IT- No Clowning Around

 

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It has only been out for a week, and it’s already completely smashed box office records and blown up social media feeds. It’s seeming likely, that this latest Stephen King remake/adaptation will be the biggest horror movie of the year. Perhaps I’m a bit late to the game, but I figured I’d chime in anyway. It’s taken me some time to compile my thoughts on this one. My feelings are rather jumbled.

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For those of you that have somehow remained unaware, It follows a group of kids trying to stop an ancient evil disguised as a clown. Of course the first element I need to address is the clown, Pennywise. While Tim Curry left some large clown shoes to fill, Skarsgard is a worthy replacement. Skarsgard’s Pennywise doesn’t speak as much as Curry’s, but he’s just as menacing. His fish like eyes that tend to cross, and the weird way he trails off when speaking hint at him being something far more sinister. In the book, it’s quite clear that Pennywise is a Lovecraftian-ish entity. While Curry’s interpretation is more entertaining, Skarsgard’s feels more in line with King’s original vision.

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While Skarsgard’s performance is top notch, it’s the kids who carry the movie. Each of the children stand out as individual characters. Not a single one of them failed to measure up. The interactions between them are humorous, emotional, and authentic. The relationships of the kids in It have been compared to that of the children in Stranger Things. That’s a fair comparison, and audience members that enjoyed one are bound to enjoy the other. While the young actors of It deserve the most credit for bringing their roles to life, director Andy Muschietti is owed praise as well. It can be difficult to work with child/teen actors, and Muschietti managed to bring the best out of all seven of them. Sophia Lillis as Beverly is particularly enchanting. I can see her becoming a household name.

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In addition to the acting, there’s also some bloody good cinematography. The version from 1990 was made for television, so the shots are practical rather than artistic. The new film is a theatrical release with a huge budget, so Muschietti was able to integrate more cinematic camera techniques. The movie is full to the brim of grand drone shots of Derry and slick slow-motion. The scene that stands out for me is the one where Beverly is listening to the voices bubbling up from the sink drain. Then the entire bathroom is splattered with blood in slow motion, while she screams her head off.

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Unfortunately, not all of the visuals hold up. I had a problem with the lighting in most of the interior scenes. While the low lighting worked for the outdoor scenes, it made the indoor scenes just too dark to see. Sometimes even the characters eyes weren’t lit. It’s a small thing, but it makes a world of difference. Horror filmmakers need to learn that just because the subject matter is dark, it doesn’t mean it has to be visually dark.

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I also took issue with the majority of the scary scenes. There is something going on in the current state of horror, where every horror scene is designed to be manic. That’s definitely the case with It. The cuts are too fast, the sound is too loud, and the camera motion is just excessive. I’m a slow burn fan, so I prefer the creeping dread that exists in the form of stillness, or perhaps a room that’s just too quiet. Maybe the climax scene could have benefited from the chaos, but when every Pennywise scene is that wild, the effect wears off fast. It seems like it’s trying too hard. Think about being at a haunted house. What’s creepier, the guy in a mask shouting in your face, or that thing in the lurking in a corner that you only get a glimpse of?

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As long as we’re discussing the scares, I should point out that there were a few questionable effects. For the most part the movie used practical stuff, thank God. Still there were a couple times I caught some weird CGI. The most glaring example is at the beginning. Pennywise is tempting Georgie to get closer to him. Georgie moves in slowly, and then Pennywise opens his ridiculous CGI mouth and chomps down on Georgie’s arm. I wouldn’t say it ruined the scene, but it made it less enjoyable for sure.

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My complaints aside, I’d still give this film a favorable review. If I had to offer a grade, I’d give it a solid B minus. I explained my issues with it to a friend, and he made the point that this movie still signifies that big budget horror is moving in the right direction. I have to agree. While It is not a great film by any stretch, it stands miles above the likes of other theatrical horror films. Still, I think I’ll stick with wacky Tim Curry.

Do you want more AHH in your life? Follow my personal Twitter account @LolaTarantula and our blog @HallowsHaunts.  We can also be found on Facebook All Hallows’ Haunts.

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10 Creepy Films About Toxic Relationships – Part 1

I have a deep appreciation for human psychology, especially abnormal psych. A big part of psychology is how we relate to each other as human beings. Human relationships can be beautiful, and complex, and they can also be horrific. Today I’m listing some great films that examine the disturbing results that occur when fate brings the wrong people together. I’m breaking this article into two parts, because I don’t want it to get too long. (Keep in mind these are in no particular order.)

