40th Anniversary Screening Alien

I know I am an old man in comparison to most of those doing movie blogs, but it is still hard for me to believe that it has been forty years since “Alien” first showed up on screen. It sure does not look like a 40 year old film, with maybe the exception of some computer graphics. This movie is one of the great examples of production design enhancing the movie at every turn. Since I have written about this film before, I’m going to try and develop some of the aspects of the movie that may be sometimes overlooked but are crucial to making it work.

H.R. Geiger and Jean ‘Moëbius’ Giraud deserve the rightful praise for the creature and environmental design work they did. Oscar nominees Michael Seymour, Leslie Dilley, Roger Christian and Ian Whittaker should also be saluted for turning this movie into a template for future Science Fiction films. The first character we met in the movie is The Nostromo, a mining ship returning from an extended mission to the outer rim of the galaxy. There is a long slow pan across the outside of the ship that moves across it’s underbelly and shows us the haphazard placement of unidentified technology that makes up the ship. When we slip inside the vehicle, the camera moves around dark dank corridors of the mining platform, through to the command module of the ship and then to the crew quarters. There are empty coffee cups and food containers and a variety of nick knacks that might be left around by a group of people on a long term project. We can see objects on stands shimmy with the movement of the space craft, and there is one of those perpetual dunking ducks, that is still working, even as the crew slumbers in hibernation. As the computer comes on with new instructions to awaken the crew, we see the screen reflected on the visor of a flight helmet. This is an interior that we come to understand. It is complex but also well used. 

The hibernation chamber is probably the cleanest hi-tech room we see, and after that, the med-lab. When you get into the mining platform, it is all dark corridors and steam pipe fittings and condensation falling like rain down on equipment and people. The escape shuttle looks sufficiently cramped and dark so it was not hard to imagine why Ripley did not see the Alien tucked into a tight space at the start of her escape. Of course the vessel on the planet is also a design of gargantuan proportions and it is otherworldly through and through. 

For other comments on the film, let me direct you first to my original project, where Alien was the focus of the 11th post I did.  Four years ago I did a special screening of “Alien” and “Aliens” at the Egyptian theater, which included some special effects guests and was very good. 

 

It was a nice day to celebrate the 40th anniversary of this essential film.

Evil Dead Franchise Look Back

The LAMBCAST will be featuring “The Evil Dead” Franchise as our Halloween Horror lookback episode of the month. Recording is tomorrow but I just spent two days catching up with all four theatrical films and thought I’d put my notes down in a supplemental post for readers of this site.

The Evil Dead (1981)

I’d seen Evil Dead II before I saw the original, and I’d been told that the film was basically a remake of the first film. I would disagree to a large extent. The original Evil Dead is a straight horror film with a huge amount of gore and imagination to drive it. It practically invented to “Cabin in the Woods” trope found in so many horror films. Although the story is basically the same, it is told in a vastly different manner and should be approached as a distinct piece of work from the two “sequels”.

The inventiveness of the film is certainly due in part to the budget restrictions of Sam Rami and his partners. Creative camera shots and vivid makeup effects mark the film as being distinctive from most horror films of the era. The cast feels haunted before they even get to the cabin, based on the way they are shot while traveling in the car to their weekend location. The stop motion animation that caps off the climax of the film uses very basic tools that require patience and a clear vision. It may look a little cheezy by today’s standards but it works.

Bruce Campbell is launching his acting career with this movie and you don’t see the cocky smart ass that he plays in most of his subsequent roles, but rather a more simple male lead. He was clearly abused by the effects team and I suspect his weariness reflects not just the character but the actor’s real situation. Many be the most memorable incident in the film and the whole series is the “rape” of Cheryl  by the possessed trees of the forest. It is disturbing in the imagination, but much less graphic and exploitative than it might have been in another film.

