DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

You met me at a very strange time in my life...

Read my novel: COMPLETE DARKNESS

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Matt Paints Houses with The Irishman


The Irishman (18)

Dir Martin Scorsese

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“Would you like to be a part of this, Frank? Would you like to be a part of this history?”

Netflix have bet big on The Irishman, the story of lifetime mobster Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran (Robert De Niro showing he is still a freaking acting legend). Based on the memoir ‘I Heard You Paint Houses’ compiled by investigator Charles Brandt – the title alludes to how the walls change colour when someone is shot ‘painting’ the walls with their blood.

The Irishman is a truly epic tale which covers the time period of the 1940s right through to the early 2000s. Director Scorsese takes us on this trip of how Sheeran rose from a low-level hood to become the right-hand man of Union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).

'that infamous unimpressed look...'

If this sounds a bit like the narrative style of Goodfellas or Casino - Scorsese’s two other told-in-retrospect gangster films – that’s because it is, and it works superbly making this feel like the third in his mobster classic series. For me The Irishman is also the most likeable of the three and it’s certainly the longest coming in at a riveting three-and-a-half-hour runtime.

Throughout the compelling sharing of events, there is very much the sense that we’re witnessing a sugar-coated version of what went down. Sheeran might not be a completely trustworthy narrator, glossing over the dark fallout from the copious violence but not shying away from it.

Scorsese might be pushing 80 but he’s still a master of this medium and here his use of de-aging many cast members with digital technology works really well in giving those sections of the film a hazy ‘idealistic’ feel.

'street violence'

The cast are truly another level with De Niro and Pacino on top form but Joe Pesci (as Russell Bufalino) and Harvey Keitel (as don Angelo Bruno) standing out but ably supported by great supporting cast that includes Anna Paquin as Sheeran’s disapproving daughter Peggy and Jack Huston as Robert ‘Bobby’ Kennedy trying to take down organized crime.

This Irishman is one of the best films of the year and shows that the old boys can sometimes still school the youngsters in the cinematic art. Well played Netflix in making this happen!

'can't touch me'

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööööö

(5 - Quality Old School Gangster-em-up)

Awesomeness ööööö – Some unforgettable scenes and compulsive viewing throughout

Laughs ööö – Some nice dark humour

Horror öööö – Graphic violence

Spiritual Enlightenment öö - What is a man's life worth?



Want some more madness? 
Check out COMPLETE DARKNESS which delivers near future nightmares...


Monday, November 25, 2019

Getting chilly with it... FROZEN 2




Frozen II (PG)

Directors: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“I believe in you, Elsa. More than anyone or anything.”

It turns out that Disney couldn’t just ‘let it go’ and so here’s the follow up to world-conquering original freeze-em-up. Firstly though, I must thank my pals for ‘lending me’ their three daughters to come and help review this as they are far more the target market than me!?

With the huge Frozen fanbase established by the first film to please, there have been various short videos and games set in the universe, but now the gang are back together for a full-scale all singing, all life-lessoning adventure.

They're back...

Frosty Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel), her kind sister Anna (Kristen Bell), comedy sidekick snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) and hunky Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) with his trusty reindeer Sven set off to unravel a mystery involving a mysterious magical voice from beyond the ice flow.

Unfortunately, there are some nature guardian spirits – air (nicknamed ‘Gale’), fire (a cute little pyro-lizard), earth (massive scary giant baddies) and water (embodied by a cool water horse) -to appease along the way. Also a time-locked forest, complete with aggrieved indigenous tribe and a possible dark secret make up the other plot points.

Co-directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee follow the Frozen game plan keeping the first film’s magical tropes and not straying very far from the Disney safe-zone of marketable cash-in creatures and new looks for the team. Elsa in particular gets a Gandalf the Grey to White transformation and there’s much exposition, especially from Olaf about accepting change and growing up.

Drama

The new songs are a mixed bag with nothing as iconic as the original ‘Let it go’ but I really enjoyed Groff’s power ballad (with Queen like backing from the Reindeer) that could slot pretty seamlessly into any Chicago or REO Speedwagon reunion tour.

