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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pet Sematary (2019)

Pet Sematary (2019)Dr. Louis Creed and his family have decided to move away from Boston and settle down in rural Maine in order to live a more quiet life, and give Louis more time with his family: Rachel, his wife, Ellie, his daughter, and Gage, his young son. Their new home seem to be peaceful and nice…except for the highway being located right outside where heavy trucks keep roaring by all the time. They soon discover a pet cemetery close by (where a lot of the pets have been victims of said trucks), where children have buried their beloved pets for a long time. The place holds a power that is by no means good, however, something the Creed family is about to discover in the most horrible way.

 

“Pet Sematary” is one of Stephen King’s most famous novels, and is actually based on his own close encounter with a truck nearly killing his own son. He got the inspiration after his time at the University of Maine at Orono, where he was teaching for a year as a gesture of gratitude for the education he had received there. During that time, he and his family rented a house near a busy road who had claimed the lives of numerous pets in the neighborhood, and the children there had created a pet cemetery near the house King and his family rented. They also had a cat at the time: Smucky. Unfortunately, Smucky became one of that road’s victims, and King’s daughter Naomi buried it in that pet cemetery. Shortly thereafter, King’s son Owen had a close call running toward the road. All of this gave him the inspiration for this novel, but after writing it he felt he had gone too far with the subject matter and discarded the idea of having it published. However, since he needed to publish a final book for his contract, he reluctantly submitted it to Doubleday. And of course, it became an immediate success.

 

Now, for those of us that have read the book and seen the first movie adaption, it’s hard not to make comparisons. There are quite a few things that have been changed completely here. The first adaption from 1989 actually follows the book more closely than this one, but at the same time I also think that this new adaption captures the dark and tragic tone a lot better, as it is a story that deals with something that all of us know but always dread to think or talk about: the death of loved ones, and how far we would be willing to go if we could reverse it.

 

I was also quite curious about how they would depict Zelda (Rachel’s sister), who was slowly dying in a horrible and painful way from spinal meningitis while turning into a hideous “monster” (and, since the illness turned her clinically insane, also made her bitter and mean towards Rachel), and this has given Rachel PTSD-like symptoms. I actually think Zelda is one of the creepiest parts of the whole story, and it also plays a major factor over explaining why Rachel is struggling so much with everything that’s got to do with death. While there has been some changes regarding Zelda’s death in this movie, I actually think that the book’s version of Zelda’s demise was better…but yeah, I know why they did it, as it gave them a perfect setting to make some creepy scenes and jump-scares.

 

Overall, this new movie adaption of Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary” is a well made horror movie, and despite some differences it manages to capture a lot of the original feelings of dread from the book, while also leaving enough space for both movie adaptions to exist on their own.

 

Pet Sematary

 

Directors: Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer
Country & year: USA, 2019
Actors: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jeté Laurence, Hugo Lavoie, Lucas Lavoie, Obssa Ahmed, Alyssa Brooke Levine, Maria Herrera, Frank Schorpion, Linda E. Smith, Sonia Maria Chirila
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0837563/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1922 (2017)

1922 (2017)Based on a novel from 2010 by famous horror-writer Stephen King, comes this Netflix original that was released on October 20th. It’s a story about Wilfred James, a proud farmer who conspires to murder his own wife when she wants them to move away from the farm and sell the land, which she owns because it was willed to her by her own father. Neither the father nor the son wants to move away from the quiet farmlife they’ve grown so attached to, and Wilfred convinces his son to participiate in the murder of his wife. After comitting the horrible act and dump the body of her into the well outside, Wilfred soon starts to experience that things do not go as smoothly from there on, even with his wife out of the way…

 

«1922» is for the most part a dark thriller, with some horror elements mixed it. There are no over-the-top weird stuff that some might be used to from certain popular works by the famous author (like «It», for example), it’s a down-to-earth thriller with some supernatural elements mixed in. Unexpectedly, when a desperate man like Wilfred decides to murder his wife due to his own desires, we all know that he won’t escape such an act unscathed…and neither will his son. “In the end, we all get caught”.

 

1922

 

Director: Zak Hilditch
Country & year: USA, 2017
Actors: Thomas Jane, Molly Parker, Dylan Schmid, Kaitlyn Bernard, Neal McDonough, Tanya Champoux, Brian d’Arcy James
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6214928/

 

Vanja Ghoul