Evil Dead II : Dead by Dawn  (1987)

So this was my gateway drug into the series, first experienced on home video at a Halloween party after all the small children had gone to sleep. This is the place where Bruce Campbell creates the character of Ash as the real star of the movie. His monologues with inanimate objects, and his moments as possessed Ash are very memorable. This is where the Chainsaw becomes a part of his body and he becomes a ninja warrior against the dead.

While still full of horror, the film can rightly be classified as a comedy because of the consistent use of humor. Rami’s sped up camera work and point of view material supplements the Dutch angles of the horror original with a hyper realized sensibility that is slightly silly and easy to fall into rhythmically.   The whiplash dialogue responses of Ash to moments in the film also accelerate it’s tempo, making it a more frenetic experience and again, a lot funnier. There are a couple of quotable moments but that line of delight waits for the third film to turn into a tidal wave.

Once again, the horror aspects are highlighted by very good 1980s practical make up effects. The reason these 80s films hang around and are beloved by so many is that they seem real. This is not a computer generated cartoon of a movie, these actors had to look this way as they were filming and their performances are more manically gleeful as a result. Everything in this film tries to double down on the original. Instead of calling this a sequel, we should rightly classify it as one of the original reboots of a concept. The events of the first film are never referred to, this is a first time experience for all of these characters. Instead of a group of five friends, it is a collection of sets of people who encounter the Evil Dead and respond in different ways. This adds a little culture clash to the humor as well.

Bonus: Here is a shot of my Special Blood Red Edition of the Laserdisc

Army of Darkness

You can almost exclude this from the horror category, it is an action/adventure comedy with horror elements but it really is a far cry from either of the first two films. The budget is bigger, the action is bigger, the cast is bigger and Ash’s ego is bigger. Universal did not want the film to just be seen as the third in a franchise that was not necessarily that big to begin with. So they changed the title and forced some other alterations on the original version. Most cinephiles loathe when studios interfere with the director’s vision of the film, but sometimes they are right and this is one of those cases.

For instance, the end of the picture was re-shot with an action sequence and some comedy that was more in line with the film we had seen up to that point. The original post apocalyptic ending feels like a retread of the ending of Evil Dead II, landing Ash in another location for further adventures. Rami and company were forced to come up with some things that fit the spirit if the main part of the movie, and “Hail to the King,baby” is the perfect exit for this character in this storyline.

I have always been a sucker for stop motion animation and effects. The Ray Harryhausen films and the original King Kong were my idea of perfect special effects. This movie uses a little of that technology, a lot of rear projection, some costuming and make up and a large amount of puppetry to achieve it’s goal. This film is goofy fun, through and through. Bruce Campbell becomes the man-god that will be his persona for the remainder of his career, probably preventing him from achieving legitimate stardom, but projecting him to the cult deity that he remains today.  For a more elaborate discussion of this film, feel free to look at this other post:  Army of Darkness.

Evil Dead (2013)

This is a complete do over of the concept and it was controversial as a result. There is no Ash, and the comedy elements are all gone. What you have here is a reworking of the original premise as a contemporary horror film, but done in the spirit of the original. So the question is simple, does it work?  Hell yes!

When I see a horror film, I want to be scared. This movie scared me. I like 70s and 80s gore films, and this movie replicates and expands on those approaches with copious amounts blood, guts, vomit. dismemberment and simply sick special effects. One of the things that was most appealing about this version is that it eschews the use of CGI to achieve it’s results and instead relies on the traditional make up and effects magic which made those early films so memorable. There were many times when I needed to draw a breath or turn away from something that was taking place on screen.

There was also an effort to update the movie in a way by changing the reason for the group being at an isolated cabin from a leisure activity, to a drug intervention. The members of the group have had good relations in the past, but they are severely strained by the current circumstances. This adds to the drama and it also creates some justification for the slow reaction to the supernatural events that begin to happen.

