The Alexandre Aja remake Piranha 3D was effective enough that it inspires confidence in any new thing he directs. Regardless of the content, the direction is solid. He holds back information just enough with his choice of shot. I got around to watching one of his most recent flicks, Crawl, that involves a young woman who has been a competitive swimmer defying the authorities during a storm and returning to her father’s home to make sure he is okay. Barry Pepper is the father, and we are reminded that a couple of decades have passed since Saving Private Ryan. Together, along with would-be help from without, they fend off alligators that are taking advantage of a flood.
Most of the movie is contained in one house, mostly in the crawlspace or basement, and while the tenancy is to “open up” movies the fact is that the most effective horror and suspense involves isolation. The Shining, Misery, most cabin in the woods movies, have a sense of being trapped and having to confront the problem at hand. From the ordinary opening scenes through the building crisis to the choice of music that plays under ending credits the movie is well thought out and presented. In earlier decades, it might be taken for granted. But the decisiveness of Aja takes a bsic premise and keeps it, beat for beat, pumping along. It is not Jaws but it is more Jaws than Jaws 3 or Jaws the Revenge. It has less humor than his Piranha movie, but it is still quite solid entertainment.
The last girl to play Beverly Marsh went on to do Ginger Snaps. This girl has done Nancy Drew. All of the kids are still engaging in It Chapter 2, although not as vivid as in the first half. Unlike the TV version, the adult counterparts of the Loser’s Club don’t have iconic Seventies and Early Eighties television personas to distract from the characters at hand. Even the first victim of Pennywise in this episode, Canadian film director Xavier Dolan, is not at first recognized. The director of these It movies, Andy Muschietti, has me hopeful for how The Flash will be presented. He has a confident sense of camera placement and well motivated scene transitions between the present and the past.
Where the film falters may be in a sequence like the intercut between Beverly in a flooded washroom stall and Ben Hanscom singing into sand until she is able to reach down and somehow pull him out and the whole time we are just letting it play out with no sense of any rules in this universe as to how and why this is happening. When a superficial event is not actively motivated by Pennywise it just sits there and feels like filler, arbitrary and likely something that could end at any moment and be as reasonable as the resolution we are given. In a movie of this length (two hours and forty-nine minutes) it is odd that this makes the cut. It is just fine that like the TV adaptation this version omits the “orgy” between the kids after helping Beverly clean up blood that may or may not be there in her washroom. Having not read the book, I don’t know whether Richie participated in that considering what seems to be a new level of his character added to this iteration. The TV version had a purpose for Bill’s rickety bike “Silver” in helping revive his catatonic wife, but she is not in this movie and Silver seems to have no function other than letting Bill have a nostalgic ride by himself and giving Stephen King an amusing cameo running the hock shop that sells the bike.
The movie feels topical as the Loser’s Club taunt Pennywise and reduce his power by calling him “Just a Clown” and we are meant to think of a real world figure in a position of power who has disproportionate concern about how he is spoken of on, say, Twitter. There are what I call “movie jokes” forced in some scenes, like when Eddie who is not established as a joker has just been stabbed and as he runs off makes a quip to the assailant grown-up bully Henry Bowers about his hair-do belonging to the Eighties. This arguably goes full circle from an early quip by Xavier Dolan’s character Adrien to his bullies that, “Meg Ryan called and wants her wig back. ” Even though as a viewer that line makes no sense considering that there has never been anything especially wrong about Meg Ryan’s hair. It is about the same in Innerspace and some scenes from When Harry Met Sally. But then I am not a hair expert.
Overall the film is entertaining and has moments of depth, of a piece with the movie that preceded it. Those who have not seen the TV version might not get the use of, “Beep beep, Richie” to shut him up when he is on a roll, since neither this movie nor Chapter One establish it. I like the way the final form of Pennywise keeps his face in this version. There are enough scares and anticipation and creepiness that the movie entertains, flaws and all.