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IT

Stephen King seems to be having a busy year. The famous horror author has seen two big-screen adaptations of his work as well as a TV series come to fruition. Not bad for a writer who has been horrifying readers for decades. Based on his book ‘IT’ and a remake of the 1990 TV mini-series, his latest film is sure to spook viewers. Those with clown-phobias are advised to stay away as it won’t cure them anytime soon. ‘IT’ is a suitably spooky ride into the dark unknown with the circus’ ultimate court jester looking deadlier than ever.

Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) and Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) are members of the ‘Losers Club’. A gang of misfits and outcasts, they do their own peculiar thing whilst trying to keep out of trouble. Mischief isn’t far behind as they find themselves battling an evil entity. Taking the form of a clown called Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), the vile being preys upon their fears and gleefully kills children for survival. Using what they can to defeat the creature, Bill and the gang are forced to confront a sinister clown whose motives are less than jolly.

‘IT’ works on many levels whilst taking its cues from several horror movies. Set in the 1980’s, it mirrors the ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ films, ‘Stand by Me’ and other coming of age movies of the era. It also has the typical Stephen King motif of an enclosed small town terrorized by mysterious forces. ‘IT’ succeeds despite the weight of many characters and emotional themes. This fine performances and Andy Muschietti’s atmospheric direction refuse to pull any horrific punches.

As a horror movie, ‘IT’ certainly delivers on scares. Skarsgard has a grand time playing the personification of pure evil but still remembering to have the quiet menace the role needs. Lieberher and his co-stars deliver solid performances with their characters’ journeys shown without any forced plot devices. Whilst the film occasionally meanders, the screenplay moves along briskly with the frights coming thick and fast. Wisely, ‘IT’ relies less on CGI and more on mood which is its key in anchoring the strange carry-on with a form of reality.

After many terrible cinematic adaptations, Stephen King should be feeling happy this year. ‘IT’ captures the mood of his novels and doesn’t skimp on classic King elements. It proves his work has a timeless quality that will ensure King’s spooky demeanour will haunt the silver screen for years to come.

Rating out of 10: 8

The Mummy

Since Boris Karloff spooked audiences in Universal Studio’s ‘The Mummy’ in 1932, the series has seen many iterations. Hammer studios in England and others have utilised the vengeful Egyptian monster to their ghoulish advantage. The character has been a reliable money-spinner so it’s no surprise the umpteenth version has materialised with ‘The Mummy’. The start of another franchise from Universal who initially made it such a popular hit, they no doubt hope it will avoid a box office curse and have audiences screaming for more sequels.

When Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) stumbles on an old burial site, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot. A soldier of fortune endlessly looking for ancient artefacts to sell to the highest bidder, Nick is startled by what he finds. Discovering a cavern filled with Egyptian treasures, he comes across the tomb holding the body of evil Egyptian princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). When moving her coffin, he accidentally frees her from her confines. She regains her supernatural powers and begins to wreak havoc on London with only Nick’s ingenuity standing in her destructive ways.

The start of the ‘Dark Universe’ monster franchise, ‘The Mummy’ feels more like a product than film. It goes through the whole ‘setting up a movie for more sequels’ route than telling its own story. The unfocussed screenplay constantly stops to provide exposition for future movies via the character of Doctor Jekyll (Russell Crowe). This distracts from the main narrative with genuine tension and scares in short supply. Alex Kurtzman shows little flair in crafting something interesting even if the action scenes are effective.

‘The Mummy’ thrives due to its cast. Tom Cruise makes for an interesting semi-hero, whose motives aren’t always clear. His descent into darkness with what he’s unleashed creates an intriguing plot strand to follow. Boutella is also strong as the wicked princess, conveying the right amount of menace the role needs. The CGI is suitably dazzling but the script lets things down. It’s a very bland by-the-numbers effort with little originality or fearsome atmosphere.

‘The Mummy’ isn’t great with the performances more solid than a story going into too many directions. Had it concentrated more on the title character than setting up a cinematic spooky universe it might have worked. What we’re left are moments of what could have been with the Pharaoh’s curse seemingly causing havoc on the formulaic tale.

Rating out of 10: 5