See A Scary Movie This Weekend

By Chris Narloch

Two hair-raising new movies are currently in theaters, and they are giving audiences the creeps in totally different ways.

“IT” is an old-fashioned roller-coaster ride of scares, while “Mother!” attempts to shock viewers in a more cerebral way.

Pennywise, the killer clown, has returned to haunt your nightmares, and this time, he has a big budget and better special effects.

I recently saw the original 1990 TV miniseries version of Stephen King’s “IT” for the first time and was disappointed by its weak script and direction.

Starring a cast filled with ‘70s and ‘80s TV actors, including Richard Thomas, John Ritter and Tim Reid, the original “IT” also stars the great Tim Curry as Pennywise and features terrific performances by half a dozen very talented child actors.

The producers chose to cast mostly unknowns this time out, with mixed results. Bill Skarsgard is chilling as Pennywise, especially in his first scene, but the young performers cast as the kids who bond to battle the killer clown are a mixed bag.

Sophia Lillis and Jeremy Ray Taylor are excellent as, respectively, the lone girl in the group and the chubby boy who likes her; however, several of the other teens in the new film overact.

Still, director Andy Muschietti, who helmed the underrated horror flick “Mama” a few years back, does sustain a consistently creepy mood throughout the movie.

Also on the plus side, 2017’s “IT” jettisons the flashback structure of the first film in favor of a straightforward narrative that focuses exclusively on the kids. (Their adult counterparts from the book and TV movie will get their own big screen sequel.)

The 1986 novel “IT” was essentially a horrifying twist on King’s own short story “The Body,” which went on to become the popular film, “Stand By Me.”

Both stories focus on a group of kids bonding through adversity, and the best scenes in both “Stand By Me” and “IT” are the ones that explore the camaraderie and coming of age experienced by the young heroes (and heroine in “IT”) at the story’s center.

Those dramatic scenes should make the film palatable to people who ordinarily don’t care for horror films, but there are also enough jump scares and creepy makeup and other special effects to keep most scary movie fans very happy.

In other words, I smell a big hit with the new “IT.”

If you want to be really traumatized, you can see “IT: The IMAX Experience” at Sacramento’s Esquire IMAX Theatre, through at least September 21. Visit

Another frightening movie now in theaters just opened to extremely mixed reviews, and I am in the camp that thinks the film is scary in the unfortunate sense of the word – like so bad it’s scary.

“Mother!” is the sort of movie that some folks find profound because it aims to be deep, and it’s wildly ambitious. Unfortunately, not following a commercial formula doesn’t automatically make a movie good.

On the plus side, you can argue endlessly about the film with whomever accompanies you to the theater because director Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”) has Big Themes in mind.

Is “Mother!” an allegory about Adam and Eve and the destruction of Paradise? Is it a mash-up of “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Repulsion”? Or is it an overwrought, pretentious mind-fuck about how we kill the one we love?

I would offer that it’s all those things plus a bag of chips. The problem though is that when actors are forced to play symbols, the result is invariably boring to watch.

So while the direction, cinematography, and CGI in “Mother!” are all first-rate, the lead performances by Javier Bardem and, especially, Jennifer Lawrence are uncharacteristically blank.

Only Michelle Pfeiffer escapes unscathed, giving a wonderfully wicked and witty performance as one of the unwelcome houseguests who intrude on a married couple’s idyllic country house.

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