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Projecting Horror: The Best Scene in ‘It’

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 9, 2017, but for obvious reasons, we’ve decided to spotlight it again. 

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Stephen King’s 1986 magnum opus, about a deranged murdering clown named Pennywise who haunts the children of Derry, Maine, has now been adapted twice, to varying degrees of success. According to King, It is one of his favorite books that he has written, and in a recent interview, he praised the latest adaptation. The movie, which lingered for a half-decade in pre-production, represents the first time It has been brought to the big screen (the first was a television mini-series) and judging by online reactions and the current 88% Tomatometer score, people seem to love this new take. King isn’t wrong to praise the film – It is among the best Stephen King adaptations ever made, not because it is scary (because, truthfully, it isn’t) – but because director Andrés Muschietti’s vision is extremely funny, entertaining, and, most importantly, heartwarming.

At 135 minutes, It covers only the childhood half of the book, saving the adult portion for the upcoming sequel, set 27 years later. The decision to split the movie in two was a wise move on the part of the studio since it allows the filmmakers more time to flesh out both the story and the large cast of characters. As in the novel, children are disappearing in the small town of Derry, courtesy of Pennywise, who appears every 27 years and terrifies kids to death by manifesting himself as their worst fears. Shifting the timeline of the book forward three decades, It opens in 1988 and revolves around a gang of seven high school kids who form “The Losers’ Club.” The leader is Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), a melancholy, brave boy whose little brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), has gone missing. He enlists his posse of similarly bullied outcasts to help him investigate the supernatural forces haunting both the children and their small town. In his mission to uncover the reasons behind the disappearance of his younger sibling, he is joined by wise-cracking, foul-mouthed trash-talker Richie (Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard), high-strung rabbi’s son Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) and Beverly (Sophia Lillis), a lonely girl who desperately tries to escape her sexually abusive father. The other three members include Mike (Chosen Jacobs), an African-American orphan whose parents died in a mysterious fire; the new kid on the block Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), a chubby bookworm who becomes obsessed with uncovering the town’s dark seedy past, and finally, Eddie, a hypochondriac mama’s boy played by Jack Dylan Grazer, who pretty much steals the entire show.

As with Stand By Me, another Stephen King adaptation, what sets It apart from most modern Hollywood horror films is the movie’s stellar cast. In fact, the best parts of It have nothing to do with the cackling manifestations of the murderous Pennywise but with the camaraderie, bickering, and curiosity among these kids, who, unlike many on-screen teenagers, seem like real kids. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the movie’s most memorable scenes are the quieter ones — most notably when the losers’ club gather together in their underwear for an afternoon swim in the town quarry.

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Of course, criticism has been made that while every one of the young actors is perfectly cast, we wind up knowing little about these kids outside of their lone identifying trait (the fat kid, the Jewish kid, the black kid and so on), with the final stereotype being Sophia Lillis’s Beverly – the lone female member who becomes victim to a poorly handled romantic love triangle involving Bill and Ben. There is some truth behind these criticisms and It is far from a perfect film, but the underlying allegory of these characters facing their deepest fears as they enter adulthood gives the movie emotional weight — and regardless of if we get to know these characters or not, It is a chilling examination of what it’s like to grow up living in fear, be it the onset of puberty or something deeper and far more disturbing, such as neglect, abuse, discrimination, poverty, and/or violence. In fact, the film’s true villains – older kids like Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) and the adults like Beverly’s abusive father or Eddie’s controlling mother – are monstrous themselves. Of course, this is still a horror movie, and when the children begin to disappear, our group of young heroes is faced with their biggest inner demons when they square off against Pennywise, whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries.IT Projector

While many have drawn comparisons to Stranger Things, the movie that It resembles most is actually Wes Craven’s 1984 masterpiece, A Nightmare on Elm Street. Pennywise, after all, is no different than Freddy Krueger: both are among the most recognizable modern horror villains and both a supernatural force that feeds on deep childhood fears. And like Freddy, Pennywise is also the literal, deadly manifestation of the evil that man is capable of committing. Emerging from the long shadow of Tim Curry (whose interpretation of Pennywise is the biggest highlight of the TV mini-series) is Bill Skarsgard who does a marvelous job stepping in as the creepy, dancing clown with outsize yellow teeth, a high-pitched squeak of a voice and a knack for terrifying kids. Much like Elmstreet, only the children in Derry see the supernatural forces and like Craven’s original film, nearly every scene builds to some sort of climactic jump scare.

