Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the “Face Your Fear” panel at this year’s SXSW festival, which was hosted by Grae Drake of Rotten Tomatoes fame. The panel gave directors David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) and Andy Muschietti (Mama) the chance to talk about their films Annabelle 2 and It Part 1 – The Losers Club, respectively. They also brought never-before-seen footage with them, which gave us attendees the chance to see amazing scenes that absolutely must be discussed!
So, let’s first talk about the footage from It Part 1 – The Losers Club, as I’m sure that’s the one that the majority of you are most excited about! In advance, I’m going to say that Muschietti said that some parts didn’t have finished VFX but I honestly couldn’t tell because everything looked so damn solid. Anyways, here we go:
The trailer opens with Bill helping Georgie make his paper boat, a chance to see the close relationship the two have. It’s a tender moment, which quickly turns sour as Georgie places the boat in rushing water next to the curb. It’s a visual we’re all familiar with and it plays out almost the same way as the miniseries, only here Georgie hits his head on a street barrier, causing him to fall back and allow the boat to sail on without him, ultimately falling into a drain. As Georgie looks into the blackness with desperate sadness, Pennywise suddenly pops up, giving us the briefest glance of him before cutting to black. Without being able to pause the teaser, there’s no way you’ll get a solid look at the infamous clown.
From there, we meet the individual members of the Losers Club as they all come to the realization that they are afraid of the same dark entity, one that they refer to as “The Clown”. From there, we’re treated to the members flipping through a slide machine in the garage as they try to understand the history of Derry and this evil creature. Just like in the book and miniseries with the photo album that begins flipping through pages at an alarming rate, the slide machine begins moving from one slide to the next, faster and faster. As the children begin crying out in terror to shut it off, the slides show Pennywise’s face, covered by his orange hair. Again, we do not get a good, solid, clear look at Pennywise, just a tantalizing tease.
The teaser then flips through startling and often terrifying images, flashing the words “What Are You Afraid Of?” The famous scene where Bev’s bathroom gets soaked in blood is shown here, only the amount of blood is much, much higher in this version. We also see Pennywise approaching two children, his hand forming a claw and his nails extending like some terrible transformation is occurring. There are also shots of the Neibolt Street house, which looks like it’s straight out of an old Tim Burton movie (I say this as a good thing).
The final sequence in the trailer is Bill facing Georgie’s ghost in a flooded basement, who chants, “We all float down here! Float down here, float down here, float down here!!!” Suddenly, Pennywise appears in the water and charges Bill while moving erratically. The footage is cut heavily, so as to appear like a strobe light effect. The footage cuts and the title screen is revealed.
The audience erupted into cheers and for very good reason. Any doubts that the audience had flew right out the window. This teaser trailer was the perfect exercise in holding back and refusing to show too much. Instead, it gave us delightfully brief teases that made me desperate to see more. Everyone was beyond thrilled and the release date of September 8th really can’t come soon enough. Oh, and we also found out that the news that the sequel was filming is bogus and nothing is happening on that front just yet.
Additionally, we were shown a scene of Bill, Richie, Stan, and Eddie at the mouth of the sewer cistern entrance, discussing the disappearance of Georgie and Bev and arguing over what needed to be done. The scene ended with Ben falling into the river by the four boys, revealing that this is right after Henry Bowers and his goons beat up Ben and are chasing him.
What made this scene special was two things:
1) The kids are clearly very adept at working off one another. There was a chemistry between the four that was wonderful to see and it’s obvious that Muschietti worked very hard to ensure they were believable.
2) If you were worried that this movie would tip toe carefully around what the kids can and can’t say, fear not. Jack Dylan Grazer, who plays Stan, swore up a storm, not hesitating at all to drop multiple “Fucks” in a short span. If these kids can swear, you better believe they can face real peril.
Trust me, folks. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing to be worried about here!
