Lake Mungo (2008)

Lake Mungo (2008)Alice Palmer is a sixteen year old girl, that drowns while swimming in the local dam. Her body is eventually recovered, and her grieving family then starts experiencing strange events. Thinking it’s got something to do with their recently deceased daughter, they seek the help of a psychic who starts digging into Alice’s past. He reveals that Alice used to have secrets, and that she was living a double life that her family wasn’t aware of. The family then tries to figure out a connection between her death and the experiences they’re going through.

 

While most horror movies featuring a ghost depicts them as either vengeful or harmful, “Lake Mungo” takes quite a different approach. Written and directed by Joel Anderson, this film is made in a faux documentary style (“mockumentary”). It shows how a grieving family tries to figure out if they are haunted by their deceased daughter/sister. Is her appearance on her brother’s photos a call from beyond the grave? Are the things they’re experiencing caused by Alice’s ghost, or is everything just a manifestation of their grief?

 

The documentary-style fits the movie rather well, giving it a much more realistic and eerie tone. There’s a few twists and turns throughout the story, making it a mystery filled with secrets, surprises and even lies, all eventually leading the family to a place called Lake Mungo (which is an actual dry lake in Australia) where Alice apparently was camping before she died. The pacing is a bit slow while it’s building towards more and more reveals, and there are some twists and turns that might seem unnecessary and even totally irrelevant to Alice’s demise. The slow pacing of the movie is likely to be perceived as tedious by some, but this is a film that does not rely on the effectiveness of only certain parts, but rather as a whole-package thing.

 

“Lake Mungo” is not a movie whose main goal is to make you jump in your seat, but instead wants to crawl under your skin. There are a few scenes here that actually got to me (and that’s something that happens very rarely!), and for me it was the whole idea of loss and grief mixed with the supernatural goings-on that got to me. It was for the most part a very melancholic and sad movie (if Mr. Ghööl had a “Sad” badge, it would fit well here). It isn’t a movie with huge scares and shocking moments, but it’s unsettling and different. “Lake Mungo” is an exploration into grief and loss and the thought of maybe being haunted by a loved one, and your ability to connect with such experiences will probably have a lot to say on how you perceive this film.

 

Lake Mungo

 

Director: Joel Anderson
Country & year: Australia, 2008
Actors: Rosie Traynor, David Pledger, Martin Sharpe, Talia Zucker, Tania Lentini, Cameron Strachan, Judith Roberts, Robin Cuming, Marcus Costello, Chloe Armstrong, Carole Patullo, John Dunn, Laurie Dunn, Kirsty McDonald, James Lawson
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816556/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lords of Chaos (2018)

At first glance, you might think this is some kind of sequel to “Deathgasm”, but sorry, it’s not. But it easily could have been. We are in the 80’s, in the cold and conservative Nordic land of Norway where “La Det Swinge” by Bobbysocks is the most metal you can hear on the radio. We are introduced to the teenager Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth who starts the small and obscure extreme metal band called Mayhem, together with Jørn “Necrobutcher” Stubberud, and eventually get their permanent drummer Jan Axel “Hellhammer” Blomberg.  They get a vocalist from Sweden who calls himself Dead, a severely depressed, twisted and suicidal skinny guy who mostly spends his time collecting dead animals, chasing cats with a shotgun and keeps fantasizing about death. Dead immediately shows up to take his stage name quite literally, by almost cutting himself to death while screaming Freezing Moon on stage wearing corpse-makeup and dirty clothes that have been a whole night underground to get the right smell of decay. However, it doesn’t take long before Dead takes his persona too literal by killing himself, blowing his brains to pieces with a shotgun. Upon finding him, Euronymous takes a picture of his body in which he used as the cover of one of their bootlegs. A disgraceful act that Necrobutcher didn’t want to be a part of, and then quits.

