Western Millennial Horror Ultimately Sucks.
My Review of It: Chapters One & Two (With Spoilers)
Before I even get started with the review of It Chapters One and Two, I want to share my feelings about the original as well as the general state of horror in the past twenty or so years. Despite its budgetary restraints and the restrictions it had to adhere to in order to retain a PG 13 Television Rating, the 1990 IT television miniseries is ultimately far superior than these films. The reason for that in my opinion boils down to a few things I’m going to explain here.
Let’s start with the time period. It takes place between the 60’s and 80’s, specifically a 27 year period that spanned three decades. That was a time filled with real, everyday fears, and concerns for many of the people who lived through them. Fears and concerns that fueled many of the horror novels and films of their time. In my opinion, the fears and concerns our parents and grandparents faced are far greater than anything we will face in our time. Therefore the stories told by our elders and seniors are going to be far scarier than anything we can come up with.
The Special Effects
The special effects in the horror films produced between the 60’s and 80’s were mostly practical and looked tangible. They looked real because they were. In the vast majority of those films, the actors were interacting with something real and their reactions to what they were interacting with were genuine. The scares in horror films of this same era were also slow and very methodical. Movies took time to set you up for a scare, even if it was a jump scare, they would first make you feel at ease, begin building some tension, and then ‘snap’, you felt that rush of adrenaline that came with every good jump scare. In my opinion the last movie to do that well was Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell. I love that movie.
The final ingredient that made the miniseries genuinely scary was Tim Curry as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Tim Curry is one of the greatest actors of all time and a master of the art of the scare. Prior to playing Pennywise, Tim Curry played The Darkness in 1985’s Legend. He was the embodiment of the ultimate evil. Tim brought some of that same intensity to the role of Pennywise. As Pennywise, he really seemed to know how to get under one’s skin and bring out their deepest fears and insecurities. Plus, I think the scares we got from Pennywise were mostly all from him, and not some computer generated bullshit that was more unintentionally funny than disturbing and scary.
And that is why I think western millennial horror ultimately sucks. Millennial horror really boils down to two factions; torture porn, like the Saw franchise, or really shitty psychological dramas like Andrés Muschietti’s Mama, which begin with promise but only get more pretentious and silly with some jump scares and really shitty looking cg ghost.
Now onto the review.
It: Chapter One
2017’s IT is a movie I really dislike for multiple reasons. The only thing I think it really has going for it was the casting. Some of the acting from this young cast is actually quite stellar, and I am not surprised we wound up also seeing some of them in the sequel. In the original teleplay, my two favorite members of the Losers Club were ‘Richie’ played by Seth Green who went on to have a tremendous career in film and animation, and ‘Billy’ played by Jonathan Brandis who we sadly lost in 2003. In the updated version, I liked ‘Benny’ as played by Jeremy Ray Taylor. He was perfect as Benny and also reminded me a lot of myself at that age. Sophia Lillis brought a lot to the table as ‘Beverly’ and I felt like she had genuine chemistry with the rest of the cast. While Billy was the leader, it was Beverly and Mike’s role to keep the Losers Club together, but it really feels like the only one trying to do that was Beverly. I felt that they made a lot of really unnecessary changes to the traits and personalities of the rest of The Losers, and they seemed under developed. My friends got a kick out of ‘Richie’ in this version, but I still prefer the classic.
That’s about all I can say I liked about part one. Now onto what I absolutely did not like. While this film was able to capture the general feel of the 80’s, I felt that this was its biggest strength and biggest weakness. We’re at a time where 80’s nostalgia is hot. So setting the film in the 80’s while it probably made sense to the producers, it also made the whole thing feel derivative, and I think was a mistake. Also, with IT being set in the 80’s, the producers missed out on an opportunity to deliver some 80’s style serial killer/ slasher film scares. I’m talking some Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger style scares. Instead we got a bunch of scenes that were either just unintentionally hysterical, or just out-right annoying. And that includes the scene of Georgie getting his arm torn off. That shit was hilarious. Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise was just not scary to me at all. I was left wondering what could have been had Cary Fukunaga and Will Poulter not left the project.
Onto Chapter Two
The best way that I can describe It: Chapter Two is one fantastic jump scare, and nearly three hours of sheer hilarity. Only this time around the humor was intentional. Most of the humor anyways. Chapter Two was amazing – not for the reasons you might expect. Let me start with what I did like about Chapter Two. The cast was once again phenomenal, with one minor exception. Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh. Unlike Sophia Lillis, I felt Chastain brought absolutely nothing to the role. Bill Hader and James Ransone were fucking hysterical. Jay Ryan was perfect as Benny and Teach Grant as Henry Bowers was the best. Actually, my favorite scene in either of the two movies was when Henry broke out of the mental asylum and zombie Patrick Hockstetter was driving the Firebird. I feel like Mike was course-corrected from Chapter One which is fantastic because he is played by Isiah Mustafa, and you can tell he is just having the time of his life with the role. As I mentioned, the kids from the first one appear in some flash back scenes, some of them had aged and grown so drastically that they had to be aged down digitally – and noticeably so. That only added to the hilarity.
The chemistry was there. You could feel the strong bonds between characters.The pacing was great too. Chapter Two was a three hour movie, but it did not feel like a three hour movie. I also really liked how self-aware the movie seems to be. And Stephen King’s cameo in Chapter Two is his best ever. I love how they constantly mention that the ending to Billy’s books suck.
Now onto what I did not like.
Pennywise gets one good scare in the very beginning of the movie, on the little girl with the birthmark on her face, and that is the only one. Bill Skarsgård looks too much like a younger and slightly more attractive version of Steve Buscemi for me to find him scary and I think his Pennywise looks like the aborted love child of Eddie’s Mother and Johnny Depp’s Madd Hatter. They even dance similarly. At first I thought it was just my small group of friends and I who found IT unintentionally hilarious, but nope, the entire theater was a riot of laughter. I don’t know if they were laughing because we were laughing or because they felt the same way about the movie. But it was audible from the outside.
Setting the movie in present day did absolutely nothing for me, nor did any of the really unnecessary changes or alterations they made to the characters or the story. And the CG special effects were once again more unintentionally hilarious than truly scary. The naked old lady cracked us all the fuck up as did the Pomeranian, which honestly should have been a vampire. The ending with the giant Pennywise spider was also just fucking stupid. These movies, while enjoyable at times, were ultimately pointless. Which leads me to repeat myself for emphasis. Western Millennial Horror ultimately sucks. It’s fake, cheap, and just not scary. While the Japanese and Koreans are producing films like Uzumaki Spiral and Train To Busan, here in the west we’re busy either knocking them off, or producing absolute garbage like Feardotcom, The Thirteenth Floor, and It Chapters 1 & 2.
Stranger Things did it better. Pennywise wouldn’t have stood a chance against 11, Joyce, and Hopper.
Edited by my good friend Alexander McCarty. Please check out his fun animestyle novels here: sphereofcompassion.com