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301/302

301/302 is a Korean film that examines what happens when two people’s obsessions clash. The two female characters live next door to each other in an apartment complex, one is a chef and the other is a writer with anorexia. The chef ends up taking desperate measures to force the writer to sample her culinary talents. This film is weird, and funny, and gross. I like how it shows the histories of both women, allowing the viewer to understand how they came to be the way they are. There is an American remake of this film. It’s called Compulsion, and it stars Carrie-Anne Moss and Heather Graham. The original is by far the superior film, though.

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Silver Tongues

Silver Tongues is one of my favorite films about sociopaths. I’m shocked this movie isn’t more popular. It revolves around a couple that moves from place to place, finding people to psychologically toy with. Unlike 301/302, there is no deep reason for why the main characters do what they do, which makes it all the more troubling. They seem to just enjoy destroying the lives of others for kicks.

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Grimm Love

Grimm Love is one of the horror films released by Fangoria as part of their FrightFest. It stars Keri Russell as a psychology student studying a case that is based on Armin Meiwes, aka “The Rohtenburg Cannibal”. As many of you may know, Meiwes is known for convincing a man to let him eat him. Of course for the purposes of the movie, the names of the characters are changed and the details are scrambled about, but it preserves the shocking nature of the real crime. Russell puts in an excellent performance, and the film raises some interesting questions, like “What is love?”. I’m still saying it’s not cutting off a guy’s penis and eating it front of him, but hey, that’s just me.

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Bug

Bug is the story of the insanity that blossoms between a mysterious drifter and a battered woman. Bug can be considered a textbook example of Folie a deux. Folie a deux is a French term that basically means ” a madness of two”. It occurs when two people share a delusion. In order for Folie a deux to occur, there has to be isolation and one of the parties is dominant, while the other just sort falls in line with the delusion. In this William Friedkin film, Michael Shannon’s character convinces a damaged Ashley Judd, that the government has planted insects in their hotel room. It’s all downhill from there.

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Proxy

I don’t feel like I can say much about this film without giving plot points away. I guess I’ll just have to tell you something vague, like “No one is what they appear to be.” While, that’s true, it hardly does this movie justice. Proxy is bursting at the seams with well crafted shots, fascinating characters, and gut-wrenching violence.

What are some of your favorite horror/thrillers about toxic relationships. Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter @HallowsHaunts.

A Cure For Wellness- A Gothic Spectacular

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Visionary director, Gore Verbinski is back with his first horror film since The Ring. 2017’s A Cure for Wellness blends Verbinski’s meticulous attention to detail with elements from gothic and weird fiction. The resulting film contains a few flaws, but overall is a beautiful and unique cinematic experience.

A Cure for Wellness follows ruthless young businessman, Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), on his mission to Switzerland to convince his company’s head to return to his life in New York. Lockhart is the kind of guy who will do anything to achieve a goal, and he isn’t afraid to push people around in order to get what he wants. His arrogance leads him to believe that retrieving his boss will be a simple task, but he quickly discovers the sanitarium is hiding secrets in every corner, most of them related to the water.

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From a technical perspective, A Cure For Wellness is a feast for the eyes. Verbinski’s clear understanding of visual storytelling, creates a tense atmosphere of foreboding that is present in every scene. Whether the camera is following the dizzying movements of a group of white robed dancers, or showing a static image reflected in the eye of an animal bust, there is a grandness created within the frame. His indulgent style is an excellent fit with the dramatic storyline.

As for the story itself, there’s a bit of everything for all types horror fans. Fans of gothic horror will be attracted to the old buildings, incestuous relationships, and the forbidden romance. Those more drawn to Lovecraftian themes will enjoy the slimy creatures, the body horror, and the overall sense of individual oppression by the seemingly larger than life institution.

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The mystery behind the water in A Cure For Wellness is compelling, but a bit predictable. Chances are, most viewers will figure out what’s going on, pretty fast. That doesn’t make the film less enjoyable, just don’t expect to be shocked. It’s also a little on the long side, but because Lockhart is learning more and more with each scene, it doesn’t seem slow or boring. However, it might upon repeat viewings.