My young friends all gave the film big thumbs up, they were suitably impressed by the fun banter, mild peril and ice-powered adventuring. The only negatives they picked up on was a lack of any very identifiable baddies and the slightly confusing plot that felt a bit episodic rather than a smooth whole.

Tribute to The Mist

Everything ticks along nicely; the animation is stunning in places and solid throughout. Whilst not hugely original or quite as good as the first, Frozen II delivers an all-age friendly package which should keep many families happy. I imagine this won’t be the last we see of the icy franchise!

Live action version?

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööö

(3 - Enjoyable if disposable follow up)

Awesomeness ööö – The animation is the star 'draw'

Laughs ööö – Occasionally funny

Horror ö – Not much scary stuff or trauma

Spiritual Enlightenment öö - Heavy handed moralising ahoy



Want some more madness? 
Check out COMPLETE DARKNESS which delivers near future nightmares...


Monday, November 04, 2019

Matt visits The Forgotten Palace


The Forgotten Palace

Luke Aylen (@lukeaylen)

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@cleric20)

"Light attacks where darkness defends..."

Just when you thought it was safe in the land of Presadia - deep in the heart of the Great Forest lie many secrets, including the ancient ruins of a once-magnificent palace. A chance encounter with a bedraggled stranger and the discovery of broken shards of a magical mirror lead 'unusually tall dwarf' Antimony on a journey of discovery.

Luke Aylen’s follow up to The Mirror and The Mountain is a more assured semi-sequel (it takes place partly alongside the original). With smoother prose and more action - big baddie 'the Usurper' is a great threat. I really enjoyed this fantasy romp which whilst written for kids is strong enough to please fans of Narnia and the like of all ages.

You'll get more from this story if you've read the first book as the world of Presadia has some nice twists on the standard fantasy elements. I was reminded at points of The Hobbit (which is high praise as I'm big Tolkien fan).

The story is fun, is packed with adventure and has a much more exciting finale than the first, you can feel Aylen enjoying his creation with more confidence this time. There is plenty of magical stuff along with some good life lessons (which are less blatant allegories this time around).

I'm told that there will be more Presadia based fiction to follow and if they keep improving then there is much to look forward to! Recommended fantasy-em-up for young readers (and young at heart) everywhere.

Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öööö

(4 - This new fantasy world is building nicely)...

BUY YOURSELF A COPY HERE


Want something a little darker?

Check out COMPLETE DARKNESS which delivers near future nightmares...



Sunday, November 03, 2019

Matt Shines with Doctor Sleep




Doctor Sleep (15)

Dir. Mike Flanagan

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“The world's a hungry place. A dark place…”

How does one follow up the masterpiece of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining? Well here with have an adaptation of Stephen King’s sequel novel which tells the tale of Danny Torrence (Ewan McGregor)’s life – he’s suffered a lifetime of post-ghost-stress-disorder thanks to his troubled childhood in the haunted Overlook Hotel.

Danny has struggled with his telepathic gift of ‘Shining’ which has allowed the dark spirits of his past to bother him. On the plus side he also gets occasional ‘Obi-Wan’ like visits from Dick Halloran (Carl Lumbly) who acts as a guide to him and who tips him off about the threat of child eating baddie ‘Rose The Hat’ (Rebecca Ferguson) – who literally feeds on those who can ‘Shine’.

"I'll swallow your soul"

Danny must battle through his drinking problem in order to help new super shiner Abra (Kyliegh Curran) who might only be a young teen but who has massive abilities – which alas has made her the target of Rose and her cult.

Doctor Sleep takes its time initially to explore the horror of Danny’s repressed trauma, and Ewan McGregor does good job as an adult Danny Torrance. But he is upstaged by Rebecca Ferguson who captivates as Rose the Hat. Director Mike Flanagan sets a great visual treat for Shining lovers everywhere, walking the tricky line between faithful interpreting the novel and mixing in the cinematic elements of Kubrick’s masterpiece.

