Home is where the horror is in a second take on the Stephen King’s creepy clown killer, It, and Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky’s latest head-trip Mother!
99 dead balloons go by
Directed by Andy Muschietti – responsible for 2013’s underwhelming spookfest Mama starring Jessica Chastain and Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – It blows its most horrific moment in the prologue.
Bill Skarsgård is undoubtedly disturbing as Pennywise the dancing clown, a shape-shifting menace lurking in the sewers below Derry, Maine. Taking the form of whatever terrifies the local children most, he picks them off one-by-one in a feeding frenzy every 27 years before going dormant.
Brutally slaughtering a little boy (Jackson Robert Scott) who loses more than just his paper boat down a storm drain, it’s left to big brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) to figure out what happened and prevent any further disappearances, aided by his ragtag mates, the Loser Gang.
Disappointingly, It never gets any scarier, mostly playing out as an admittedly cute teen adventure movie.
Weighing in at over 1000 pages, King’s beast of a book is lopped roughly in half, leaving out the novel’s dual narrative revisiting an amnesiac Loser Gang 27 years later. Even the two-part ’90’s TV adaptation starring Tim Curry skipped quite a bit.
The young cast is excellent, but focusing solely on them lessens the haunted weight of the novel. Their backstories feel a little rushed, suggesting It would have been better served as a Stranger Things-style mini-series – something it’s clearly trying to emulate by shifting the action from the book’s ’50s setting to the ’80s.
Pop-culture references abound, a little too on-the-nose when the Loser Gang’s only girl member Beverly (a brilliant Sophia Lillis) is compared to teen movie queen Molly Ringwald.
Fantastic fun, but far from frightening, when it comes to ’80s movies comparisons, It is more The Goonies than Ghoulies.
Watch the trailer for It
Mother! earns that exclamation mark and then some as Requiem for a Dream writer/director Darren Aronofsky’s already Black Swan-level twisted melodrama goes so far over the top in the final act, it literally brings the house down.
Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as an unnamed couple living in a beautifully remote home, all is not well beneath the Vogue Living exterior.
A poet with a monstrous ego and a bad case of writers’ block, a la King’s The Shining, he remains studiously oblivious to the needs of his young wife. He showers more love on a strange gem found in the ruins of their fire-damaged home while she lovingly renovates it single-handedly.
Bursting unannounced into this already fraught life is Westworld’s Ed Harris as an orthopaedic surgeon and personal space invader who claims he thought their home was a B&B.
Bizarrely, Bardem welcomes him with open arms, much to Lawrence’s annoyance. Then the glorious Michelle Pfeiffer shows up as Ed’s mean-spirited drunk of a wife with more catty comments than her PVC-clad Batman Returns character.
Employing blunt-force trauma, including queasy handheld camera close-ups and over-the-shoulder shots of Lawrence, Mother!’s complete lack of subtlety is gloriously wicked up to a point, opening on a Carrie-like fire-and-brimstone inferno.
The Rosemary’s Baby vibe, along with the movie title and Pfeiffer’s indelicate intrusions, suggests a demon child approaches.
It all goes horribly wrong in the ridiculous finale as the crazies keep on coming. Lawrence gets increasingly gaslighted, but Aronofsky takes that soap opera stew far too far, lurching from a laugh-out-loud budget-busting mess of heaving bodies, to a truly sick moment of grotesque violence.
Pfeiffer also disappears – a cinematic crime, surely? It all feels rather empty, silly and gross in the end.
It is in cinemas nationally now, with Mother! out on Thursday September 14.