There’s quite a few scenes that will have viewers shrieking, such as the scene where a charred, headless corpse chases Ben through a library, the leprous zombie who menaces Eddie outside the abandoned house, the menacing portrait of a deformed flute player who magically comes to life, or even the bathroom sink that sprouts fountains of blood on poor, helpless Beverly. But the best scene in the entire film is without a doubt the scene that takes place in the garage.

Two of the most famous moments of the original source material involves Georgie’s photo album. In the first scene, Bill is flipping through the photograph and when he lands on a picture of his little brother, the image of Georgie in the photograph winks at him. The second scene, known as the “Bloody Photograph,” comes later when Bill shows Ritchie the photo album and a photo of downtown Derry begins to move before Bill’s hand gets severely cut after being momentarily sucked into the picture. The movie replaces these scenes with something even better.

As mentioned above, the second attempt to adapt King’s 1,100-page novel focuses entirely on the childhood-set portions of King’s book and the centerpiece of the entire film takes place in Bill’s garage when he sets up a projector so he and his friends can study the town’s layout. It’s a crucial scene that marks the first time all seven kids work together in order to combat the evil that threatens them and the first time all seven kids simultaneously see Pennywise. And as Bill often reminds his friends, the seven kids are stronger together than apart, and the unique bond that forms among children is far more important than what differences separate them. It after all, is a story about friendship and each one of the members of the Losers Club is a loner, and only really start to blossom through the friendships they make with each other. Not only is the scene unforgettable in how effectively well it manages to scare the audience, but it also represents the moment the seven kids truly form an alliance.

The scene also gives further insight into the backstory to both Pennywise and the town’s cursed sewer system. Most people associate Stephen King with Maine and Maine with Stephen King and with reason. King almost exclusively writes and sets his stories and uses these locations to increase the authenticity of his stories, painting them as all part of the same fictional universe. In stories like It, he borrows liberally from real places and director Muschietti does well to capture the pulsing menace of Derry itself, a place that lives under the imposing threat of a curse placed on the town centuries ago — a curse it seems powerless to keep from perpetuating, one generation to the next. One could argue that Derry itself, is one of the most important characters in Andy Muchietti’s movie and thankfully the filmmakers find various ways to explore the small rural town, even if it’s via small details like projecting the town’s map against the wall.

Stephen King It

The effects in this scene stand out as well — Pennywise crawling out, larger-than-life, from the projector, is an astonishing visual. Combine that with the booming sound effects, the meticulous production design, and the gorgeous visuals by cinematography Chung-hoon Chung, and what you have is the most memorable scene of any horror film released this year. Muchietti creates an air of dread that begins with the projector being turned on and never lets up, subtly incorporating elements from Hideo Nakata’s Ringu. It’s a deviously engineered set-piece that’ll crawl under your skin and if It is to be remembered as a collection of frightening, hallucinatory, and grandiose nightmarish imagery; the projector scene stands tall among them. As the clown cackled and grinded his rotting teeth, and wiggled his devious eyebrows, I could feel my palms sweating before my hands gripped on tight to the armrest. Beverly’s Carrie-like encounter might be the bloodiest scene in the movie, but watching the terrified reactions of all seven kids trembling in fear as Pennywise emerged from the screen, is by far the most terrifying – and the only scene that truly had my audience jumping from their seats.

  • Ricky D

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast, I edit, and I design websites. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goomba Stomp and the NXpress Nintendo Podcast. Former Editor-In-Chief of Sound On Sight, and host of several podcasts including the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead podcasts, as well as the Sound On Sight and Sordid Cinema shows. There is nothing I like more than basketball, travelling, and animals. You can find me online writing about anime, TV, movies, games and so much more.