"Overlook welcome committee"

There is plenty of gore and *trigger warning* violence against children so if not up for a trip into some real dark material this won’t be for you. It’s strong stuff and compelling too but the story comes undone a little towards the end when it takes the climax back to the Overlook itself. Here the Shining references are overloaded and yet feel a bit more like the homage in Ready Player One rather than a true sequel.

By overusing the resident of Room 237 and aping but never quite pulling off dynamics like the swooping aerial camera movement that Kubrick embraced whilst the Torrance's driving – the lesser quality of this film becomes apparent.

"Back to play with you forever"

Overall Doctor Sleep is a decent effort that can’t match the traumatizing horror of The Shining but adds to the story in a watchable way. Young Curran is one to look out for as she could be big.

The Doctor will see you now, just try not to fall asleep!

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööö

(3 - Don't Overlook this flawed but fun follow up!)

Awesomeness ööö – Psyche fights FTW

Laughs öö – A few darkly amusing bits

Horror öööö – Fairly grim stuff throughout

Spiritual Enlightenment öö - Shine Jesus Shine



Want some more madness? 
Check out COMPLETE DARKNESS which delivers near future nightmares...


Sunday, October 27, 2019

COMPLETE DARKNESS is published!!



Complete Darkness: Matt Adcock

So after what feels like forever - my debut novel 'Complete Darkness' is out in the world! It's been a fun ride to get to this point and I'm fascinated to hear what people are making of it...


"in the daunting company of Isaac Asimov & Iain M Banks"


Reviews so far have said things like:

"The deft world-building transports you to a place where the breathless violent action comes thick and fast. Complete Darkness is likely to shock in places and yet give you an incredible adrenaline rush too. If you liked sci-fi visionaries such as Iain M Banks or Richard ‘Altered Carbon’ Morgan - those are clear inspirations here.

Tackling thorny subjects like Hell - there is theology woven into the plot and adds a level of intelligence beyond standard pulp fiction. Complete Darkness is a brilliant, turbo-charged adventure for those who looking for something wild..."

- - -

"Complete Darkness is the interplay of science, market forces, and religion.... with some hilarious (as in, I snorted out loud on the bus, prompting strange looks) usage of technology and wordplay.

I think complete darkness is a creative introduction to a genuinely interesting alternate universe - with brash, comic-book levels (think Deadpool unhinged rather than Marvel) of violence."

- - -

"It's a like jumping headfirst into the choppy waters of the past, present and future of the battle between good and evil and you're not sure which way you want to swim. Big on tech, bigger on deep thoughts."

- - -

"...weaves a gripping theological thread into the story of a corrupt and depraved world designed to grab the attention of a contemporary audience weaned on superhero movies, gritty crime dramas and graphic novels."



If you've taken the plunge and got a copy of Complete Darkness do let me know what you think...

Here's the Goodreads link if you swing that way: Goodreads - Complete Darkness

Huge thanks to everyone who has helped me get to this point - who knows where we go from here!!!


Here's some handy shopping links in case you're tempted to take the plunge:

Amazon 

Waterstones

Foyles

Blackwells






Sunday, October 06, 2019

Matt puts on a Happy Face - JOKER review...


Joker (15) 

Dir. Todd Philips

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

'I hope my death makes more cents than my life...’

“Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” asks ArthurFleck (Joaquin Phoenix), of his counsellor, after being attacked and beaten in the street by a gang of youths.  What follows is a heartbreaking odyssey into madness and violence that traces the birth of Gotham’s clown prince of chaos – Joker.

'and where is the Batman?'

Yes, Batman’s iconic arch-nemesis gets his big-screen origin story and it’s a cinematic gut-punch of a man on the very edge – pushed over the line by a callus and mean society.  Director Todd “The Hangover’ Phillips delves into the pain of a life shaped by abuse, of a man who society either ignores or targets and has created a superbly gritty character piece which stands as a warning to us all. Joaquin Phoenix is incredible in the lead – owning the huge clown sized shows of Heath Ledger and giving him a serious run for the title of best Joker ever’.

