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Tag: Stephen King

Editorials

The Greatest Horror Villain of Each Decade

March 18, 2020
horror-movie-villains-collage [Source: shnakebite91 Wordpress]

Horror cinema has many iconic villains and today we’ll be counting down 10 of the greatest merchants of menace. I will choose a single villain from each decade, look at a bit of the villain’s background and how they managed to traumatize audiences who watched their films. So, let’s get spooky.

1920s: Count Orlok – Nosferatu (1922)

Originally made as a Dracula stand-in, Count Orlok has become a great villain in his own right. With actor Max Schreck’s towering frame, creeping shadow, sharp teeth, and keen unblinking eyes Orlok has become an instantly recognizable cinematic predator that has lasted almost a century. Not even Stoker’s estate could prevent him from becoming a cinematic nightmare.

Count Orlok one of Cinema's greatest early horror villains from Nosferatu (1922) [Source: PopHorror]
Count Orlok one of Cinema’s greatest early horror villains from Nosferatu (1922) [Source: PopHorror]

1930s: Frankenstein’s Monster – Frankenstein (1931)

The archetypal mad scientist creation. The monster isn’t necessarily evil but because of continual abuse and a lack of moral guidance, he begins violently lashing out at the world. Frankenstein’s Monster has a legendary look courtesy of makeup artist Jack Pierce. And thanks to Boris Karloff’s animalistic performance, which makes the character threatening and sympathetic, Frankenstein’s Monster has been cemented as one of horror’s most tragic monsters.

Frankenstein's Monster prowling through the woods in Frankenstein (1931) [Source: Movie Monster Wiki - Fandom]
Frankenstein’s Monster prowling through the woods in Frankenstein (1931) [Source: Movie Monster Wiki – Fandom]

1940s: The Wolf Man – The Wolf Man (1941)

Like Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man garners great sympathy because of host Larry Talbot’s (Lon Chaney Jr’s) inability to control the monster within him. But unlike Frankenstein the Wolf Man is vicious. Murdering innocent people and leaving Larry to deal with the consequences. With Jack Pierce’s brilliant makeup making the monster the midpoint between man and beast, the Wolf Man is an iconic example of the darkness in all men.

One of cinema's most iconic werewolves. The Wolf Man (1941) [Source: Fiction Machine]
One of cinema’s most iconic werewolves. The Wolf Man (1941) [Source: Fiction Machine]

1950s: Godzilla – Godzilla Series

Cinema’s biggest monster. Starring in 35 films since 1954 Godzilla is a Japanese icon. He’s a prehistoric monster awakened by hydrogen bomb testing and was created as a symbol for the destructive powers of the atomic age, though lately, he has become a metaphor for nature striking back at humanity. He’s the embodiment of destruction and for 66 years he’s shown that for all our advances annihilation is never far away.

Godzilla, the King of the Monsters. Gojira (1954)
Godzilla, the King of the Monsters. Gojira (1954) [Source: USA Today]

1960s: Norman Bates – Psycho (1960)

The grandfather of all slasher villains. While seemingly normal, Norman hides another personality that forces him to kill anyone who threatens the illusion that his mother is still alive. Thanks to Anthony Perkins’ understated performance and Alfred Hitchcock’s direction Norman Bates (based on murderer Ed Gein) terrified audiences by showing that even the quiet good-looking boy next door could turn out to be a murderer.

Norman Bates and his mother in Psycho (1960)
Norman Bates and his mother in Psycho (1960) [Source: Bloody Disgusting]

1970s: The Caller – Black Christmas (1974)

Black Christmas‘ sorority house killer remains perhaps horror’s most terrifying villain. Because nothing about him is explained. His victims are random. The only insights we get into him are his disjointed, threatening ramblings. And his appearance, voice; name remain a mystery. Inspired by the urban legend of “the babysitter and the man upstairsthe Caller embodies the fear that you’re never safe. Even in your own home.

The mysterious killer from Black Christmas (1974)
The mysterious killer from Black Christmas (1974) [Source: The Dead Meat Wiki Fandom]

1980s: Freddy Krueger – The Nightmare on Elm Street Series

The burnt, razor glove wielding, Christmas sweater and fedora sporting dream killer has been scaring viewers since his 1984 debut. Inspired by stories about young people suddenly dying in their sleep and brought to life in skin-crawling fashion by Robert Englund, Krueger takes sadistic pleasure in twisting his victim’s dreams into nightmares. And the sheer glee he takes in his cruelty is what makes him cinema’s most iconic bogeyman.

