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THE PHILM COLUMN: A Fall Feast of Horror

September 29, 2017

Perhaps more than any other season, autumn has its distinct identifiers.

The leaves changes color and fall from the trees. The racks of clothing stores begin filling up with pants, sweatshirts and light jackets. Pumpkin spice products are launched at a rate that would suggest they’re somehow illegal the rest of the year.

And movies jolt into the direction of horror.

This fall, just about every week features a new scary movie release. From blockbuster to art house, and from good to bad, here’s what you can expect in the creepy category September and October.

“IT” – Sept. 8

Alright, I already told you about this one in the last edition of Scene, so I’m not going to spend too much time here. But this is the lead-off to this year’s horror bonanza, and it is up there with the most highly-anticipated scary flicks in recent memory.

“IT” is based off the worldwide-famous Stephen King novel of the same name, featuring a menacing and disturbing clown – Pennywise – terrorizing small children in a small town. Here’s an interesting tidbit for you: Cary Joji Fukunaga, who helped create True Detective, is one of the screenwriter for this latest adaptation.

SYNOPSIS:  New Line Cinema’s horror thriller “IT,” directed by Andy Muschietti (“Mama”), is based on the hugely popular Stephen King novel of the same name, which has been terrifying readers for decades. When children begin to disappear in the town of Derry, Maine, a group of young kids are faced with their biggest fears when they square off against an evil clown named Pennywise, whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries.

MY ‘DO I WANT TO SEE IT?’ SCALE: 7 out of 10

“mother!” – Sept. 15

This one has so much talent involved, it would be a profound disappointment to see a bad product come out of it. Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream) leads the way from the director’s chair, while Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris and Domhnall Gleeson head the cast.

This won’t be your standard horror show. It’s going to be artsy, possibly confusing and maybe even not scary. But it’s advertised as a thriller – Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” seems the most likely stylistic comparison.

Early reviews were already flowing in by the time this article was written, and it was all positive to start.  Todd McCarthy at Hollywood Reporter compared the film to Rosemary’s Baby, a classic from 1968, while Owen Gleiberman at Variety said to go and “enjoy its roller-coaster-of-weird exhibitionism.

SYNOPSIS: A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence. From filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, “mother!” stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer in a riveting psychological thriller about love, devotion and sacrifice.

MY ‘DO I WANT TO SEE IT?’ SCALE: 9 out of 10

 “Friend Request” – Sept. 22

If you enjoy horror films that follow the formula, that aren’t desperate to bring something new to the table, “Friend Request” might be your best bet this autumn.

By all counts, this appears to be a standard, sort-of-silly, just-for-screams affair. A college-aged woman is drawn into the life of another, via social media, but her interest grows to obsession, and suddenly her real life friends are being killed off.

It has a sort of Final Destination vibe, in which supporting characters are treated as if there only purpose in life was to die, while the main character frantically searches for a solution before she dies. Early reviews were mixed – more negative – but several said the movie produced plenty good jump scares.

SYNOPSIS: Laura, a popular college girl, is very active on social media and shares almost everything in her life with her 800+ friends on Facebook. However after accepting a friend request from an unknown girl named Marina, Laura becomes obsessed with Marina’s profile, and soon her friends begin to die violently one by one.

MY ‘DO I WANT TO SEE IT?’ SCALE: 3 out of 10

“Flatliners” – Sept. 29

I’m conflicted on “Flatliners.” On one hand, I don’t really understand the need to remake a 1990 film that wasn’t really that good or even popular in the first place.

On the other hand, this movie stars Ellen Page and Diego Luna, among others, and I like both those two a lot. Kiefer Sutherland, who played one of the college students in the original film, is also back as an adult character, presumably to warn the new group of the perils of their actions.

The film, which features a group of college kids, toying with their own life by stopping their hearts for short periods of time, is meant to be a fast-paced, high-energy thriller. If the team behind this latest edition can bring that desired atmosphere, it will most definitely be a good time. It could also be a complete waste of time and money.

SYNOPSIS: In Flatliners, five medical students, hoping to gain insight into the mystery of what lies beyond the confines of life, embark on a daring and dangerous experiment. By stopping their hearts for short periods of time, each triggers a near-death experience. As the investigation becomes more and more perilous, they are forced to confront the sins of their pasts, as well as contend with the paranormal consequences of trespassing to the other side.

MY ‘DO I WANT TO SEE IT?’ SCALE: 6 out of 10

“Happy Death Day” – Oct. 13

This one’s a real mystery. Almost shockingly, it’s the only horror film presently scheduled for wide release on Friday, Oct. 13 (I mean how often does that opportunity present itself)?

The premise purports to be creative, but in reality it’s just “Groundhog Day” with a scary twist. Jessica Rothe, who featured in a small part in “La La Land,” stars as a girl reliving the day of her murder. She needs to figure out who the heck is killing her, in order to escape the terrifying loop.

I mean, does that sound good? I don’t know. Blumhouse is producing the film, and it also produced “Get Out,” “Split” and “Whiplash,” which are all good movies (especially “Get Out”), so I’m giving this one a chance.

SYNOPSIS: Blumhouse produces an original and inventive rewinding thriller in Happy Death Day, in which a college student relives the day of her murder, with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end, until she discovers her killer’s identity.

MY ‘DO I WANT TO SEE IT?’ SCALE: 6 out of 10

“Jigsaw” – Oct. 27

“Saw,” which came out 13 years ago, was an OK film that was mildly entertaining, mostly due to the puzzles the characters needed to unlock and the decisions they needed to make. It was wildly successful and no less than seven sequels were produced in ensuing years.

I have not seen all those sequels. I think I saw parts of a few, but it seemed the studios shifted the emphasis on the blood and gore, and the movies created were just bad. You might have liked them, and that’s fine, but they were bad.

So here we are in 2017, and the studios are rebranding the series. It’s now “Jigsaw” (what a twist), and the killer (apparently he died in one of the films) is somehow back alive and doing what he does best – terrorizing, kidnapping and killing in gross ways. I’m sure it will make money, but it won’t be mine.

SYOPSIS: One of the highest grossing horror franchises of all time is back, taking the Jigsaw killer’s signature brand of twisted scenarios to the next level.

MY ‘DO I WANT TO SEE IT?’ SCALE: 0 out of 10


By Philip Weyhe

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115 5th Street West Northfield, MN 55057