One thing that is a little different, the protagonists develop a plan for trying to get through this. It is nuts, but you can tell that it was justified by the characters in the movie and it seemed reasonable under the circumstances. All of these kinds of movies have to be taken with a grain of salt. You cannot patch a chest wound to the lungs with a band aid and if you cut off a body part, you will bleed to death without some sort of tourniquet. There is a nice emotional undercurrent to the film as well, one that concerns family and not just horror. If we can’t see some human connection between the people in the story, they will be cardboard figures to cut down. That is a problem that so many horror films don’t overcome, but I thought this one did. [My original review from 2013 is here.]

Joker

No my friends, I did not fall off the face of the Earth, although there have been some days when I wish I had. In the month since I last posted, my world has been one of great ups and horrible downs, and I’m not going to go into that in detail. Just suffice to say that my perspective on this film might be influenced at times by my own emotional jumping jacks, so this will be a first pass at a written review. I will probably come back and re-evaluate the movie when my head is clearer and it is awards time. I am pretty certain this film will be up for a number of end of year accolades. the question is, should it be?

The first teaser trailer for this movie doesn’t really tell any of the story or give you much context, all it really does is tell you that this movie will be different, and brother is it. This is a grueling examination of a man’s mental collapse and the consequences to the rest of us when such obvious problems go unaddressed. It is also easy to sympathize with the main character up to a point. He is down trodden but still game, he lives a fantasy with his mother that all is well, and some moments he appears to be warm and tender. That however is the point of the movie, appearances are deceiving but pain will not be fooled, it will win out in the end and woe to those in the way when it happens.  I have seen some political chatter on this film, suggesting it is an apology for one group of fanatics while at the same time inciting another group of fanatics. I don’t see either of those as credible evaluations of what the film presents. Only in the tortured machinations of some deconstructivist social thinker can those points make much sense.  The social failures in Arthur Fleck’s life are too numerous and diverse to lay blame on a political foundation. By the time the story is finished, you will be horrified by what happens, not inspired to act out, or, you will be frustrated by storytelling that takes advantage of the Batman/Joker trope that the Joker always lies.

The performance of Joaquin Phoenix in the lead will be one of the safest points to make comment on. His acting is effectively tortured and creepy in the right spots, but he also manages to beguile us on occasion as a misunderstood outsider who has simply run into a number of difficulties that have warped him. Physically, as other actors before him have done, he transforms his body into an emaciated skeleton with angles and crevices that are disturbing to think about. His vocal performance is calm, despite the condition he has that results in uncontrollable laughter at inappropriate times. His interviews with the social worker are all controlled rage while seemingly subdued on the outside, Once his full transformation is achieved, the part is much more standard. Of course standard Joker would mean over the top behavior and Phoenix manages that as well.

Assuming one half of the story we are given is true, and that is a big assumption, it seems improbable at best. Maybe Gotham City is a powder-keg waiting for a spark to ignite it, but we never see any of that. The resentment of the rich is a media transference from the status of the first people who feel  the evolution of Arthur. The earlier beat down he suffered had little to do with economic necessity or social inequity, rather it is just a typical moment of horror that we have seen on the news regularly for years. A random pedestrian cold cocks a man on the side of the head, and that man dies. On lookers participate. These days the participation might be recording the incident instead of intervening. It is still reprehensible. When Arthur is attacked the second time, we can root for him like Paul Kersey, it is an act of self defense. However, we see Arthur lose control, he is no vigilante at that point, he is a monster. The creation of a rich versus poor dichotomy in this vision of Gotham is the invention of media types, willing to exploit an opportunity.

The movie is brave in a way most commercial films are not. Todd Phillips and Scott Silver are not afraid to let us see the emptiness that Arthur faces on a regular basis. The world is concentrated gloom delivered in a visual style that is dark when it comes to the colors but lively when there are dramatic moments to play out. Phoenix dominates the scene most of the time but the peripheral characters are important as well. To me the most troubling aspect from the view of someone who might be a comic book aficionado is the portrayal of Thomas Wayne ans an indifferent corporate overlord. We get a completely unnecessary retelling of the events that propel young Bruce to his future, and I get the feeling it was only included to remind us of the universe this story is supposed to take place in. This is actually a second DC Comic based movie for actor Brett Cullen who plays Thomas Wayne. He was also the Congressman who gets taken for a ride by Catwoman in “The Dark Knight Rises”.  The political aspects of the film are minor details to the main story which is the de-evolution of the protagonist.