The film is at its very best when it relies on the creepiness of the characters and the cult-like mindset of the institution. The weird water based treatments, the polite but stiff staff, and the zombified patients in white are what makes the movie so spine chilling.

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The film is at its worst when ventures beyond the atmospheric and the psychological. The climax boils down to a physical fistfight between Lockhart and a character that basically transforms into Skeletor (No spoilers, here.). For a film that spent two hours being so thought provoking, it seems jarring and out of place for a high action scene to occur. For some this borderline comedic resolution may ruin the film. For others it’ll just seem like a sizeable bump in the road.

A Cure For Wellness is likely to be on many top 10 lists for 2017. Even though, it contains some significant blemishes, it still possesses many brilliant qualities. Like Crimson Peak, its gothic aesthetic and precise performances more than make up for its basic storyline. Verbinski may not have created a genre masterpiece, but A Cure For Wellness still way exceeds most studio horror productions.

The All Hallows’ Haunts 2016 Awards

With 2016 almost in the books and 2017 right around the corner, the team here at All Hallows’ Haunts thought it would be fun to look back at what we thought was the best of the best in 2016. So, without further ado, here are the All Hallows’ Haunts 2016 Awards.

Movie

Andy’s Pick- Hush

Lola’s Pick- Train to Busan

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TV Show

Andy’s Pick-  The Exorcist

Lola’s Pick- Stranger Things

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Creepy Album

Andy’s Pick- Metallica- Hardwired To Self-Destruct


Lola’s Pick – Birdeatsbaby- Tanta Furia

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Book

Andy’s Pick- Maggie Goes To Hollywood & Maggie Reloaded by Kate Danley

Lola’s Pick- I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

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Convention

Andy’s Pick- Midsummer Scream 

Lola’s Pick – Midsummer Scream

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Unique Event

Andy’s Pick- Serial Killer Speed Dating

Lola’s Pick- Halloween Club’s 4th Annual Spookshow

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Play

Andy’s Pick- Demonic Housewives

Lola’s Pick – Wicked Lit

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Haunt

Andy’s Pick- Knott’s Scary Farm

Lola’s Pick – Knott’s Scary Farm

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Haunt Show/Attraction

Andy’s Pick- Queen Mary’s Freak Show

Lola’s Pick- Micah Cover’s Haunted House Calls

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Maze

Andy’s Pick- Shadowlands (Knott’s Scary Farm)

Lola’s Pick – Shadow Lands (Knott’s Scary Farm)

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Scare Zone

Andy’s Pick- The Hollows (Knott’s Scary Farm) 

Lola’s Pick – Fiesta de los Muertos

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Sun Choke-An Artsy Exercise in Dread

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Sun Choke is the second feature by writer/director Ben Cresciman. This horror/thriller follows in the footsteps of other abstract films of late such as Darling and Proxy. Like these examples, Sun Choke focuses on the deep-rooted dysfunction of an individual character, rather than the tangible horror of demons or killers.

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The story follows Janie (Sarah Hagan), a young woman who lives under the control of the possessive Irma (Barbara Crampton). Irma gives Janie increasingly bizarre treatments for an unspecified condition. Irma subjects Janie to vile looking smoothies, magnets, and some grueling yoga sessions. Janie goes along with all of this until she is given some freedom. One day, Janie is allowed out and she spots Savannah (Sara Malakul Lane), and initially mistakes her for a doppleganger. Feeling drawn to Savannah, Janie begins to follow her every chance she gets. She attempts to assume her character. As her obsession grows, so do her violent inclinations. This sets all three women on a blood soaked path of madness.

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The film features bold performances from all three women. Barbara Crampton is particularly compelling as the caretaker whose motives are never quite clear. Sarah Hagan’s performance compliments Crampton’s. Hagan rocks between wounded naivete and animalistic insanity. Sara Malakul Lane completes the triangle with her sexy and compassionate demeanor.

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Sun Choke may appeal to a rather select crowd, but those with a taste for psychological arthouse are bound to love it. The film is most reminiscent of Bergman’s Persona. There are many parallels including an exchange of personality and the bitter love/hate relationship between a patient and a caretaker. While Sun Choke may not be Persona, it is a great film in its own right. It is full to the brim of layered characters, poetic images, and unrelenting tension. This is a film that sticks with the viewer and demands to be analyzed and explored.

What did you think of Sun Choke? Have any recommendation similar to this film? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.