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IT – Get Scared

It is the second adaptation of Stephen King‘s novel about a small town being terrorized by an evil clown who lives in the sewers. The town, named Derry, is set in Maine. In the movie, the children are preyed upon, and when the adults are predators themselves, the children are forced to face their fears without the help of anyone that would even be old enough to watch this R-rated movie. In many ways, this is a coming-of-age tale and a horror story wrapped up into one.

There is a group self-named “The Losers Club,” and the members of this group are unaccepted by their peers and find solace in their unified rejection. While their confusing hormones wreak havoc on their bodies, a mysterious shape-shifting demon wreaks havoc on their minds. Delicately balancing the two worlds of pleasure and pain gave the script the thrilling cadence reminiscent of the original novel. For a film about fear, what a joy it was to watch.

To understand the true horror of it, one must first ask, why are clowns so damn freaky? Coulrophobia is a massively widespread fear, and it seems to affect more people everyday, even though clowns are less prevalent in modern society. Reminiscent of the Jaws effect, cases of the phobia are said to have spiked upon the release of the original 1990 version of It, where Tim Curry starred as Pennywise the Clown.

Although the clown in the movie uses shapeshifting and demonic powers to cover a much wider range of fears and phobias, the terror a clown can carry with him is operating at maximum levels in It.

The casting and performance of Pennywise was crucial to the success of the film. Luckily, Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise was enormously fun to watch as he terrified his way through our lovable band of misfit kids.

Skarsgard reportedly scared many of his costars on set and off-camera as well. Skarsgard undoubtedly made for a perfect nucleus to film this film around. Citing himself as a huge fan of Tim Curry and the original performance of Pennywise, Skargard still managed to truly make the character his own. He totally avoided the shadow of the previous movie.

The performances for the most part were mesmerizing to watch. In addition, the excellent direction elevated the script to be far above the level of a TV movie. It’s a beautiful thing to see this film come to life through the eyes of a camera with soul. The immersion that horror movies promise is that our eyes will be forced to float into dark rooms we would never willingly peek into. We would never follow a clown into a sewer, or linger in room with a violently shaking coffin, but the camera would.

The contract we make with the horror movie camera is the surrendering of our control. You want to leave but you must stay, you wish you could blink but your eyes stay open, and that is the power of masterful camera work. The animal inside of us is given the chance to explore a terrifying story that not only immerses us deeper into the fiction, but also carries a heavier weight when we leave the theater.

When the sun hits your eyes on the way to your car in the parking lot, you should feel less frightened, but you normally feel more frightened. When you complete the journey through a great piece of horror filmmaking, you find that you fear something that is usually worse than the pain of the actual thing. Just like knowledge that your essay is due in two weeks doesn’t stop you from procrastinating, the knowledge that fear is just a mechanism embedded in your DNA does not make killer clowns suddenly less threatening.

The ending – spoiler alert – closes the film with another title card, this time displaying the title as “It: Chapter One.” Smashing opening night records at $13.5 million, the largest gross for any horror, R-rated film, and September release ever, the inevitability of doubling down on the investment has already been written in the stars, and the cubicles. This is also the widest R-rated release in cinema history. It is playing at 4,103 theaters in the US. Since we’re basically guaranteed a sequel, and since the sequel has to be 27 years ahead story-wise, we’ll presumably be seeing a new cast and a new time period.

The original novel sets the children’s phase in 1958 and the adult section takes place in 1989. The film decided to have the kid’s story take place in 1989, and thus the adult storyline is being forced into the mid 2010s. Technology and a very different small town life may present some new, unique challenges. This might not all be too bad; in fact, it might be really freaking cool.

In a super modern and up to date period, this would have been a far less interesting film. Pennywise would feel a lot less interesting to me if he was sliding into my DM’s on Instagram, rather than possessing some loud, clunky projector in a dark garage.

The other thing I desperately hope to see handled with the utmost care by this franchise is the ending. Are we going to be getting a franchise where a serialized weekly NBC spinoff will shape shift its way into a never-ending cash grab – or will we get some real payoff? I’m no fortune teller, so I’m holding onto hope that the all adult cast in a totally new setting can carry the torch and transition into their own new film, while also keeping the flame of Pennywise’s tale alive and healthy. But hey, hope never saved anyone from getting murdered by a clown.

Featured Image by Blondinrikard Fröberg on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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