I like most horror films, so I have a high tolerance for bad things happening to people. I don’t care for torture material however and the length of this movie and the absence of any other perspective does make it seem a bit torturous to watch. If you find any humor in this experience, at best it will be of the morbid variety, and there will not be laughter but head shaking. Really, I feel as if I’ve seen a movie that is important, but I have a hard time explaining why. I think the film is compelling but it is repugnant at the same time. I wanted to praise it more than I can but I also want to damn it more than needed. Forget all the political/social justice baloney that people will try to cram down your throat, this is a film that can provoke a good discussion without mentioning ant party, issue, figure or cause. Maybe that is the best justification I can give you for seeing this, you want to know what you are talking about.

Catching Up: Supernatural Season Three

New Episode of Catching Up

Hollywood Consumer

We’ve been Catching Up on past seasons of Supernatural over the last few months. Discussions of Season One and Season Two are already up, and today we’re talking about Season Three.

Time stamps:
00:00 – Introduction & Spoiler Warning
01:25 – Top Five Episodes of the Season
27:15 – Best Use of Music Licensing
31:35 – Creepiest Episode/Moment of the Season
39:25 – Discussion on the Shorter Season
52:20 – Final Thoughts and Ratings

Listen to the show here:
https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/hollywoodconsumer/episodes/2019-09-13T14_31_35-07_00

Intro/Outro music:
“Heavy Rock” by Scott Holmes
scottholmesmusic.com

Ghostfacers Theme Song:

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Breaking Away 40th Anniversary Screening Egyptian Theater American Cinematique

It has been nine years since my original post on this film from the Summer of 1979. I’m sure that I have revisited this movie at least once in that time but not in a theater so it was not included in any post that I have done in the intervening decade. Since the original post was included in my “Movie A Day” project, it is heavy with personal remembrances and observations about the events in my life when I first saw the film. “Breaking Away” was a movie that was released at a pivotal time in my life and that is one reason I cherish it.

Other than my personal reflections however, there are a huge number of reasons to love this movie and they were all on display last night at the Egyptian Theater. The American Cinematique had wrangled up a large portion of the cast to come and talk to us about the film, and the stories they shared about their casting, acting and behind the scenes moments were fascinating. First however, a few notes about the movie itself.

For those of you who are not familiar with the film, let me give you a quick thumbnail infocluster to bring you up to speed. “Breaking Away” is a combination of “Rocky” and “Stand by Me”, with a slightly older cast, no serious threat of violence, and bicycles instead of boxing gloves. It is a positive twist on the coming of age story, one where the family is strengthened by the events of the film rather than damaged by them. Dave, the enthusiastic cyclist played by Dennis Christopher, is a young man in search of himself, but somewhat blinded by his friendships with the high school buddies he hangs out with. His father despairs of him ever doing something with his life and is even more frustrated by the personae his son has adopted, as an Italian immigrant. Dave is not delusional or deranged, he is merely caught up in his idol worship of the Italian Cycling team from Cinzano. The fantasy feeds his own skills and determination when training and it offers a refuge from the uncertainty of the future.

Although his friends are a major component of the film, and they are listed as the lead characters of the movie, the real relationships that are the basis of what happens are those that Dave has with his parents. Oscar Nominated Barbara Barrie, is a supportive, patient and soothing rock that Dave can always feel as the foundation of his existence. We learned last night, that the critical scene where she shows Dave her Passport and dreams of the things it might represent to her and others, was largely improvised by the two actors. Her smile and demeanor, and the way she holds the passport up for him to see as she subtly suggests he take advantages of all the opportunities before him, is probably the moment that cinched her recognition by the Academy.