'evening officers'

After his show-stopping performance in the brutal ‘You Were NeverReally Here’, he is an actor who can make horrific violence feel necessary and give viewers an insight into the actions of a crazed individual in a way that no other has to date. The writing here is as brilliant as it is bleak, this isn't feel-good film on any level and it is liable to traumatise any Bat-fans looking for a standard superhero (or even villain) romp.

'future vigilante?'

Certainly, comic book villains don't come much more iconic than the Joker, he is a character that somehow transcends understanding with his charismatic insanity and casual ultra-violence. So it's a tough brief to make him the central character of the film as he is normally held up as existing solely as the flip side of Batman’s vigilante justice – but Phoenix pulls it off in fine style.

Joker the movie, however, works as a twisted masterpiece that may well tear your soul apart. Any film that can induce menace by playing Stephen Sondheim ‘Send in the Clowns’ and reference such light-hearted movies like Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’ whilst being a chilling crime drama on a par with Taxi Driver deserves serious consideration as something much more than the standard super-flicks that have become such big business.

'go with a smile'

What we have here is the full-throttle descent of a misunderstood man who has no positive reference points. Joker is a timely instant classic, put on a happy face and see it!!


Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


ööööö

(5 - Tragic insanity has never been more compelling)

Awesomeness ööööö – Staggering insights into a violent descent

Laughs ööö – Some very dark laughs

Horror öööö – Strong bloody violence and unsettling madness

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Look beyond the outside smile



Want some more madness? 
Check out COMPLETE DARKNESS which delivers near future nightmares...



Saturday, October 05, 2019

Matt visits Ladyworld...



Ladyworld (18)

Dir. Amanda Kramer

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

'I don’t want to be dramatic – but it looks like we’re trapped...’

Agitated young women, trapped in a house with food supplies running dangerously low and sanity slipping away… This freaky new femme-em-up version of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies takes place in the grim aftermath of a birthday party.

Director Amanda Kramer goes all out with this freaky, arty drama that allows the actors to tap into their characters as the camera tracks their mental and physical disintegration. There is very little ‘plot’ so as to speak – just a psychological breakdown on a group scale as the damage to the apartment seals in the unfortunate females.

'the last supper?'

With little sign that rescue is on the way – and an unwillingness to try and ‘dig for freedom’ through the dirt outside – the rules of civilization collapse and a power struggle sees the girls split into two hostile groups. Underlying bigotry, fear and bitchiness surface as manipulation becomes the name of the game…

To make the situation worse there is a rumour that there is a ‘Man’ in the apartment somewhere. Seen by Eden (Atheena Frizzell) who later disappears – has she been attacked, or might she have found an escape route?

'Make your own entertainment'

The rest of the girls: Olivia (Ariela Barer), Dolly (Ryan Simpkins), Piper (Annalise Basso), Blake (Odessa Adlon), Romy (Maya Hawke), Amanda (Tatsumi Romano) and Mallory (Zora Casebere) are unsure. Delirium starts to seep into their minds, they become scared that this male interloper -thinking he must be a pervert looking to attack them. Things start to get potentially violent as the young women tool up with knives to fight off this literal ‘bogeyman’…

Overall Ladyworld is a strange film. The tiny budget means that all the heavy lifting is on the female cast, it doesn’t always pay off but there are flashes of inspiration. Speaking of which in places it has the feel of a low budget alternative Mean Girls – with much fewer laughs…

'Standoff'

One for those looking to test themselves rather than seeking any sort of ‘entertainment’!?

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööö

(3 - Freaky and off-kilter experimental stuff)

Awesomeness ööö – Some great scenes of palpable panic

Laughs öö – Some dark humour

Horror ööö – Disturbing in places

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Do you really know the person next to you?

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Matt Gets Ready or Not


Ready or Not (18)

Dir. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

'Hide and Seek? Are we really going to play that?’

Want to play a game? How about Hide & Seek where if you’re found – you die… Yes, this crazy new part horror /part dark comedy flick from the makers of Devil’s Due - a twisted and very violent romp based on the children’s game.

