Murderous clown, haunted hotel, vengeful stalker leave students screaming

(Photo used via Wikimedia under Creative Commons license)
The logo of the 2017 version of “It.”


I hate horror movies. Why in the world would anyone go to the theater and watch a movie to get freaked out and possibly lose some Z’s?

That’s why I was surprised that despite the genre, I thoroughly enjoyed “It.”

“It” isn’t supposed to be only scary.

In fact, it’s a bit like a roller coaster – exhilarating, raises your blood pressure, unsafe for pregnant women and the elderly, riders (viewers) must be a certain height (age) to enjoy this ride, etc.

Looking beyond the great CGI separating the modern movie from its ’90s predecessor, one can see “It” as more of a story than a stereotypical series of jump scares and high-pitched violin notes.

Instead, this film has a plot, complete with a climax and a resolution, and contains multidimensional characters with equally complex relationships.

Every 27 years in the fictional American town of Derry, the number of missing children spikes. So a group of misfits (the “loser gang”) decides to settle their differences in the hopes of defeating the sinister entity claiming other children’s lives – It.

It seems like every audience member can associate with one of the members of the “loser gang.” (I took a quick liking to the brash Richie Tozier.)

And that’s fairly remarkable considering the main characters are all children.

Well, except for the monster ITself.

The monster, Pennywise, well known for being the quintessential creepy clown, is horrifying and humorous.

It’s not uncommon to go from chuckling at a snide remark from It to having your heart skip a beat out of fear within a few seconds.

The surprises hit hard, and the action scenes are balanced with ’80s-nostalgia-inducing scenes of the town of Derry.

(Even though I wasn’t born in the ’80s, that era produced classic Americana films, alongside which “It” would fit in perfectly.)

But if you’re looking for terror, rest assured that “It” offers plenty.

“It is not for the squeamish or easily disturbed; Pennywise conjures up every creepy thing imaginable to scare the kids – and the viewers.

If the ominous red balloons, surprising jump scares scenes, creepy dead children, perverted fathers or clowns don’t get your blood curdling, then maybe the emotional twist at the end will be enough.

And if you don’t gasp at least once during the 135-minute film, then you’re either lying or “floating” in a different world.

—By Chardonnay Needler

(Photo used via Wikimedia under Creative Commons license)
A DVD cover for “The Shining.”

“The Shining”

About a month ago on a Sunday night, I was home alone and decided I wanted to watch a  horror movie. I eventually landed on “The Shining” and settled down for two-and-a-half hours of fear and a night of disturbed sleep.

“The Shining” is the story of a family that relocates to a hotel in Colorado over the winter, while the hotel is out of operation. While the father, Jack, maintains the hotel, the family is quickly beset by increasingly terrifying experiences, including disturbing visions of their toddler and a phantom bartender.

There are very few movies that are as captivating and tense as “The Shining.” From the ominous drive into the mountain to the ending credits, I found myself riveted, as the intoxicating mixture of fear and foreboding drew me deeper and deeper into the Overlook Hotel.

Even at the beginning, it’s obvious something is off with both the family and the hotel. The child has an “imaginary friend” that seems to predict the future, and the former hotel manager committed murder in the hotel.

While the quality of the movie’s video is pretty dated (it was released in 1980), the imagery is impeccable: every shot feels necessary to produce the film’s eerily calm aesthetic.

The movie’s beautiful cinematography is accompanied by a haunting, understated score of ominous horns and shrill, industrial clangs combined with a more conventional orchestra. I found that the ambient-like industrial sounds created tension even when the events on screen felt somewhat mundane.

The music mixes with the visuals to form a haunting backdrop for the events of the movie; the bellowing, sinister horns punctuating the long drive into the desolate mountains pulled me in immediately.

With an R rating for almost every category possible (violence, profanity, nudity and substance use), this movie isn’t for all audiences.

However, after seeing it for myself, I think it is worth stomaching; it’s already one of my favorite movies and definitely a good pick for Halloween.

—By Ian Thompson


“The Gift”

Though movies with supernatural beings like “The Conjuring” and “Friday the 13th” send chills up most people’s spines, horror movies that are realistic and have more probable plot lines have always terrified me more.

And a perfect example of a film that fits into this realistic horror genre is “The Gift.”

Released in 2015, “The Gift” tells the story of Simon and Robyn Callem, a young couple who moves from Chicago to Los Angeles with their dog after Simon gets a new job.

But after only five minutes, it becomes clear that this 108-minute film will mostly revolve around Simon’s high school friend Gordo, who looks and acts as if life hasn’t treated him very well.

Simon tells Gordo that he should come over and that they should catch up. So Gordo does just that and then proceeds to stalk them every day when Simon is

at work and Robyn is home alone.

What started as a friendly reunion dinner turns into Gordo bringing the Callems gifts, such as koi for their pond.

These generous acts make Simon uncomfortable, but Robyn thinks that Gordo is just being friendly.

Gordo then invites them over to his own house for dinner. The Callems are expecting a run-down shack. However, when they pull into the driveway, they are met by a mansion.

Once Gordo leaves to take care of a “quick emergency,” Simon decides that he no longer wants his wife (or himself) to be in contact with Gordo.

So when Gordo returns, Simon tells him to stay away from both of them.

The next day, Robyn finds the koi dead and their dog missing.

From then on the movie takes unexpected dark turns. At first, Gordo seems like just

another horror movie stalker, but the audience, after learning his tragic past, begins to feel sorry for him and starts to wonder who is the true protagonist.

I watched this movie for the first time at a party because I wanted to watch a movie that was scary but “wouldn’t leave me with nightmares.”

“The Gift” was the wrong choice. After watching it, I was scared to be home alone for at least a month. I was so terrified because I knew that what happened in “The Gift” could happen to anyone.

In addition, the film’s frightening moments are essential plot elements, not unnecessary horror add-ons.

Amazingly, the actor who plays Gordo, Joel Edgerton, also directed the movie and wrote the script that will scare you out of your mind.

Zombies don’t exist, dolls don’t come to life, but creepy parts of your past might indeed come back to haunt you.

—By Jackson Margolis

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