As great as Barbara Barrie is in the film, she is matched moment by moment by the actor Paul Dooley playing Dave’s exasperated father. Mr. Dooley was present last night for the screening. He sat in the row behind me and was there for half an hour at least before the movie began. One fan approached him in search of an autograph which he graciously provided. I am a long time resident of Southern California. Celebrity sightings are not uncommon and I have always tried to be polite and non-intrusive, but I have to admit his presence got the best of me last night. Instead of remaining detached and respectful of his space, I did approach him as I headed up to the lobby before the show, I offered my hand and a brief admiration of his performance. As I’m sure he has heard a thousand times before, I shared how his performance reminded me of my own father and he smiled and said that he modeled his role on his father. He mentioned that fact again in the conversation after the film with the whole audience, but for that moment, it felt like we were sharing a thought just between the two of us. I have always maintained that he was overlooked that year for acting honors and I hope that the good wishes of fans like me can compensate a bit for that oversight. In the movie he is gruff, romantic, sarcastic and ultimately the kind of father that all of us would love to have.

Mike, Cyril, and Moocher are the three friends that Dave has tied his fate to at the moment. The screenplay, which won the Academy Award that year, treats each of these characters in a complete way. Not all of their problems are solved at the end of the movie, but we know them better and they are on a clearer path than before the story unfolded. Dennis Quaid is the embittered Mike, a high school football star doomed to watch other young men achieve athletic success at the University while he fades away. Mike is not a sympathetic character for much of the film. He acts like a local bully as a way of retaining some sense of worth, and he demeans his friends when they suggest that they need to move on. Of the four young men, he needs to do the most maturing if his life is to get better.

Cyril and Moocher are less critical to the main events but they are essential to understand the relational dynamics going on. Cyril is the put upon, sad faced joker of the group. He is the Eeyore to Dave’s Pooh. Daniel Stern, who has had a terrific career starring in comedies that most of us know well, was also present last night. He talked about his own casting, and how he really was not sure that he’d gotten the part. This was his first film and his enthusiasm was infectious. He and Dennis Christopher had to keep prompting one another on memories of shooting the film. Before he sat down, he proudly displayed the Cutters t-shirt he was wearing under his jacket. While there is certainly progress in the growing up of the kids in the story, as I said before, not everything is resolved. In the group celebration shot near the end of the movie, everyone has someone to celebrate with except Cyril, who still looks lost despite the accomplishment of the group. A good acting and directing choice. Moocher has a young wife and unbridled optimism at the future. Jackie Earle Haley was not present last night but all the cast members were very enthusiastic about what he brought to the film, and they recalled at the time, he was the biggest name in the cast having recently done the Bad News Bears movies.

Also attending the screening was actor Hart Bochner who played the Fraternity boy antagonist, Rod. Islands in the Stream“. Although Rod might be seen as the bad guy in the movie, he really has little malice in his part. Most of the time he is reacting to the townskids. When the college kids go to the quarry to swim, the Cutters give them the cold shoulder. He reacts like a jealous boyfriend when the girl he is dating gets flowers and serenaded by an “Italian” exchange student. The only time he really seems to be a douche is when he is hitting on another co-ed as he drives her around campus. Bochner has a very effective moment of empathy and self loathing when Mike bashes his head on the quarry wall while racing Rod. Bochner also had to prompt Dennis Christopher on a couple of his memories about training for the movie.

This was only his second movie, after a film I wrote about earlier this summer ”

One memory that Christopher did not need to be prompted on was the first day of shooting. He was extremely unhappy with the costumes and hairstyle that had been chosen for him. The implication was that he was a greaser rather than the naive young man embracing a fantasy identity. His self doubts were communicated to director Peter Yates and the actor and director altered to character to more closely reflect Dave as Dennis Christopher conceived him. It was a wise choice because Dave need to be the sympathetic center of the story and the other perspective would have undermined the audience reaction.