Meet Grace (Samara ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ Weaving), a young bride who has just married her true love, Alex Le Domas (Mark ‘Arrival’ O'Brien). He hails from an obscenely wealthy family that made its fortune by manufacturing board games. The Le Domas clan, however, seem to have made something of Faustian pact as whenever someone new joins the family, they must play a game.

'Till death us do part...'

Grace is initially up for this odd midnight game ritual, until she discovers the game is Hide & Seek, and her new relatives will be hunting her down with real weapons. What follows is her attempt to stay alive for the entire night as the try their best to murder her.

The whole caper is played for maximum fun and yet doesn’t skimp on the jumps and gore too. The cast which includes Herny Czerny as patriarch Tony Le Domas, Andie MacDowell as his wife Becky, and Adam Brody as Alex's brother Daniel all bring their ‘A’ game and seem to be having a whale of a time.

The directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett don’t hold back – Ready or Not earns it’s 18 rating with strong language, bloody deaths and grim subject matter. But it is also laugh-out-loud funny and had the feel of a potential cult classic like ‘You’re Next’.

'Hunting for a bride'

It’s perfect Friday night thrills for this time of year as we start to think about Halloween. The script packs sinister laughs, courtesy of wickedly quotable dialogue. The elder aunt of the family played by Nicky Guadagni is a caustic old crony who disses everyone – for example, she refers to her niece only as ‘brown-haired niece, you continue to exist’…

As the body count rises and the dawn ticks closer – things get seriously out of control. It might just be that their fate of all the other family members depends on their killing young Grace. So it becomes a literal fight to the death.

Ready or Not is a wild ride – a fun and irreverent hunt -em-up which will please those looking for some dark fun…

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööö1/2

(3.5 - Lots of fun minor cult classic in the making)

Awesomeness öööö – Brutal fun and 'games'

Laughs ööö – Very funny in places

Horror öööö – Gets nicely grim

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Families can be murder!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Interview with Francesco Dimitri (Author of The Book of Hidden Things)


Matt Meets the Master of Hidden Things... Francesco Dimitri

There is a deep sense of wonder in The Book of Hidden Things. It is the compelling tale of what happens when four old school friends (who have a pact to meet up every year in the small town in Puglia they grew up in) try to discover what has happened when one of them disappeared.

Art, the charismatic leader of the group and creator of the pact, insists that the agreement must remain unshakable and enduring. But this year, he never shows up.

Is he caught up in something dangerous? There are rumours about Art - drug dealing and love stories but also bizarre and unbelievable rumours that he miraculously cured the local mafia boss’s daughter of terminal leukaemia.

In the chaos of his house, the friends find a document written by Art, the titular 'Book of Hidden Things', which promises to reveal dark secrets and wonders beyond anything previously known.

What follows is an incredible mystery where Francesco Dimitri (this is his first novel written in English, following his career as one of the most significant fantasy writers in Italy), will entrance, beguile and seduce you.

This is a book that will transport you to the gorgeous landscape of Southern Italy and make you reconsider friendship, magic, love and betrayal. I was blown away by this mystery which somehow exists somewhere outside of time itself but feels incredibly real...


Interview with Francesco:

1. Hi Francesco - loved your Book of Hidden Things, how would you describe it to those who haven't had the pleasure of reading it yet?

I am never fully at ease describing my books - in a sense, I already described them, by writing them. 

I would say that, if you like to get a sense of place, a sense of mystery, and a sense of friendship, it might be for you.


2. What were your biggest influences for the novel?

They were probably musical rather than literary. If I had to single out one, it would be Vinicio Capossela, an Italian singer-songwriter who has been working a lot on Southern Italian lore.


3. The characters are very likeable - will we see any of them again in the future?

As a cameo, maybe, but no more than that. I don’t like sequels very much… I told a piece of their life. The rest of it is their business.

4. As well as books, Darkmatters is a film review site, could you give us your top five fav films?

My top five changes every day.

One of my all-time favourite is The Blues Brothers, and I love it because it shows that you can be wacky and warm at the same time...