 

Now without a bass player and vocalist, Mayhem is in limbo. Euronymous starts his own record label Death Like Silence Productions and the record shop Helvete in Oslo, a hangout place in the black metal-circle where he more or less becomes an evil incarnate-cult leader, where everyone else are just posers. And in comes Varg Vikernes, a lonely, angry, insecure young man from Bergen with his one-man-band Burzum, who also speaks English. And yeah, we’re still in Norway where everyone speaks fluently English, but read Norwegian newspapers. Anyway, he’s really hungry and desperate for recognition, status and respect in the extreme metal circle. And he want’s it now! And to show how extreme and Dr. Prime Evil he is, he removes his Scorpions patch from his jacket, since that’s not “true metal” according to Euronymous, and sets fire to a church or two. Impressed by Varg’s actions and his commitment to practice what he preaches, Euronymous signs him on his record label. Varg also appears to play bass, and becomes a session-player on the recording of the De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas record. But it shows that the relatively tiny black metal circle isn’t big enough for the two of them. The more respect Varg gets after the church burnings, the more Euronymous fades into the shadows, which makes their relationship crack and escalates into a huge battle between two poisonous, fragile and fucked-up egos. And as Euronymous tells the audience in the short voice-over prologue at the beginning, it doesn’t end well.

 

Ignoring all the inaccuracy and how Euronymous is painted as a saint with angel wings and Varg as the most evil creature in the universe, Lords of Chaos was better than I expected. I didn’t know what to expect, really, but at least I got entertained during the two hours it lasted, and that’s good enough for me. The most known segments, that has already been covered in books and documentaries, is included here. Everything from the small-legendary concert where the corpse-paint and pig heads got introduced, the homicide on the gay man in the Olympic Park, church burnings, up to the brutal climax. There’s a lot of shit to cover, but I wish the film focused more on Mayhem as a band and their struggle to survive on their chaotic zero-budget tours around Europe on Interrail which ends in them getting handcuffed by the Police. I didn’t get the Home Alone vibes from Rory Culkin as I expected, and there is some level of energy and enthusiasm behind his big, crazy eyes. He appears more like a younger Fenriz from Darkthrone. Emory Cohen, however, does a rather sloppy and lazy performance in which I can’t tell if it’s just bad acting or if he is in a role he really didn’t want to play. I just don’t buy him as Varg for a single second he’s on screen. But awesome that at least they got Attilla’s son, Arion, playing a thirty-year younger version of his dad.

 

The film has a great look with great use of the Norwegian landscapes, and the set of the Helvete record shop was spot on. And of course the churches that were built to be burned down was a stunning and beautiful sight to watch. And if there’s not any plans of a biopic GG Allin in the dark horizon, this will be the bloodiest and most graphic in the genre, as far as I know.

 

And if you haven’t already, also watch the documentaries “Once Upon a Time in Norway” (2007), “Pure Fucking Mayhem” (2008), “Until the Light Takes Us (2008) and “Satan Rides the Media” (1998)

 

Lords of Chaos

 

Director: Jonas Åkerlund
Country & year: UK | Sweden | Norway, 2018
Actors: Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Jack Kilmer, Sky Ferreira, Valter Skarsgård, Anthony De La Torre, Jonathan Barnwell, Sam Coleman, Wilson Gonzalez, Lucian Charles Collier, Andrew Lavelle, James Edwyn, Gustaf Hammarsten, Jon Øigarden, Arion Csihar
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4669296/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koko-di Koko-da (2019)

A couple (Elin and Tobias) is on a vacation with their young daughter (Maja), when a serious case of food-poisoning causes the mother to become very ill. She is rushed to the hospital, and the whole family is spending the night in the hospital room, awaiting the mother’s recovery. When the next day arrives, which is also Maja’s birthday, they discover that she has died overnight due to a delayed response to the food poisoning. A few years later, the couple is going on a trip in order to find their way back to each other, but eventually find themselves trapped in a never-ending loop of terror when they are attacked by a trio of terrifying characters resembling the cartoons on their dead daughter’s music box.

