It less good

It Chapter Two features moments of gleeful exuberance, and other moments that were just plain nice — but what little story exists is highly contrived, pat and predictable. Part 1 was a little more of an unexpected journey. Part 2 never exhibits any over-arching story to drive us along.

Chapter Two was never exactly thrilling, but neither did it ever really drag, which is impressive for a 3-hour movie. Certainly there were some very entertaining, even lovely sequences, and It moved a lot better than your average superhero movie, that’s for sure. 6/10

Comparison Notes: Stand by Me, Us (2019), Stranger Things, Scream, Natural Born Killers

Film Brief: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

One scary story to tell in the dark would be pure awesomeness, more even better. But there’s nothing particularly scary here. In other words, yawn.  I understand this may be directed towards yungin’s, but that doesn’t mean it has to be such a boring rehash.

What is with no starting titles?  Are you so ashamed of your lead actors?  Of the movie title? 2/10

Comparison Notes: Creepshow, all haunted house movies, Pet Sematary, ItPan’s Labyrinth

Hereditary Encumbrances

You go into Hereditary thinking it’ll be some sort of wonderful all-out creepfest.  There is a definite creepiness factor, but the film morphs into yet another fairly conventional haunted house/haunted spirit flick.  For all of its careful consideration of factors such as visual design, Hereditary pays much less attention to presenting a strong compelling story.

Which is not to say it’s not compelling.  Certainly not boring.  But if you remove the miniatures, I doubt I’d recommend.  An absent starting title for no reason doesn’t help.  At least A24 didn’t revert back to the square frame on this one.

I’ve largely forgotten about this movie already, but in its immediate wake it did get under my skin a bit.  So — a begrudging 7/10.

Comparison Notes: Thelma, Poltergeist, Drag Me to Hell, and others in my Spirit” post, Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, Psycho, The Ring, Cube, Mother!

It good

It often feels like a throwback to both classic ’80s Spielberg flicks and anthology shows like Amazing Stories, and to classic slasher-hackers.  The cinematography and direction are refreshingly old-school.  And while the occasionally scattershot film lacks cohesion, it makes amends with moments of lyric mirth and an intimacy among its characters normally lacking in such endeavors.

It, a.k.a. Stranger Things with a Clown, delivers a twinge of fear right at the beginning, with the clown in the gutter.  That moment when we don’t know what will happen is very effective — until something does happen.  And once it does, It traverses from scary to silly and never quite comes back.  Or maybe put another way, from adult-scary to kid-scary.  Once that edge is removed, It was not able to frighten me as much as it tried.

Then in the latter part of the film, the worst thing imaginable happens: It becomes draggy.  Nonetheless, on the strength of its assets, It rises to a marginal 7/10.

Comparison Notes (recommended & essential): Stand by Me, E.T., The Ring

What a Mother! [u]

Aronofsky certainly excels at bringing drama to a maniacal pitch, and then heaping mania upon mania to reach ever-greater crescendos.  But mania alone is not a substitute for story.  That’s why a film like Ex Machina is so much better than Mother!

Still, mania is not boring.  Bonus points for strong vision and not pulling punches raises Mother! to 7/10.

UPDATE: Now 8/10

Comparison Notes: Crimson Peak, Rosemary’s Baby, other Aronofsky films like Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, Iñárritu’s Birdman and The Revenant.

P.S.  You can consider Mother! to be Darren Aronofsky’s entry into the haunted house genre, in a season full of them.  Stay tuned for more on this, i.e. more on It.

Film Brief: Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak - poster

I figured somewhere on Rotten Tomatoes that I’d find a capsule I could swallow, but no such luck.

So, here’s mine: a terrific and unexpected first half, a let-down in the second half, and lots of great thematic elements and rich gothic atmosphere that’s never fully exploited.  Crimson Peak deserved a story with ever-more eventful intrigue, but it falls way short — as if the writers became further and further bogged down in their own thick red mire.  Still, there’s some enjoyment to be had, so a marginal recommendation.  6/10