5. We think The Book of Hidden Things would make a great TV series - what would be your Netflix pitch for it?

It’s not in my hands right now :) TV rights have been sold, so it’s a matter of crossing fingers, mostly.


6. What piece of advice would you give readers who might have experienced something they can't explain?

Don’t try to explain it. Live it. The value of some experiences is aesthetic rather than rational.


7. We're now reading your 'That Sense of Wonder' non-fiction book. If you had to pick one thing that invokes 'wonder' in you what would that be?

The sea - the Mediterranean, in particular. As a kid, I would spend hours just sitting on the beach, close to the sea, and doing nothing much, just being there, like with an old friend. 
As a grown-up nothing has changed.


8. Finally what one thing would you want people to say about you in years to come?

That I didn’t completely waste their time x.



“Matt Adcock skilfully weaves together theological questions and SF,
in the best tradition of the genre” 

 Francesco Dimitri, author The Book of Hidden Things

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Matt visits Downton Abbey


Downton Abbey (PG)

Dir. Michael Engler

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

'Do you have enough clichés to get you through the visit?'

Much loved aristo-life ‘upstairs / downstairs’ TV show makes the jump to become a rather lovely upper-middle-class-em-up cinematic event. Downton Abbey the TV series has a huge following of over 10 million so it’s not really a surprise that director Michael Engler brings it to the big screen for the ready-made audience to enjoy.

The plot sees King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) paying Downtown a royal visit and setting many cats among the pigeons of the serving staff by announcing that they will bring their own staff to cook, clean and serve them.

"nobody smiles - nobody gets hurt"

Screenwriter Julian Fellowes, who has Downton Abbey form, does a great job of bringing subplots that include drama, tension and comedy together to make some jolly good viewing.

All of the cast get moments to shine including the royals - Princess Mary (Kate Phillips) comes to Downton but is having problems with controlling husband, Henry Lascelles (Andrew Havill) meanwhile good egg Bertie Pelham (Harry Hadden-Paton) however is still being lovely to Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael) but is torn when asked to do a royal duty.

There is even room for some mild action for Tom Branson (Allen Leech), the Irish ex-chauffeur, and widowed son-in-law of Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville), the Earl of Grantham. Things get tense when a dodgy Captain Chetwode (Campbell Moore) seems to want to check that his Irish loyalties won’t jeopardise the forthcoming King's parade.

"strike a posh pose"

Branson also gets some love interest in the form of lady’s maid Lucy (Tuppence Middleton) who serves Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton). Then, of course, there is the indomitable Dowager Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) who has a bone to pick with Bagshaw – and who still gets most of the best lines.

Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery), contrives to bring Carson (Jim Carter) back which puts the nose of new butler, Thomas (Rob James-Collier) out of joint. And with mischief afoot as the Downton under stairs crew clash with their royal counterparts who are led by nasty butler (David Haig), the scene is set for comforting, feel-good fun.

"royal visit"

There are some stunning drone shots of the titular stately home at all times of day which is almost a character in its own right. By the time the familiar music fires up, you’ll have witnessed possibly the best ever episode of Downton Abbey – and for fans that is good news indeed!

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öööö

(4 - Jolly good times all round)

Awesomeness öööö – If you liked the TV show - you'll love the film!

Laughs ööö – Posh fun

Horror ö – Not grim

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Servants have lives too


Friday, September 20, 2019

IT - Chapters 1 & 2



IT - Chapters 1 & 2 (15)

Dir. Andy Muschietti

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)


IT Chapter 1

“When you're a kid, you think that you'll always be... protected, and cared for. 
Then, one day, you realize that's not true…”

Stephen King has a lot to answer for – not least being the source material for a host of cinematic turkeys… But occasionally his manically horrific imagination brings some quality chills to the big screen such as The Shining and now we have another good one with IT.

Based on the chunky ‘80s coming-of-age novel that was previously filmed a mini-series (which itself inspired hit TV show Stranger Things) – the new IT is a classy horrific thrill ride that really delivers.

"wanna play?"

