve embedded it below.

How awesome is that? The animation looks stunning, the voices match the characters, and the format of animation is perfect for a family that is never explicitly stated to be but probably is supernatural and evil in nature. You can tell a lot of love went into the making of this film.

I’ve been a fan of the Addams Family for years. Back in 2012, I wrote a post about how much I’d love to be an Addams, back when this film was still in development as a stop-motion picture with Tim Burton attached. I’ve watched my favorite episodes of the original TV series multiple times over the years, I just watched both movies from the 1990’s last month, and I saw a local production of the Addams Family Musical not too long ago. So you can imagine how much I am for this movie.

And all this Addams stuff has got me thinking. And the more I think about it, the more I realize: we could all benefit from taking a few pages out of the Addams’s books.

Not like their actual books, because those are likely cursed, and not like we should all be more drawn to the dark and occult. Though if more people were drawn to the darker and eerie subjects and tastes like the Addams or myself, I would not complain. Also, it seems to do them very well. Despite their unconventional lifestyles, the Addams are among the richest clans in the world. I wouldn’t be surprised if one led straight to the other (likely without anyone’s souls getting sold to a demon, though that is a possibility I won’t dismiss out of hand).

No, what I mean is that the Addams embody many qualities that we as a society could learn from.

These are people we could stand to learn something from.

For starters, the Addams are very kind and accepting of others. Yeah, they do get disgusted at the idea of anyone having daisies in their yards, but they’ll just accept anyone who does have daisies in their yards as long as they’re polite. In fact, in one episode of the 1960’s TV series, Morticia responded to this idea by stating that “we’ll just have to accept that some people have a warped sense of beauty.” They care less about what you like or what your background is and more about what your character is. Are you a nice person? Can you get along with others? Can you act like a civil person in front of someone you disagree with? That’s what the Addams value (though if you share their interests in the macabre, even better).

The Addams are also extremely generous. With the exception of the musical, in every incarnation of the characters their generosity is always emphasized. Money is nice and allows them to do what they want, but Gomez and Morticia are more than willing to part with their money or their heirlooms if someone needs them more than they do or if someone compliments the stuff on the walls.*

In this day and age, that’s kind of revolutionary. People have an us vs. them mentality, to the point where people commit acts of violence and cruelty because “they’re different from me.” And this may just be me, but at times I feel like it’s looked down upon to willingly part with your money, even to help someone else out.

With the Addams Family, there’s none of that. They could care less about us vs. them as long as you’re a nice person, and they would gladly take part in any charity auction you talked to them about. And in a world that seems more and more hateful and greedy, that’s something extraordinary. At least in my humble opinion.

Plus, there’s the fact that Gomez and Morticia are everyone’s relationship goals, the whole family is involved in making sure the next generation turns out “alright,” they’re big on family, they keep up with current events, business and science, and the family on a whole is extremely cultured. They love theater, dance and art, learning about global cultures, and studying history. In the first episode of the 1960’s TV series, Wednesday and Pugsley demonstrate familiarity with the French Revolution and its more morbid details. Those kids are six and eight respectively in that series, and they know that much already! I’m nearly twenty-six and studied the French Revolution in college. I’m still fuzzy on certain details. How cool is it that those kids know that much?

Given my interest in the macabre (like Lizzie Borden’s grave, for instance), I think I’d make a great Addams. Don’t you?

In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing this movie, and a new generation being introduced to the wonderfully unique Addams. Hell, maybe people will learn something from them.

But tell me, what are your thoughts on the Addams and their new movie? Did I miss anything that makes them figures to emulate? And when will we get a trailer for IT: Chapter Two (I mean, it is less than four months away)? Let’s discuss.

 

And while I still have your attention, I’m still looking for advanced readers for my upcoming novel Rose. This fantasy-horror novel follows a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). In exchange for an early electronic copy of the book, all I ask is that you read it and then consider writing a review of it on or after the release date. If you’re interested, please send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com and I’ll get you on the list.

*That’s actually the biggest flaw in the plans of the villains from both the 1991 and the 1993 movies. The villains didn’t have to resort to subterfuge to get to the Addams fortune. They could’ve just shown up at the front gate, said they were on hard times (true for their former lawyer and possibly the villain of the second film) and asked if the Addams could help them out somehow. They’d probably welcome you in and let you sleep in a spare bedroom, with no obligation for rent or a move-out date. If you behaved yourself and became close to the family, they’d probably adopt you and rename you Cousin Porch, because that’s where they first met you.