Both Stern and Christopher were moved by their participation in this film, early in their careers. Paul Dooley proudly stated that it was the best movie he ever appeared in and he thought it was his own best performance. I can’t think of a reason to second guess any of these men. They also spoke very highly of the work done by actress Robyn Douglass who played Kathy, the girl that Dave is pursuing in his fake persona. All of them were also effusive in citing director Peter Yates as having a strong influence of the film. One of them mentioned how interesting it was that it took a British director to find the truth in an American family. Yates also helped shepard what were two screenplays into one, which turned the story into a more complete picture.

It is evenings like this which make living in the Los Angeles area worthwhile and the American Cinematique, whatever financial or management issues it might be facing, still knows how to put on a show.

courtesy American Cinematique

Ready or Not

Human beings are incredibly complex animals. While it is true that we have the same basic physical characteristics as other animals, for the moment, we are the only ones who can create elaborate stories to amuse ourselves. The detail, intricacy and inventiveness of some stories is amazing. The MCU has woven together twenty or so films so that ideas are connected in fairly logical ways. That is amazing. What is also amazing are the premises that we can invent for a story to exist in. “Ready or Not” doesn’t have the internal logic of a comic book universe. It does not unify a variety of different story lines into a coherent single narrative like some films attempt to do [ex: Babel, Crash etc.]. This movie has only one idea, but it is a pretty good one. New members of a rich family must participate in a game ritual before they are truly accepted into the clan. That’s all, except of course it isn’t.

As a device for entertaining us, “Ready or Not” is a morbid little piece of film making that takes it’s premise seriously, in spite of how preposterous it is. There are exit strategies available to the young couple which would abrogate all that follows, but that would deny us the pleasure of seeing the premise play out. So forget how the rules are supposed to work. Don’t worry about internal consistency. Just sit back and watch the mayhem, root for the heroine and laugh at the gruesome macabre sense of humor that the story tellers have come up with.  Samara Weaving , a doppelganger for  Margot Robbie, plays Grace, the bride who is joining the eccentric and ultimately evil Le Domas family. Once the trap has been sprung, the movie is a series of escapes, close calls, character reveals and assorted Road Runner/Coyote antics, all with a heavy dose of violence.

The nice part of the story is we will actually like Grace. She is not a gold digger, she just happened to fall in love with the wrong man. The collection of misfits in the family is fun to watch because their privilege is so clearly on the surface and so exaggerated, no one will take this as a serious commentary on the haves and the have nots.  If you read a review of this movie that takes that point of view, be careful, the author is just of it and you are being indoctrinated rather than informed by reading such clap trap. This is purely a work of imagination, a disturbed imagination, but certainly one that wants to amuse us rather than comment on the world around us. Grace discovers her situation, takes an appropriate amount of time to adjust to it, and then acts in a way that any of us might try as well. She continues to be a sound human being, and each time the horrible people she is up against try to take advantage of that. When at the end, the nature of the family “curse/agreement” is explained, it may seem over the top, but remember, this is just a story to entertain you.

The family is filled with quirky Aunts, entitled parents, climbing nephews and nieces, and some pretty unsympathetic help. This is another one of the places that makes little sense given the rules established in the story. Why the housekeepers and butler would be part of the ritual is not really explained, but why are you asking? This is about playing a game for no reason other than the fun of it. When random characters are dispatched by accident we will laugh at the sadistic way the writers found to visualize it on screen. As we see how inept some of the family is, we will be amused when those are the people who cause the mistakes or suffer the consequences of said mistakes.  All that we want is to keep rooting for the sympathetic Grace and wait for the comeuppance the family is earning for itself. The twists and turns are what this is all about.

Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell and Adam Brody are faces I know from other films and that may be why they leave the biggest impression. Czerny is the cavalier head of the family who can’t believe that anyone might challenge the established order of their universe. He also is the exasperated voice of the family when the unfortunate relatives screw up. MacDowell has moved from being the ingenue in the story, to being the main romantic lead, and now to the matron role that aging actresses get saddled with. The false sympathy she conveys shows that she has grown as an actress, who had to be dubbed in her first film, to someone who is competent in conveying a character, regardless of how realistic that character is. Adam Brody is on the brink of outgrowing the young callow characters he is playing in most things, but he got more to do in this film than he did in “Shazam!” earlier this year.