 

“Koki-di Koko-da” by Johannes Nyholm is told like a nihilistic fable about loss and grief. The title is based on a French nursery rhyme, “Le coq est mort” (The rooster is dead, or “Vår tupp är dö” which is the Swedish version of the song). This song is sung by the only vocal character among the villains, and is also heard several other places throughout the movie. The atmosphere in the entire movie is somewhat tense already from the get-go, showing us that the death of their daughter has put such a strain on their relationship that they bicker at each other for every little trivial thing (like buying an ice cream with a different flavor). Setting up their tent in the woods at night, the couple is then attacked by the strange trio who also bring with them an aggressive dog. Elin goes out to take a pee, and sees a white cat (the cat having a different role in their story than the trio of weirdos, which is revealed later). When she is attacked, her husband Tobias just watches what unfolds from the tent, until it’s his turn to face their tormentors. And so it keeps repeating in a cycle of death and despair.

 

While we have had a couple of “Groundhog Day” type of horror movies recently (Happy Death Day, In The Tall Grass), this movie differs in how the time-loop never seem to make the characters any wiser or more prepared to face their fate. They get jumpier and more scared, but there is no “a-ha” moment in any of them, and Tobias is constantly cowering while his wife keeps getting brutalized and killed. The cartoony villains add to the bizarre and helpless atmosphere, giving it both a gloomy and weirdly funny tone. The animated sequences in the movie, consisting of shadow puppets which are moved along the screen with strings, are also a great element which ties together the rest. They show a “bunny family” representing the grieving parents and how they (ultimately) end up dealing with the loss of their daughter in ways that inevitably keeps them from progressing any further from their self-loathing and depression.

 

“Koki-di Koko-da” is an artistic horror movie which centers around grief and loss, and it’s definitely not aimed to be a crowd-pleaser. It’s not very straight-forward, and is not providing any clear goal for our protagonists (although there’s symbolism and metaphors all over the place). It’s like a twisted and dark fairytale that isn’t made with the intentions of tucking you off to bed with a good feeling.

 

Koko-di Koko-da

 

Director: Johannes Nyholm
Country & year: Sweden | Denmark, 2019
Actors: Peter Belli, Leif Edlund, Ylva Gallon, Katarina Jakobson, Morad Baloo Khatchadorian, Brandy Litmanen
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9355200/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack the Ripper (1976)

Jack the Ripper (1976)It’s a foggy night in London, where the prostitute Sally is on her way home from Cabaret Pike’s Hole. After some walking through narrow, dark alleys, she stumbles right into the hands of Jack the Ripper (Klaus Kinski) who rips her clothes off and kills her (off screen). He then carries her home over his shoulders like a dead deer, and brings her to his psychotic and slightly retarded wife Flora, who looks at the bodies he brings home with him as dolls, or whatever. The next day, Dr. Jack and Flora are rowing out into the  Thames River (here filmed in the Schanzengraben Canal in Zürich) to dump the body. Jack, who is working as a doctor, is then going to work as usual to take care of today’s patients, and perhaps snatch a new victim. At the same time Scotland Yard, led by Inspector Miller, is on the case.

 

Written and directed by the Spanish Jess Franco who was most famous (or rather more infamous) for his uncompromising and sleazy low budget exploitation- reels, often filled with tits, hairy pussies and pretty much the normal stuff that either cinema or TV in Spain usually refused to show. It never slowed down his creativity however, and made his films so quick and simple that he could pull out ten films in one year. Well, take that, Takashi Miike. A hardcore workaholic who obviously nearly worked himself to death, until he was hit by a deadly stroke in 2013. The 82-year-old left behind a track record of over 200 films. So it was pretty evident that I had to check out some of his work sooner or later.

 

The first impression here is not bad, the production value is up there with some great atmosphere. The rest, however, is nothing much to be impressed by. It clearly has nothing to do with Jack the Ripper whatsoever and the mystery/mythology,  so God knows what this movie really was supposed to be. The acting goes from wooden, bad to so-bad-it’s-funny, and was originally performed by German actors. It later got rather sloppily dubbed in post-production, in German, Spanish and English. The gore effects, which is a minimal aspect here, is nothing but a joke, and this is supposed to be the uncut version. Sorry, but I’m still not impressed. There’s one scene where Jack chops off one of the victims titties in which the effect looks like a burger with red paint on it. Uhm.. okay. That really sucked. Someone give Tom Savini a call, please.