The Springwood Slasher from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The Springwood Slasher from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) [Source: NME.com]

1990s: Candyman – Candyman Series

Originally, Daniel Robitaille, Candyman became a vengeful spirit after he was killed over a 19th-century interracial love affair. His hand was mutilated, his body smothered in honey and he was stung to death by bees. Now he kills anyone who dares say his name five times in a mirror. With his imposing figure, hooked hand and Tony Todd’s intimidating voice, Candyman is a true terror titan.

The urban legend Candyman (1992)
The urban legend Candyman (1992) [Source: The Clive Barker Podcast]

2000s: Jigsaw – Saw Series

Jigsaw is the horror villain of the 2000s. Embodying post 9/11 anxieties about the morality of torture Jigsaw, aka John Cramer managed to carve out a gruesome legacy for himself. His use of ironic traps to reform/eradicate those who he believes don’t appreciate life, Tobin Bell’s commanding voice and his animatronic mascot made him the face of torture horror. And his legacy has continued through multiple accomplices and successors.

Jigsaw and his iconic billy puppet mask
Jigsaw and his iconic billy puppet mask [Source: Screen Rant]

2010s: It/Pennywise – It (2017)

Stephen King’s iconic horror creation made a huge impact with Its 2017 reimagining. The creature that haunts Derry, Maine can change into many forms that will give anyone nightmares. His most recognizable form is Pennywise The Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard) whose smile hides a desire to devour children. It exploits our fear of the unknown and attacks the sanctity of childhood innocence all at once. Making It the perfect modern horror villain.

Pennywise tormenting children in It (2017)
Pennywise tormenting children in It (2017) [Source: Entertainment Weekly]

So ends my list of horrors 10 best villains. Which horror villains did I miss? Let me know in the comments.

Also Read: 7 Reasons Characters Die In Horror Films

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Reviews

Review: IT: Chapter Two

September 11, 2019
IT Chapter 2

Some collect them, some don’t want to be near them. Some love them and some are trying to stay away from them as far away as possible. But what is “them”? Clowns, of course. Depending on which category you find yourself in, you’ll either love the news we’re about to give you or you will run away instantly: Pennywise is back! After success with “IT” in 2017, director Andy Muschietti (“Mama”, “IT”) thought that there was still a lot of Pennywise’s spirit left in the Stephen King novel. The result? IT: Chapter Two, a dark, spooky and visually stunning film, lead by the impeccable Bill Skarsgård.

Welcome home, losers

Are you a newbie when it comes to “IT” and the horrifying Pennywise? Well, allow us to bring you up-to-speed. Meet the group of ‘losers’, a group of bullied children who became close friends through their youth. After being confronted with the death of young children, the losers tried to find the man who’s behind all the gruesome events. Little did they know that this “man” was Pennywise, a frightening clown. The friends decided to take control and to get rid of it once and for all. Convinced that they succeeded in that, their worst nightmare is now becoming reality: Pennywise is still alive and ready to spread fear and destruction again. “IT: Chapter Two” was born!

A class reunion should be fun and relaxing but it’s everything but for the grown-up losers. Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain), Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy), Richie Tozier (Bill Hader), Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan) and Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone) get together after a disturbing call from friend and fellow loser Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) to finish what they start 27 years ago: Kill Pennywise who’s causing dead and carnage in their town Derry. To succeed in that, the losers need to stick together again but when confronted with loss, terror and horrendous memories from the past, this might not be as easy as they thought. Will gruesome events, angst, and panic take over their lives too much or will Pennywise be defeated for good?

Give the casting director an Academy Award!

Normally we would keep the ‘acting performances’ bit for further in a review but due to Bill Skarsgård (“Atomic Blonde”, “Deadpool 2”) marvellous performance as Pennywise, we’re forced to start with it this time. We don’t only see him being astonishing underneath all the makeup but we also see a few fascinating glimpses of him as a person. Doesn’t matter if it’s as Pennywise or just as a mad man, Skarsgård stays into character the whole time. If there would be a category for Best Casting Director in the Academy Award, then casting director Rich Delia wouldn’t only be nominated but he would also be crowned as the winner. He wasn’t only able to choose the right actors for their performances but also for the impeccable resemblance with their younger-selves. Especially Hader (“Barry”, “Saturday Night Live”) and Finn Wolfhard (“The Goldfinch”, “Dog Days”) who are both funny, witty but also serious and clever as Richie. Just like him, every ‘loser’ puts on an entertaining, exciting and on-point performance. Even Stephen King makes a wonderful cameo as the shopkeeper who’s selling Bill’s old bicycle. We also want to congratulate the editing team for making such perfectly timed scenes in which the young losers and the adult ones are being crossed-over in an excellent way.