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Film

70 Best Movie Posters of 2019

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Best Movie Posters of 2019

Deciding the best movie posters is no easy task…

I remember when I was younger, I used to head to the video store and rent movies I’d never heard of based solely on the movie poster art. This was, of course, a different time— sure, the internet was a thing, but we didn’t have countless websites, not to mention social media platforms, promoting new movies online with news stories, movie stills, featurettes, teasers, trailers and so on. Not to say that sort of marketing didn’t exist in the past, because it did, but it wasn’t always in your face. For better or for worse, the internet changed the way studios market movies, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the use of a poster to help build excitement and anticipation for an upcoming film. Most posters continue to be an important marketing tool for filmmakers worldwide and so once again, we’ve decided to collect images of our favourite movie posters revealed over the past twelve months. If you checked out our list of the best movie posters of 2018, you’ll remember it included posters for indie gems, thrillers, horror movies, foreign language films, Hollywood blockbusters and everything in between. This year is no different, although it should be said that some marketing campaigns were so good, we’ve decided to include more than one poster for a few select films. Also worth noting, we didn’t include any fan-made poster art below. That out of the way, here are the best movie posters of 2019.

The Best Movie Posters of 2019

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TIFF

The Piercing ‘Marriage Story’ Is Noah Baumbach’s Best Film to Date

TIFF 2019

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Marriage Story

In 2010, director Noah Baumbach began divorce proceedings with his now ex-wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh. The divorce was finalized three years later, and since then Baumbach has been in a relationship with actor and director (and occasional collaborator) Greta Gerwig. It’s impossible to view his newest film, Marriage Story, without taking into account his own dissolved marriage; this is a searching, seething work of recriminations and longing that pits two all–too–human parents against each other, and invites the audience to not only imagine which bits of psychic trauma are his own, but also to consider our own relationships, successful or not.

Marriage Story stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as Nicole and Charlie, a married couple living in New York City with their young son Henry. The film opens with a montage as Nicole recites the things she most loves about her husband, from the way he can cook and doesn’t mind waking up with their son, to his skill as a theater director. In turn, Charlie narrates his favorite aspects of Nicole, his regular lead actor. There are plenty of opportunities for tears here, but the unguarded emotions of these confessions might get them started right from the beginning. But just as they finish reciting these traits, we’re brought back to reality; these confessions were things that they had written down to read to each other as a kind of peace offering at the start of their mediation following a separation that has led up to their divorce. But Nicole doesn’t like what she has written — or at least doesn’t want Charlie to hear it. And if she won’t go, then it’s not really fair for him to read his. So neither tells each other what they most admire in the other, and instead stop seeing the mediator.

It’s the first strike in Nicole and Charlie’s mutually assured destruction agreement. Though they initially plan on avoiding using lawyers, Nicole gets tipped off to a well-regarded attorney (a funny and ice-cold Laura Dern) who advises her to take a maximalist position in order to ensure she gets half of everything she wants — at the very least. Once she has a lawyer, Charlie tries out a variety of legal counsels (a soothing Alan Alda and a fiery Ray Liotta), but the real conflict comes down to location; Nicole has taken Henry to Los Angeles while she films a pilot, and wants to stay even after it’s finished. Charlie, however, thought they would move back to New York. Each escalation in the feud necessitates an opposing reaction, and the two are driven further and further apart, even as they try to stay close for the sake of their son.

Marriage Story

Baumbach has admitted that some details of the film are based on his own divorce, but he’s also said he interviewed many of his friends who divorced around the same time, as well as lawyers and judges involved in divorce cases. In some ways, Marriage Story isn’t just a portrait of a couple separating, but a primer on divorce court that far surpasses something like Kramer vs. Kramer, which was out of date even in 1979. The film is also an opportunity to observe two of the best living actors at the top of their game. Johansson and Driver have a knack for finding the sweet spot between un-actorly naturalism and the stylistic ticks that we recognize as compelling acting. It gives us a sense that these people were actually a family, and really cared for each other. Baumbach’s script helps; it’s maybe his best writing ever, filled with so many painfully open moments, yet leavened with just the right amount of humor. He’s also as fair as he could be, and neither parent comes off as too saintly or self-centered.

Marriage Story ends in a circle of sorts with the discovery of Nicole’s notes about Charlie’s best qualities. Their marriage was effectively over before the film even started, but I kept thinking back to that lovely introductory scene. How might their journey to divorce progressed if they had the courage to speak openly to each other in that one moment? Perhaps something might have been better. Marriage Story doesn’t harbor any of those romantic illusions, however; once it’s over, it’s over.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 12, 2019, as part of our coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival.