 

And when it comes to the ending.. it’s actually so lame, anticlimactic and lazy that not even an ending credit or a simple “The End” is shown. It just ends. Which is good. I’m glad it at least ended..

 

Jack the Ripper

 

Director: Jess Franco
Country & year: Switzerland | West Germany | Spain, 1976
Actors: Klaus Kinski, Josephine Chaplin, Andreas Mannkopff, Herbert Fux, Lina Romay, Hans Gaugler, Nikola Weisse
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074408/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Tall Grass (2019)

In the Tall Grass (2019)A sister (Becky) and brother (Cal) is driving close by a vast field area of tall grass in the middle of Kansas. She is pregnant, and they stop by a deserted church because she’s gotten a bit carsick. There, they hear a young boy’s cry for help from the tall grass, claiming he’s lost and cannot find his way out. They both go in there to save him, but ends up finding themselves lost as well. Something is not right about that vast field of tall grass…and something evil is lurking within.

 

“In The Tall Grass” is based on a novella by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill. A father & son collaboration, in other words. The director is Vincenzo Natali (director of “Cube” from 1997, “Splice” from 2009, and among many other things he’s also been directing some of the episodes in the “Locke & Key” TV Series). This movie is available on Netflix, and was released on October 4th. This makes it the third Stephen King original on Netflix (the other two includes “1922” and “Gerald’s Game”).

 

The film starts off pretty interesting. and for those familiar with more of Stephen King’s work, “Children of The Corn” is easily coming to mind. This story has nothing to do with that, however, and instead throws the characters into a never-ending green maze. There they meet the boy and his parents (the father played by Patrick Wilson), and they all find themselves stuck in a Groundhog Day-like time-loop, in an ever expanding maze of tall grass.

 

There’s no denying that the first part of the movie is the best, and there’s especially one scene in particular that comes to mind when the movie is building the atmosphere and tension: where Becky and Cal tries jumping in the tall grass to see each other’s arms reaching above it, in order to try locating each other. Upon their second jump, just a few seconds later, they see the distance between them has grown considerably…despite none of them having moved an inch. This tells us early on that there’s something totally wrong with the maze of tall grass, and that there’s no easy way out of there.

 

“In The Tall Grass” is pretty far from a flawless movie, where there’s very little of an actual plot which makes it feel a bit shallow. There isn’t much of an explanation either…there’s some hints as to what the area is, but nothing properly explained or delved into. The area around the church is filled with other cars, giving us a hint that a lot of people have gone missing there for quite a while…but not much of anything is really revealed. It’s prone to confuse you more than scare you…and it’s definitely not a movie for everyone. That being said, it is still entertaining, atmospheric and visually strong. Hopefully it won’t be the last Netflix original featuring Stephen King / Joe Hill based movies.

 

In the Tall Grass

 

Director: Vincenzo Natali
Country & year: Canada, 2019
Actors: Laysla De Oliveira, Avery Whitted, Patrick Wilson, Will Buie Jr., Harrison Gilbertson, Tiffany Helm, Rachel Wilson
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4687108/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nails (2017)

Nails (2017)Dana is going out for a run, but what should have been a normal morning ends with disaster when she is hit by a car and winds up confined to a hospital bed. Bruised and broken, with a breathing tube down her neck, no ability to speak (she must use a “speak and spell” device in order to communicate), and no ability to move, she’s totally helpless. And then, when things couldn’t possibly get any worse, what appears to be a malevolent spirit starts haunting her hospital room, and tries to kill her. When everyone believes she’s just having a mental breakdown, Dana struggles to find out who the spirit is, and why it is haunting her.

