Clowns and dolls are super creepy, even at SXSW

South by Southwest horror fans (and possibly a few unsuspecting film festival attendees who wandered into the Vimeo theater on Saturday night) got a sneak peek at scenes from two upcoming horror movies: “It” and “Annabelle 2.”

Bill Skarsgaard as Pennywise in New Line Cinema’s horror thriller “It.” Clowns are scary; clowns in sewer pipes are even more scary. Contributed by Warner Bros. Pictures

Dubbed “Face Your Fears,” the panel featured directors Andrés Muschietti presenting “It” and David F. Sandberg with “Annabelle 2.”

“It” stars Bill Skarsgaard (yes, those Skarsgaards) as Pennywise, the evil clown we first learned to fear in Stephen King’s 1986 novel of the same name. Skarsgaard played vampire Roman Godfrey in the TV series “Hemlock Grove,” so we know he can go dark. Muschietti, who directed the 2013 horror film “Mama,” said he kept Skarsgaard away from the child actors in the film when not shooting, to heighten the fear factor.

Fans of King’s books have lived through some highs and lows when those novels are turned into films. But this one has already received a stamp of approval from the man himself. The scenes shown at SXSW were delightfully suspenseful, and the brief glimpses we got of Pennywise were downright terrifying without feeling at all hokey. The film, with its gang of kids in the 1980s banding together against an evil force, will no doubt draw some of the “Stranger Things” crowd as well (“Stranger” star Finn Wolfhard also stars in “It.”) “It” hits theaters Sept. 8; I can’t wait to see more.

As for “Annabelle 2,” well… sequels are often problematic. 2014’s “Annabelle” wasn’t nearly as good as its inspiration, “The Conjuring” (though “Conjuring had the benefit of the fantastic Vera Farmiga).

Do we really need another creepy doll movie? The clips shown at SXSW were full of the kind of jump scares that can start to feel repetitive. And the main victim of the evil forces at work here appears to be a young orphan girl with a physical disability — which feels a little bit like playing all the victim cards at once.

But Sanberg directed 2016’s horror hit “Lights Out,” so diehard fans of the genre may want to give it a chance when it opens Aug. 11.

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