A chapter divided into two

While watching a horror film, you expect scare jumps, thrilling and dark scenes and mysterious moments. Luckily, there are many occasions like that present in IT: Chapter Two. Although you have to wait quite a while to see those. The very first scene is certainly one that fits in this type of film: bloody, violent and Pennywise. For a long time after that, the movie is more a thriller (which is not a bad thing) than horror. Still, the intimidating and electrifying scenes will keep you on your toes until the real horror sets in. The first part of the film feels like a coherent one while sadly the second part feels more like six shorts films in one movie that lead to an apocalypse.

Just like the balloon of Pennywise, the red colour is very present during this film. Whether it’s as blood, as a representation of the approaching enemy or as the typical eyes of the feared clown, it’s visible in most of the scenes. Combine this with a darker and shady intensity and you get the perfect vibe for a horror film. IT: Chapter Two isn’t only gloom and doom but there are also some colourful and exciting scenes… in which evil is lurking around the corner. One negative element of this movie is the quality of the GCI. More towards the end the quality decreased a lot which gives just a very sloppy, rushed and unfinished vibe to the film. Fortunate for us is the score what it needs to be: bombastic, creepy and over-the-top sometimes.

Almost perfect

IT: Chapter Two is not perfect due to the clumsy special effects, the hasty ending and the almost three hours running time. It’s a phenomenal thing then that the astonishing casting, the strong acting performances (with the one from Bill Skarsgård as the front-runner), the skillfully made cinematography and the grandiose music make up for that.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

IT: Chapter 2 – Official Trailer (Warner Bros)

Also Read: IT – A Recap

Editorials

Top 5 Stephen King Movies Adaptations

April 28, 2019

Stephen King – a name synonymous with frightening fiction. Though primarily known for writing horror, he’s had an incredible impact on popular culture since he released his first novel in 1974. He is a regular fixture of the New York Times Best Seller list and has influenced generations of creatives in many different mediums. And one medium that certainly has a fascination with King is film.

Stephen King movie adaptations are currently experiencing a resurgence. With IT parts 1 and 2, Pet Sematary (2019), The Dark Tower, Geralds Game and 1922 proving that King’s name can still attract new talent and audiences. But this is no new thing. Film adaptations of King’s work have been a fixture of release schedules ever since the late 1970s.

So today I am going to look at what I consider to be the five best film adaptations of King’s work. But because there’s over four decades worth of material to choose from, to make things more interesting I will be picking only one film per decade. So let’s see which Stephen King adaptations manage to float above the rest.

1970s – Carrie (1976)

Although there aren’t many 70s Stephen King movies to choose from, Brian De Palma’s adaptation of King’s first novel is still a true classic. And deserves mention on any best adaptations list.

Carrie tells the tragic story of Carrie White (Sissy Spacek). A shy, introverted girl who is bullied at school and lives under the control of her religiously fanatic mother (Piper Laurie). One day, however, Carrie learns that she has telekinetic abilities. As she begins to discover more about herself her sympathetic classmate (Amy Irving) gets her a date for the school prom. But some of the girls want revenge on her for putting them in detention. Leading to a prom that no one will ever forget.

Carrie is iconic. The prom scene is permanently etched into our culture. But many often forget how good the rest of the movie is. All the performances are incredible. Sissy Spacek is, of course, the standout. She is incredibly sympathetic and easy to relate to as Carrie. But there are so many subtleties to the rest of the performances that make everyone feel real and not like caricatures, which many lesser quality King works often fail to do. Then there’s De Palma’s direction that wrings incredible suspense from every situation and makes everything flow so naturally. Topped off with beautiful visuals and a mesmeric score, you have a movie that set the bar high for all king adaptations to come.

Carrie surrounded by fire in Carrie (1976)

1980s – The Shining (1980)

The 80s is where selecting a single film becomes difficult. Many 80s King adaptations including Stand By Me, Christine and Pet Sematary are remembered fondly. So some may disagree with this selection. Especially given King’s open dislike of this particular adaptation. But for the best 80s Stephen King movie, the honour has to go to The Shining.