 

“Nails” is a supernatural horror flick starring Shauna Macdonald (known for “The Descent”). She is doing a solid performance as the broken and bed-ridden patient, and the concept is not bad. The hospital is creepy and atmospheric, and the idea of a spirit residing there is a good mix of ingredients to make a decent supernatural horror film. And it starts off rather well, building up tension and atmosphere as we see Dana struggle in her hospital bed, limited and vulnerable. When she starts experiencing the spirit’s malevolence, no one believes her (of course), and in the totally helpless situation she’s in we’re curious how it will all unfold. The movie also decides to try spicing up the tension a bit more with throwing some marital problems at Dana when she’s already struggling enough as it is.

 

Unfortunately, the movie fails a bit when it comes to be most important aspect of a horror movie featuring a ghost, and that is the ghost itself (“Nails”). While the idea behind him and his actions are quite good, we’re seeing way too much of him for him to actually be scary. There’s close-ups galore of his zombie-like face, and in the end he feels more like a generic enemy in a horror game. Which is really sad, because this character did indeed have a lot of potential to be quite creepy if he had just been left a lot more in the shadows.

 

The pacing stumbles a bit once we’ve established that Dana is, indeed, haunted by a spirit and that “Nails” is not just a result of her distressed mind. Thus, you may find yourself getting a bit impatient during the rest of the movie. Overall, “Nails” has a lot of potential that it unfortunately doesn’t manage to utilize, but it still delivers a certain amount of suspense and creepy atmosphere.

 

Nails

 

Director: Dennis Bartok
Country & year: Ireland, 2017
Actors: Shauna Macdonald, Steve Wall, Leah McNamara, Ross Noble, Richard Foster-King, Robert O’Mahoney, Charlotte Bradley, Muireann D’Arcy, Veronica O’Reilly, Conor Scott, Trish Groves, Eileen Doyle
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4695098/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highway to Hell (1991)

Highway to Hell (1991)Charlie (Chad Lowe) and his girlfriend Rachel (Kristy Swanson) is on their way to Las Vegas to get married. On the road they take a detour and stop by a gas station, where the owner Sam warns them about two Joshua trees and not driving while falling asleep… eh, okay, thanks for the warning. Bye. While they drive past one of the aforementioned Joshua trees, they’re pulled over by a police car. Little do they know that they’ll encounter the notorious Sgt. Bedlam Hellcop: a scarred big dude with some obscure biblical text inscribed on his face, who kidnaps young virgins to take them to Hell and hands them over to Satan.

 

After Charlie’s girlfriend is taken to Hell, our old gasoline man Sam tells Charlie that a group of virgins have been kidnapped by The Sergeant aka Hellcop, one of them whom he was planning to marry himself. Since then he settled down by the road with his “Sam’s Last Chance Gas Station”, in order to dedicate the rest of his life to warn others. At least those who’d be crazy enough to believe him. Sam gives Charlie a shotgun and his old vintage car, that has a magical abitily to enter the portals of Hell.  However, if he’s not back in 24 hours he’ll be stuck in Hell forever. Best of luck.

 

“Highway to Hell” is a small, obscure film written by Brian Helgeland who’s known for “The Postman”, “L.A. Confidential” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master”. A prominent screenwriter who is one of the most successful in Hollywood who still keeps going today. This movie had a distribution deal with Hemdale Films, which had titles as “The Terminator”, “Platoon” and “Return of the Living Dead” in its catalogue. The newcomer Ate De Young from Netherlands is directing his first American film, and wanted the film to look as American as possible. The funny thing is, for some reason I always assumed that Highway to Hell was filmed in the Australian deserts since there’s Mad Max-vibes are all over the place. And mixed with some quirky underworld-fantasy elements that could be taken straight out from Beetlejuice, the film has an imaginative and slightly surreal universe with a lot of funny moments and great ideas.

 

I especially like the concept with all of the corrupt police officers who have to spend all their eternity in a small, dusty doughnut diner, where none of them are ever allowed to have any coffee or doughnut, while the sassy waitress is laughing in their face. There’s also a bunch of cameos popping up, and the whole Stiller-family can be seen here. A young an unknown Ben Stiller plays a wacky cook, Amy Stiller as Cleopatra and their parents Frank Stiller and Anne Meara also says hello. How cute. Gilbert Gottfried also shows up as a dementia-suffering and not-so-convincing Adolf Hitler, and the ex-guitarist from The Runaways, Lita Ford, as a hitchhiker.

