Archive for September 2019

Friday Flicks: It Chapter Two


I love a good horror movie. There’s something fun about getting sucked into the suspense of a spooky story that plays with your imagination and emotion. No one has had more success in crafting terrifying tales than Stephen King. The author’s books have become an ever-giving well of inspiration to countless movie adaptations. While film versions of King’s books are too numerous to list, the most recent success was the 2017 retelling of It. The movie played on the nostalgia of those who read the book and watched the 90’s mini-series and introduced the nightmare of Pennywise the Clown to a whole new generation. It focused on the Losers Club as children, presenting only half of King’s novel on the screen. Now, director Andy Muschietti concludes the story by bringing the adult losers to life in It Chapter Two.

This movie is a continuation of the first film, so you’ll definitely want to watch it before venturing into this one. Chapter Two picks up 27 years after the first film. The losers are all grown up and living their separate lives away from Derry. Most have forgotten the details of the year they faced a horror that banded them together and forced them to vow to return if it ever happened again. Only Mike Hanlon remains in the town, keeping watch for the cyclical evil of Pennywise to resurface. When a man witnesses his boyfriend being murdered by a clown outside of the Derry fair, Mike is certain the time has come. It is time for the Losers Club to come back to Derry and fight It again.

It Chapter Two sees Stephen King’s story fulfilled in a way that should leave both diehard fans of the novel and casual fans of the first film completely satisfied. At nearly three hours long, the movie manages to fit in most of the plot details from the novel while never feeling bloated or overlong. This sequel sees the filmmakers take the story into a much darker place in terms of both scares and tone. At first, I was a little thrown off by this change in tone, but I’ve come to appreciate the motivation behind it. Gone is the childlike innocence of the first film. Instead, the losers are adults forced to reconcile their pasts and face the horrors of a long-forgotten threat.

The adult losers have been perfectly cast with James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain both bringing an introspective layer of dread to the grown-up Bill and Beverly. Bill Hader, who plays the adult version of Finn Wolfhard’s Richie, shines above the pack with one of the best performances of his career. He manages to subtly balance the humor of his character with the harsh realization that his childhood insecurities are still haunting him. Bill Skarsgård is more terrifying than ever as Pennywise the Clown. Tim Curry’s take on the character still scares the heck out of me, but Skarsgård has more than made this version of the monster his own.

Overall It Chapter Two does everything it sets out to do as a satisfying conclusion to the story that the first film began. It isn’t as endearing as its predecessor, but I don’t think it was ever intended to be. This is a lengthy, imaginative, and mostly faithful adaptation of a behemoth of a novel. Amongst the other big blockbuster films, It Chapter Two dares to try something different. This isn’t another superhero movie. This is an ode to all things horror, a victory lap for a filmmaking team that managed to adapt a challenging novel into a smash hit. I loved every second of these two movies and highly recommend them.

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman


Laura Lippman has consistently been one of my "go-to" authors for years. With each new title in her ever-growing catalog, she blends touches of mystery and suspense with a plethora of various genres. I was a bit underwhelmed with her last novel, Sunburn, so I was eager to see Lippman redeem herself with her latest.  Lady in the Lake is a return to form for the author and the kind of novel that made me a fan of her writing in the first place.

Maddie Schwartz is living the quintessential, picture-perfect life of a housewife in 1966. She has a husband with a successful career, a teenage son who she adores,  and she spends her days keeping up with her home and friends. Despite all of this, she can't help but feel like something is missing. When an old fling turns up at a dinner party, Maddie is reminded of the youthful zeal and promise that she abandoned in favor of her current life. Not content to leave well enough alone, she bolts from her marriage and life as she knows it. She spent twenty years being the person everyone else wanted her to be, but now it is time for Maddie to discover her own passions and desires.

Maddie quickly sees how her previous life sheltered her from the realities of the world. She lives in a dilapidated apartment in the African-American part of Baltimore, the only place she can afford. Looking to make her mark on the world, she stumbles upon the body of a murdered girl. Maddie quickly parlays this discovery into a job at the Star newspaper and begins to work toward her goal of becoming a columnist. When everyone else dismisses the murder of young Cleo Sherwood, Maddie suspects something more. She follows her intuition to dig into the untimely death. If she uncovers something big, this could mean the beginning of a prosperous career. At every turn, Maddie is discouraged from proceeding with her investigation. Someone wants their secrets to be buried with Sherwood and will stop at nothing to prevent them from rising to the surface.

Lady in the Lake is Laura Lippman writing at her best. She mixes an underlying mystery with historical fiction that soars from the pages. Lippman alternates between chapters about Maddie with others written from the perspective of various people that Maddie encounters. This gives the narrative a depth that further enhances the world Lippman creates. There are also the occasional soliloquies of the dead Cleo Sherwood commenting on Maddie's investigation. These ghostly speeches only add to the suspense and dread that lies just beneath the surface of this story. While I wasn't really shocked by the revelations at the end of the book, I don't think that's the point of the novel. The mystery is there more to aid in the telling of the historical story and the growth of Maddie as a character. This book expertly combines compelling characters with historical details and a touch of mystery that makes it into a really solid read.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads.
(2019, 29)

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