The Torrance family are looking after the Overlook hotel for the winter. They have all the food they can eat, space for young Danny (Danny Lloyd) to play and a lot of time for Jack (Jack Nicholson) to work on writing his novel. But as isolation sets in ghostly apparitions start appearing, affecting Jack’s sanity. Eventually, Jack breaks down and decides to “correct” his family, chasing them through the hotel with an axe. With the winter snows closing the place off, can Danny and his mother Wendy (Shelley Duvall) escape?

Like Carrie, I can say nothing about the Shining that hasn’t already been said. King purists will protest its deviations from the source material but for me, it does what good adaptations are supposed to do. Take what works about the source material and add a new distinct voice to it. And you can’t get more distinct than Stanley Kubrick. The film is a marvel of atmosphere. The lingering camera, some of the most disturbing images ever captured on film, the unnerving score, the cold lonely location and performances that feel just a little too real. It all goes together to create a haunting portrait of madness and generational guilt that lingers in your mind long after the credits have rolled.

Jack Nicholoson’s iconic turn as Jack Torrance in The Shining (1980)

1990s – The Shawshank Redemption

Again the 90s had several films that could have filled this spot. Including Green Mile, Misery or the IT mini-series. But I would be lying if I didn’t put The Shawshank Redemption in this spot on the list.

Red (Morgan Freeman) is a prisoner at Shawshank penitentiary. He’s spent a long time inside. But despite his placid nature, he’s never made parole. He seems to be ready to just run out the clock in Shawshank. But when he meets Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), he begins to rediscover what it means to feel human again. Only Andy doesn’t intend to stay inside. With the corrupt system poised against them will the two men ever be able to find a way to escape the harsh reality of Shawshank?

The Shawshank Redemption is not only a testament to King’s adeptness at writing in genres other than horror, but it’s also one of the most beloved movies of all time. It has held the number 1 position on IMDb’s top 250 films since 2008 and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a film that takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster ride. The story of escaping the prisons we make for ourselves is one that we can all relate to. All the actors are also fantastic. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman give career-best performances and manage to make you empathize with criminals of dubious moral fibre, Which is no small task. And when combined with Frank Darabont’s confident direction and incredible character interplay, the result is a genuine classic, that will enchant many generations to come.  

Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins giving the best performances of their careers in The Shawshank Redemption

2000s – The Mist

This is both Frank Darabont’s second appearance on this list and yet another no brainer for the time period. After Darabont’s success adapting Green Mile and Shawshank he proved himself yet again as possibly the best director to put King on the screen with The Mist.

The Mist concerns a family in a small Maine town. One day the town is engulfed by thic fog. Which wouldn’t normally be a problem but inside the fog are otherworldly creatures intent on killing all in their path. The family hold up in a supermarket with most of the town and what follows is a two-hour meditation on the nature of humanity in crisis.

The main reason why the Mist is so effective is because it keeps it simple. For most of the movie, we are trapped inside the supermarket with our main characters. And as the film progresses we slowly learn more about them and the situation. This intrigue coupled with the tension brought by the agendas of the other captives and the monsters outside helps keep the audience on the edge of their seat as the movie heads towards an ending that will play on your mind for a long time.

Poster for The Mist

2010s – IT (2017)

As the 2000’s went on King film adaptations began to decrease. His stories became more the domain of TV shows. But in 2017 King came back in a big way with two Netflix original movies (Geralds Game & 1922) and two theatrical releases (IT & The Dark Tower). And of those releases, IT was definitely the most significant.

It concerns a group of friends called the losers club. Over the course of one summer, we follow Bill, Eddie, Richie, Ben, Stan, Mike and Bev as they form lasting friendships with one another and battle the dark forces that hide in their home town of Derry. All of which are linked to a child-snatching spectre. Which mostly manifests in the form of Pennywise the dancing clown (Bill Skarsgard).

IT accomplished a lot. Not only did it prove that a remake can in many ways improve on its predecessor. But it also proved to be a very fun movie in its own right. With fantastic performances from the child cast, inventive ideas and cinematography and an incredibly creepy turn from Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise who managed to equal the iconic nature of Tim Curry’s performance from the 1990 mini-series. IT also managed to tap into the nostalgic magic that made properties like Stranger Things popular. And acted as both an affectionate tribute to and critique of people’s nostalgic memories for the 1980s; because of IT we can look forward to many more adaptations of King’s work on the big screen.

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise in IT (2017)

Conclusion

So ends our list of the top 5 Stephen King movie adaptations. As I said many times throughout this list, it was incredibly hard to narrow down my choices when there are so many good movies based on Stephen King’s books. So please let me know your opinions.

Do you agree with my choices? What are some of your favorite King films that I missed? Sometimes, other opinions are better.