 

The most interesting character of all is Sergeant Bedlam Hellcop played by C.J. Graham who developed a claustrophobia during the filming that became so severe that he couldn’t be in his make-up for more than two hours. I wish there was some more backstory on him, though, and it would have been interesting to see him in a spin off-film (“Hellcop vs. Maniac Cop” could have been cool).  However, Highway to Hell isn’t as awesome as I remembered it from watching it repeatedly on VHS in the 90s. The ending is pretty anticlimactic and dull, which gives an impression of studio interference going on. Still, it’s a fun, lighthearted and entertaining ride for the whole family to enjoy.

 

HorrorNews.Net called it “one of the greatest campy horror films to never arrive on DVD”, and was so hard to find at one point that the director  had to do the shameful act and torrent it just to get a copy himself. Hemdale Company was also on the verge of bankruptcy during the making of this film, which caused it to collect dust on the shelf for one year until it finally got screened in only eight cinemas, and flopped spectacularly. Ouch. It later found a bigger audience at Home Video and became a cult film over the years. Ate De Jong made his second and last American movie with the comedy “Drop Dead Fred” before he dropped back to Europe to continue his directing career. In 2016, Highway to Hell was finally released on DVD and Blu-ray, with a director-commentary track.

 

Highway to Hell

 

Director: Ate De Jong
Country & year: USA, 1991
Actors: Patrick Bergin, Adam Storke, Chad Lowe, Kristy Swanson, Pamela Gidley, Jarrett Lennon, C.J. Graham, Richard Farnsworth, Lita Ford, Gilbert Gottfried, Anne Meara, Rags, Amy Stiller, Ben Stiller, Jerry Stiller
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104418/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Chapter Two (2019)

It Chapter Two (2019)It’s now been 27 years since “The Losers Club” had their first and terrifying encounter with the child-eating entity Pennywise. They have all moved on with their lives, and away from Derry and its awful memories. With the exception of Mike, the only one of them who stayed behind. When Mike starts noticing the tell-tale signs of their enemy being back again from its hibernation, he gives his old friends a phone call. They made a promise 27 years ago…that when It returned, they would get back together and end it once and for all.

 

This is the second and final chapter of “IT”, where our protagonists have become adults and need to face their worst fear one final time. They travel back to Derry, but their memories are somewhat blurred. Mike is the only one that clearly remembers everything (hinting that once you move away from Derry, so will It’s hold on you weaken). The story travels a little back and forth, with scenes of the gang as their younger selves, but mainly as the adults they’ve become who must face the terrors of Pennywise and figure out a way to beat It.

 

Bill Skarsgård is clowning around like never before, and keeps his performance top-notch. Just like the first chapter, scares are still packed in with a bit of a chuckle, and the part where Beverly is visiting her father’s old apartment to find an old lady residing there instead, builds up in such a fantastic and creepy way. There is also an excellent head-spider scene, where Richie exclaims “You’ve got to be fucking kidding“, referencing John Carpenter’s “The Thing”. In the original mini-series, there’s a scene where “The Losers Club” sees It as a giant arachnid creature, which was also partly revealed in one of Pennywise’s forms in the first chapter. I don’t suppose it’s much of a spoiler then to say that there will be an arachnid version in this movie as well, but at least more clownish than the original!

 

Some things from the book have been completely stripped away, or made insignificant to the story. Like Bev’s violent husband, who in the book becomes It’s puppet. And the affair between Bill and Bev, which doesn’t evolve at all in the movie. But even though the movie has a run-time of almost 3 hours, there would still be limitations as to what they could include while still being able to finish the story, so leaving out certain things is not only a smart decision, but a required one.