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Film

Don’t Be Sad ‘A Rainy Day in New York’ Never Made it to Manhattan

Spend this rainy day playing a board game or something

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Rainy Day in New York

You do not come to late-era Woody Allen for anything resembling true originality. He is the drunken piano man, riffing off the same old hits in the same old bar, hoping that nostalgia will hit a chord with somebody. As in Midnight in Paris, Blue Jasmine, or even Irrational Man, his output over the last decade can still bring up moments of true inspiration and fresh-feeling angles on the same old tales, even if the plot-lines feel somewhat familiar. In the best humanist cinema, like that of Rohmer or Ozu, this repetition can make you see the same thing in a slightly different way. The same cannot be said of A Rainy Day in New York, a film so derivative it feels like it came out of an auto-generator, making me feel nothing but contempt for the waste of so much talent. If you are an American Woody Allen fan sad that this movie never made it to Manhattan, there’s honestly no need to be.

Timotheé Chalamet stars and narrates in a performance so poor that he must be happy this film hasn’t released back in the States. He plays Gatsby Wells, a student at upstate Yardley College, a place he detests yet tolerates because his beloved girlfriend Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) — heiress to a rich banking empire in Tucson — also studies there. As a writer for the University paper, she gets the chance to interview famous director Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber), giving them the possibility to explore New York together. Yet when they arrive there, a series of misunderstandings, mishaps, and fear of missed opportunities keeps them perpetually apart, handing them the chance to explore romance with others — including old flames, movie stars and, of course, high-priced escorts. 

Although his first name is Gatsby, Wells better resembles the other great male of 20th century American literature: Holden Caulfield. Like the protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye, he is born of massive privilege, shunning his supposedly phoney origins while still visiting the fanciest hotels and drinking in the fanciest bars. There is perhaps some kind of interesting modern portrait of New York privilege in here, but Woody Allen is simply not the right director for the material. It’s like asking a jazz pianist to bash out a techno tune. 

And just as Allen’s blinkered view of New York blinds him to the real world and its contemporary concerns, Chalamet’s nostalgia act cannot find a way to escape Woody’s wooden writing. The sensitive, pretentious, sensual young man who turned in such a deeply felt performance in Call Me By Your Name could be a natural fit for a Woody Allen character, if only he actually leaned into what makes him a great actor instead of trying his best Woody Allen imitation. While some actors can do Woody Allen well (Kenneth Branagh is uncanny in Celebrity, while Larry David is great in Whatever Works), Timotheé Chalamet has neither the studied talent to impersonate well, nor the arrogance to put his own distinctive stamp on it. Elle Fanning is similarly dire; playing both an intrepid, impetuous journalist and a thick floozy, she carries neither the charm nor the wit to make her a compelling co-lead.  

A Rainy Day in New York

I don’t blame either actor; they’re young, and there’s a feeling that they weren’t given much direction. In fact, almost every aspect of A Rainy Day in New York feels underdeveloped, underwritten, and under-thought. This is a film so lazy that it even recycles the ending of Midnight in Paris, perhaps hoping that the audience developed amnesia since 2011. Even Allen’s trademark eye for Manhattan is missing. Filming here properly for the first time since 2009, the city no longer seems like much of a character by itself, and instead comes off as it would in a generic TV Christmas Movie. 

While Allen’s early 00s work — easily his worst period — is characterised by its TV-movie lighting, his collaborations over the past ten years with cinematographers such as Darius Khondji (Midnight in Paris, To Rome With Love), Javier Aguirresarobe (Blue Jasmine), and Vittorio Stororo (Cafe Society, Wonder Wheel) elevated his films’ look considerably, even when the writing may have been lacking. Sadly here, the legendary cinematographer behind Apocalypse Now and The Conformist — despite what seems like his best efforts to light generic hotel rooms with warmth and vibrancy — cannot save A Rainy Day in New York at all, which feels even more rushed and cut-to-pieces than usual. This is really only for die-hard Woody Allen completists; casual minds need not bother.

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