An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


It is a movie that hands us a hideous villain and an enormously appealing gang of young outcasts determined to erase his evil. Think of 1989 in the small town of Derry in Maine. Children have been disappearing and when Georgie, the beloved younger brother of Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) doesn’t come home, the worried boy sets out to find him.

Bill gathers his fellow outcasts, a genuinely appealing group of pre-teens who share the fate of being bullied by older boys. They come together to search for Georgie on their bicycles and end up, of course, in a decrepit old house that demands bravery from anyone who enters. Doesn’t that sound like an ordinary scary movie? Yes, but since this is a Stephen King story, we can assume there is nothing ordinary about the way he scares us.

The boys are confronted by the hideous clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgaard) who will bedevil them throughout the film. We see buckets of blood, disfigurement, and terror. But this clown can’t equal what happens repeatedly as the music rolls along with increasing power telling us something awful is about to happen though it never comes when we expect it, but just exactly when we don’t. It does no good whatsoever to tell yourself it’s just a movie, close your eyes. It’s much too well done for that simple escape.

As we get to know the gang of boys and Beverly (Sophia Lillis) the pretty, strong girl with a heart, we sink easily into watching them grow closer as they develop their values and their courage. Instead of being peripheral to the violence, the young actors are so good that they become the sustaining focus of the movie. For me, the clown became and interruption to watching the kids.

I wanted that clown to get lost. No such luck. Stephen King has interwoven the boys and the clown so cleverly that there’s no way to ignore that clown as he spews blood through his ghastly teeth. He spins and leaps and uses the ugly weapons moviemakers love in our often grim time: special effects that increase the power of horror.

All this is delivered flawlessly by a good cast of very young actors. Jaeden Lieberher is an appealing hero with his own vulnerabilities. Jeremy Ray Taylor’s Ben is immensely engaging because he isn’t the stuff of a standard hero. He’s a unique hero. Sophia Lillis nails her part in every way.

Of the few adults in small roles, one – I won’t spoil it for you by telling you which character – is far more frightening than the clown himself. Stephen Bogaert creates a monster of a man and I am still trying to forget him.

If you can stand being subject to terror delivered with unconscionable skill, this movie just might make your day. Try to see it in a multi-speaker theater so you can enjoy whirling from left to right as unexpected maxi-sounds bombard you from all sides.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : It
Word Count : 500
Running time : 2:15
Rating : R
Date : September 10, 2017


This entry was posted on September 10, 2017, in Drama, Horror.

Get Out

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

T2 Get Out

Get Out was made by writer/director Jordan Poole, a black man who slashes at the shallow understanding white people have of black culture. His movie is his command that white liberals face up to the truth that their level of acceptance is shallow, phony, and late.

The movie will be received by viewers according to the complex inner settings each of us has about race. The easiest way to react to Get Out is to surrender to pure anger at its violence but we can’t get away with the easy way in this case.

Why couldn’t Poole have made his points about white liberals in a way that might make us think, that might encourage us to work together? Because we wouldn’t have heard what he is saying. He suggests that we know nothing about black people being scrutinized by police and passersby whenever they are in public, that the culture of their neighborhoods is unknown to whites.

Look what he has done to wake us up. Rose (Allison Williams) is taking her black boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) home to meet her family on their plush estate tended by housekeeper Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and handyman Walter (Marcus Henderson) – both black and odd. Dad (Bradley Whitford), a too affable neurosurgeon, and mom (Catherine Keener), a nutcase hypnotist, greet the lovers with a creepy kind of acceptance.

A gathering of friends and relatives arrives. On meeting Chris, the guests respond: Chris must be a good golfer because Tiger Woods is black and whites envy black bodies. Poole uses his perceived white jealousy of black minds and bodies to soak his movie in blood. The attitudes of the white guests are simplistic and crude and Poole
makes sure we understand those white simpletons are no more shallow than those of us who think we understand the problem even as we live in segregated cultures.

Do we have much to atone for? The British stole the continent from the Indians. Then they destroyed the Indians and brought black men to America locked in chains and sold them as slaves. The Civil War freed the slaves and left them in poverty. Two world wars distracted us until the ‘60s when desegregation was brought front and center in education and sports. And then progress slowed again. Fifty years later, we still live in segregated neighborhoods and cultures.

A horror/comedy is a popular movie format these days but when the subject is part of an uncorrected historical disgrace, it’s a shame that only a violent movie like this could make us look inward. Now that we’ve been kicked on this score, perhaps that format can be used to attack alcohol excess or how fraternities have weakened education, or the horror of wars wrought by men? Or how about the comedic horror of the president of the United States bestowing public approval and encouragement on sexual bullying of women? You’re a talented guy, Jordan Poole. You could do a great job on that one.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title Get Out
Word Count: 499
Running time: 1:44
Rating : R
Date : April 9, 2017