It says something about people when they can invent the scenario that comes up here. It might say even more about us that we could be amused by that scenario. This is a dark hearted comedy thriller. If you have the kind of sensibility that allows for you to laugh a a stranger’s unfortunate demise, then you will probably enjoy this film. If you require that a story be logically consistent and exist in a real world scenario, better you stay away. If you have a sick appreciation of the absurd however, you will find this movie a romp right down your alley. Now all we have to do, is figure out which kind of player you are.

It Chapter Two

Two years ago, the trailer for “It” built enough anticipation to make a slightly above average horror film, into a monster hit. That original trailer showed us next to nothing, other than the scene that introduces us to Pennywise the clown, in the gutter, tempting little Georgie. When the rest of the film showed up, it could not live up to that terrifying and suspenseful three minutes. They certainly tried with some clever effects and good performances from the young cast. Fans of the book knew there was more coming and naturally Chapter Two was a forgone conclusion.

The pattern repeats itself here. The first film gives us the promise of something special, and we waited two years for it. What we got was pretty average and not nearly as scary as that original trailer for the first film. The trailers for this movie also gave away too many of the creepy moments that would work better as a surprise.

I will say that the opening of the film works very well. A brutal confrontation with small town bigots actually makes us wish for Pennywise to show up and dispatch these a**holes as soon as possible, but first we are reminded about how evil the clown is, and that his return under any circumstances would not be desirable. After a few chilling images that suggest things have started up again, we get a basic quest film story. First the heroes must gather, most reluctantly. Then each of them has to complete a quest individually, in order to proceed to battle, and then finally they all have to come together and work as a team. If you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it a thousand times.

Probably because the book was so dense, there is some exposition that has to be rushed. It sure seems awkward when one character basically roofies another with psychedelic activated natural juices to get him to share his visions. It was also unclear why, after all the losers have gathered and been subjected to a psychic attack from Pennywise, that they still need to be convinced. The idea that their memories have faded after leaving town is an interesting one but not very well explored. Since the film ends up being the better part of three hours anyway, maybe trim the bloated visual effects at the end, and build and solve this mystery at the beginning.

The individual quests are reasonably entertaining, but there is an element of repetitiveness to them. After the first jump scare with a truly disturbing visual effect, the subsequent experience are a series of diminishing returns that rob the story of any drive and frequently take us down a path of confusion that is never really developed or needed. Jessica Chastain as the grown version ofthe lone girl in the first film is fine.  Bev’s trip down memory lane was the standout in this set of moments, but it was also the one that was featured in the original teaser trailer so that the only surprize is the last minute creature effect that gives us a jump scare. Maybe I’m a little jaded having watched two other horror films the day before, but I had none of the anticipation of dread that filled the first film.

There is a running joke about how Bill played by James McAvoy, as a grown man who is now an author of thrillers, is not very good at creating endings for his story. We get that joke at least three times, including a delivery of the punchline by the actual author of this story. I suppose the point of this was to prepare us for the let down of an ending we get here. The best moments of emotional satisfaction in the relationships between the characters, get drowned out by an overblown CGI sequence which features the cast chanting a message that feels pretty hollow. It also goes on, and on. Some many things that had to be condensed, were reduced to give us more of this, the least interesting and frightening part of the film. The coda has some nice moments, Bill Hader steals most of the movie and there is a clever bookend that ties in to the introduction, but the voice over material is overwrought and goes on far too long as well.

“It Chapter Two” is a disappointment from a horror perspective but it is visually inventive and there are a few jump scares that will probably satisfy fans. I really wanted to like it better. Unfortunately, that was true of the original film as well. The adult casting of the kids from the original is solid. Those kids are also back in a series of flashback points that elaborate on the end of the first film and fill in some narrative spots for this story.