The writers have skillfully abridged the material – losing a lot of the overly gonzo stuff like cosmic turtles and keeping the core nasty narrative of an evil child-killing demonic entity that stalks the small U.S. town of Derry, Maine.

Stars of this tale are a likeable bunch of school kids known as ‘The Losers Club’ made up of: Leader ‘Bill’ (Jaeden Lieberher) whose younger brother is killed by the monstrous evil, then there is new kid in town ‘Ben’ (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and ‘Bev’ (Sophia Lillis) – the only female of the group. Also in the club are the sweary ‘Ritchie’ (Finn Wolfhard), Jewish ‘Stan’ (Wyatt Oleff), delivery boy ‘Mike’ (Chosen Jacobs) and hypochondriac ‘Eddie’ (Jack Dylan Grazer).

The youngsters are up against Bill Skarsgård’s cackling, demonic personification of evil as the clown monster called Pennywise - all sinister yellow eyes and beguiling red balloons. Pennywise can appear in a many of guises – using the children’s worst fears – and in the process single-handedly (re)kick-starting mass terror of clowns.

"Every Loser wins..."

IT certainly provides some good scares and gets pretty nasty in places – so this isn’t a film for the faint of heart. Skarsgård’s Pennywise is an iconic baddie, packing much more of a freaky punch than Tim Curry’s ‘90s version.

One interesting point is that none of the adults in the film are anything other than abusive, neglectful or distant. The kids are the only heroes but as well as the monster they also suffer at the hand of psychotic teenage bullies. It’s no fun being a child in this tale.

There is more the story of IT and a part 2 is in production that tells the tale of the losers when they are adults – just how they turn out after the horror they go through here will be fascinating…

If you want to a full-on horror with some fun moments and a decent pay off – this is IT!

"the fear is in the eyes"

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öööö

(4 - Floats of fun and effective spookiness)

Awesomeness öööö – Many nice scenes and one killer clown

Laughs öö – Fun in places

Horror öööö – Satisfyingly nasty horror throughout

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Friends can help each other beat demons?

"guess who's back"

IT Chapter 2

We all bloat down here…

IT’s back - twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back.

Kicking off by checking in on each of the ‘Losers’ – so we find Bill (James McAvoy) an author still eaten up by guilt about the death of his brother Georgie. Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is suffering at the hands of an abusive husband and Eddie (James Ransone) is still nervous about everything.

Ben (Jay Ryan) is no longer the chubby newcomer – he’s transformed into a regular sexy dude. Richie (Bill Hader) is a stand-up comedian who doesn’t let people know his sexuality. Stan, (Andy Bean) is terrified of returning to Derry and then there’s Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only one who stayed in Derry and is the one who calls them all back.

"all grown up"

The plot tips a nod about Bill not being able to end a film adaptation of his work well – and people criticising the endings of his books – which is due to lots of people not liking King’s ending of IT in the book / miniseries. Then goes on to deliver a long, drawn out plodding 3 hours that contains a few effective scenes but way too many tacky jump scares and some really rubbish CGI.

Pennywise the Clown (another committed turn from Bill Skarsgård) is scary when in his diabolical many toothed clown forms but much less so when turned into a comic looking stretched CGI hobo. The ‘scary’ scenes also don’t build up but rather each all feel self-contained, so the overall tension is lost time and again.

The cast do a good job but the movie is undone by its bloated running time, indulgent pacing and general lack of real jeopardy. The film is exceptionally long for a horror and really feels it, whilst Stephen King fans might lap up the attention to detail, the audience I saw this with were getting restless.

"is it a bird, is it a plane? no it's a clown"

There is some great, iconic even, imagery and the chemistry between the adult iterations of the Losers Club works well. Pennywise is a superb creation so it makes it such a shame that by two thirds in I was so bored. Director Muschietti does what he can – it’s not all bad – it just feels a shame that it is much less effective than Chapter One.

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öö1/2

(2.5 - Bloated and messy clowning spookiness)

Awesomeness ööö – Occasionally shines

Laughs öö – Dark mirth

Horror öööö – The horror is there but weakened by lack of quality control

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Huge shoes to fill...

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