 

Since there were 2 years between the first chapter and this one, some of the child actors had actually grown so much that they had to be digitally de-aged in order to shoot the flashback scenes in this chapter. They also did an excellent job on casting the adult versions of the characters, as they truly do resemble the looks of the child actors. There’s also a lot of “easter eggs” in this movie (as well as in the first). The clowns in the funhouse scene for example, has the looks and resemblance of how Pennywise looked in the first movie adaption, the mini-series from 1990. Stephen King himself also has a small role as the antique owner shop, who is selling Bill’s old bike Silver back to him. Prior to this, Stephen King hasn’t had a cameo since 1996 (in “Thinner”). Even the director, Andy Muschietti, can be seen in the scene where Eddie visits the pharmacy.

 

Chapter two of “IT” is a solid conclusion to the story, and makes the two chapters a truly entertaining experience. Whether or not this will be Bill Skarsgård’s last performance as the menacing clown remains to be seen, as Bill himself has stated that he would be interested in playing Pennywise again in a potential prequel to King’s book. No matter what will eventually become of that idea, at least we’ve gotten yet another solid adaption of the book itself.

 

It Chapter Two

 

Director: Andy Muschietti
Country & year: USA | Canada, 2019
Actors: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Martell, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7349950/

 

Sequel of:
It (2017) http://horrorghouls.com/reviews/it-2017/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It (2017)

It (2017)It’s 1989 in Derry, a small Maine town. A group of bullied kids who calls themselves “The Losers Club” experience frightening things when a creepy clown named Pennywise starts terrorizing the little town. Children go missing, and the kids band together in the hopes of destroying the creature.

 

Based on Stephen King’s monster of a book, “IT”, this first chapter of an installment of two movies in total follows the original story in certain parts while also adding something new to the mix. The book has been on the screen before, in the TV mini-series from 1990 (starring Tim Curry as Pennywise). Now, as many readers of Stephen King’s work are well aware of, some of his stuff is pretty hard to translate from written text to the screen… and “IT” is no exception in that regard. The original story contains a lot of stuff that is outright weird (and even some things that would probably not be “acceptable” to include in a Hollywood movie, even by today’s standards). Many readers and fans of the book might feel disappointed by a lack of some things they may have loved, like for example Maturin the Turtle, a character that was left out in both adaptions. Then again, there are those of us that have both read the book and still enjoy both movie adaptions on their own.

 

Now, one of the strongest qualities of this movie is the performances by quite a well-chosen cast. The actors are doing a terrific job in every scene they’re in, and Bill Skarsgård’s performance as Pennywise the Dancing Clown is nothing but stellar. Like in the book, one major part is the bonding between the kids, something that is also being focused well on in the film. The members of “The Losers Club” not only has to face the horrifying shape-shifting entity, but also the bully Henry Bowers and his gang, which adds additional suspense. The history of Derry is rather rich on detail, and as our protagonists delve further into the backstory and origins of the feared clown they’re both hunting and are being hunted by, we get some insight into It’s long-lasting reign of terror. It is coming out of hibernation every 27 years to feast, repeating the cycle over and over.

 

When the kids experience the frightening visions caused by the entity, who uses their worst fears against them to scare the living daylights out of them, it’s always a pleasant experience with a mix of straight-out horror and even some comedic parts. It’s fun and it’s scary at the same time. The film has been criticized for being heavy in CGI usage, and while there are some scenes that are not exactly top-notch in that department (like when Georgie is getting his arm chewed off), there’s also some scenes that works pretty well. Also, the scenes where Pennywise’s eyes are pointing in different directions is actually a trick Bill Skarsgård is doing all by himself.

 

Today’s audience will probably automatically draw parallels to “Stranger Things” (and that series actually includes a major role by Finn Wolfhard, who’s playing Richie in “IT”), which is also set in the 80’s and features a group of kids battling supernatural forces. In the recent years, we’ve had quite a lot of “kids grouping together to fight scary things”, also including the excellent “Summer of 84” which has a pretty ballsy ending (review coming on Horror Ghouls later!). However, with “IT” being a story from 1986, with an earlier movie adaption in 1990, it’s got a different fanbase that is not sold mainly on 80’s nostalgia, but rather on the story itself and the iconic Pennywise. It’s a fun ride and a very good adaption, despite not being able to grasp at every single subject from the original story (which would, in my honest opinion, not really be possible without making it a total mess anyway).