Alright, shall we move on to Annabelle 2? Here’s what we saw:
The first scene opened with one of the young girls (99% sure that it was Talitha Bateman, who plays “Janice”), who needs a walker on one arm, go into a room that obviously belonged to another young girl. This is the room of the owner’s daughter, who tragically passed away. Janice goes in because there is a record playing, although no one is in that room. After turning it off, another girl, who is clearly younger, enters and they go back and forth on whether or not they should be in the room. Meanwhile, the Annabelle doll is on the bed in the center of the room. While the girls bicker, the younger one fires a toy gun that she picked up and the ball hits Annabelle, causing her head to turn away from the children. As they continue to discuss the room, they look over and see Annabelle’s face is somehow angled towards them. Creepy stuff, to be certain.
The younger girl leaves the room, leaving Janice to herself. She begins reading a diary that is on a nightstand. Suddenly, the door closes behind her, causing her to spin around. A few feet away, a puppet show box begins showing signs of life. Two puppets come up and begin acting out a performance, although no one else should be in the room. Janice grabs the puppets and pulls them away, revealing no hands. She parts the curtain in the back and no one is in the box. Then, behind her a dollhouse lights up. Going to it, Janice sees a small figurine of a young girl. She picks it up, inspects it, and then sets it down. Behind the figurine, there is movement in the window. Janice lifts her head up and looks over the dollhouse to see the ghost of the homeowners’ daughter, who asks her for a favor. When questioned as to what it is, the ghost turns her back to Janice and taps her finger on the pane of a nearby window. Suddenly, she spins around and, bearing a demonic face, yells, “Your soul!” It’s an overused gag but it still got several jumps and screams from the audience.
Janice screams and hobbles out of the room (remember that arm crutch?) and tries to go through several doors in the outer hallway, each of which slams shut just before she can get to them. So, she then sits down in an electric stairlift chair, which she desperately tries to activate. Meanwhile, the door to the ghost child’s room opens and heavy CGI tendrils of darkness emerge and creep along the wall. Finally, the chair begins to move down, nearly bringing Janice to the bottom of the stairs. However, it stops and then begins coming back up. When it reaches the top of the landing, which Janice so desperately tried to flee from, she is yanked up into the darkness of the ceiling. Several tense moments pass and then we see a shoe fall to the ground of the first floor. A few moments later and the Janice’s body slams to the ground with a heavy THUD next to the shoe. She is alive but very clearly hurt by this event.
So, that was the first scene from Annabelle 2. The overall reaction was very positive but that “Your soul!” moment didn’t sit well with me. It just felt a bit too cliché, a bit too overdone. That being said, everything else looked great! It cannot be denied that there was a great deal of tension during those couple of minutes. Onwards to describing the next clip!
After Janice’s terrible encounter that saw her plummet nearly two dozen feet, she has moved from an arm crutch to needing a rudimentary wheelchair. Stephanie Sigman’s “Sister Charlotte” wheels her outside, promising her that the sunlight will do her some good. Sister Charlotte then hears the ringing of a bell from the house, so she leaves Janice to sit and catch a nice tan. However, someone seemingly evil and malevolent begins pushing Janice towards a nearby barn. Turning, Janice can’t make out the face of this person as the sun is right by her head, making her face impossible to see. However, she clearly doesn’t feel comfortable next to this person and begins screaming.
After passing through the door of the barn, Janice is pushed out of the wheelchair, where she flies several feet forward and slams against some farming implement (this girl just can’t catch a break!). The various bric-a-brac around the farm begins shaking and moving, which leads Janice to crawl under the floorboards of a raised section of the barn. The bright sun from outside penetrates the cracks in the floor and the side of the barn but she is still bathed in shadows.
Frantically looking around, she suddenly sees a figure laying on the ground several feet to the side. It’s the ghost girl, who beings crawling rapidly towards Janice! Catching her, the ghost flips Janice onto her back and, mirroring Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead, begins vomiting some black substance into Janice’s mouth (we were told this was CGI because, as David F. Sandberg hilariously put it, “Hollywood won’t allow you to waterboard children.). It was here that the clip cut to black.
Once again, the audience seemed to love it and I appreciated this clip far more than the first one, which was still fantastic in many of its own ways. While I can’t say that I’m 100% convinced that Annabelle 2 is going to be a winner, I will say that I’m more optimistic than not.
We’ll have more from this panel soon!