 

It

 

Director: Andy Muschietti
Country & year: USA | Canada, 2017
Actors: Jaeden Martell, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Bill Skarsgård, Nicholas Hamilton, Jake Sim, Logan Thompson, Owen Teague, Jackson Robert Scott, Stephen Bogaert
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1396484/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mangler (1995)

The Mangler (1995)It’s a regular day at the Blue Ribbon Laundry service, run by the tyrant Bill Gartley (Robert Englund), where the employees are almost treated like worthless slaves under horrendous working conditions. One of the workers, Sherry, cuts her hand on a clamp connected to the laundry press, causing her to spill some blood over the machine. This somehow awakens a demonic force inside the the mangler. Yes, we’re talking about a demon-possessed laundry machine (!) It goes from bad to worse when one of the elderly workers drops her pills on the mangler, and tries to collect them. Bad idea. Her hand is getting trapped by the machine, and her entire body is rolled into the mangler and spews her out like a big pile of shit. What a way to go. It’s one of those scenes where someone makes so incredibly dumb decisions that you just can’t feel sorry for them. But yummy for the mangler, I guess.

 

Mulder and Scully is apparently unavailable, so the police officer John Hunton (Ted “Buffalo Bill” Levine), a bitter, burned out shell of a man who eats pills like it’s candy and clearly has his head filled with his own demons, is set to investigate. Some local inspectors views it as a glitch of the safety features and closes the case as a “work accident”. But Hunton gets instantly traumatized by the sight of what’s left of the mangled woman, and he’s just pissed that the machine is still running. And the day isn’t even over before another accident happens. Hunton’s brother-in-law is convinced that the machine is possessed, and after the demonic forces spread to the local town and possesses a refrigerator (yes, really) that then suffocates a kid, it’s time to find out what the hell is really going on on Gartley’s Laundry service.

 

The Mangler is based on a short story by Stephen King, inspired by his own experience from working in an industrial laundry service before he became a full-time writer. If the working conditions were as horrid and dreadful as in the story, it’s no wonder the setting inspired him to write a horror story. The highlight in this movie is clearly Robert Englund as the deranged owner of the laundry, Bill Gartley. He looks like an over-the-top cartoon villain with hidden, delusional desires to conquer the world. He gives it all, with the impression that he was just happy and excited to finally play a whole different villain than Freddy Krueger, and he owns every scene he’s in. Director Tobe Hooper didn’t sleepwalk through this movie, and it’s a clear big step up after the complete dumpster fire “Night Terrors” that he made two years earlier.

 

The Mangler came and went in 1995, butchered by critics, flopped at the box office, and was the last movie with wide theatrical release from Tobe Hooper before his crumbling career went completely downhill. What a shame. Rest in peace. This is not a masterpiece by any means, and with a premise like this where a laundry machine is demon-possessed, it’s a story that probably works best on paper. Still, this could have been so much worse. The film has a great level of energy, great performances by Robert Englund and Ted Levine, a lot of cheesy fun, gory and blood-spattering scenes, and a completely wild bat shit-crazy ending that shows us it doesn’t give a fuck. Despite the negative reception, two direct-to-video sequels were made, “The Mangler 2” (2002) with Lance Henriksen getting possessed by a computer virus, and the unofficial sequel “The Mangler Reborn” (2005).

 

The Mangler

 

Director: Tobe Hooper
Country & year: South Africa | UK, 1995
Actors: Robert Englund, Ted Levine, Daniel Matmor, Jeremy Crutchley, Vanessa Pike, Demetre Phillips, Lisa Morris, Vera Blacker, Ashley Hayden, Danny Keogh, Danny Keogh, Todd Jensen, Sean Taylor, Gerrit Schoonhoven, Nan Hamilton
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113762/

 

Tom Ghoul