Let’s start with the prologue:
I must have been between 8-10 years old when I saw the TV mini-series “IT.” From the moment that damn boat fell into the storm drain until even now, that movie haunted me. I’ll be blunt.
I don’t think I slept for a year. I wouldn’t go anywhere near a storm drain. Don’t even get me started on how I responded to clowns. My mom would put on a movie and let me fall asleep watching that (Best of the Best if you’re curious). Even as recently as last week, I had a wake-up-shouting, turn-on-the-lights nightmare involving a certain dancing clown.
However, if any of you remember a certain post I wrote a while back regarding my opinion of fear, this post is me putting a certain degree of action behind those words.
I’m always afraid. Ever minute of every day. The list of things I’d said I was afraid of in the aforementioned post is still true. So is my response to it.
So, tonight, I mustered up my courage (and a fairly high number of Facebook support for my alter ego’s page), and went to see the movie. I begged (twice) for someone to show up and watch it with me, but it wasn’t to be. So it was with a racing heartbeat and memories of a 10-year-old version of myself taking a different street if the one he was on had a storm drain, that I went into the theater, sat down, and got ready to watch the new version of “IT.”
I sat down in my favorite spot (first large isle, far-right seat. I can put my feet up, and I can head to the bathroom without stepping over or in front of anyone). I could feel my fear starting to nag at me, so I pulled out my phone and started playing a game while I waited for the movie to start.
That’s when a fucking clown walked into the movie theater holding a red ballon.
I didn’t move. It was either freeze or run out of the theater. I held still. The damn clown sat right behind me.
At this point, I was strongly considering my position on telling fear what it can do to itself. I snapped a cell phone image of the event, but I wasn’t the only one. The clown became an oddly creepy, horrifying celebrity. Once the clown realized he was the center of attention, he did something cool. He stood up and walked to the side of the theater where dozens of people all lined up to get a cell phone. (I didn’t do that….I like breathing.)
They all got their images without winding up a snack before the movie, and that all by itself did a lot to actually set my mind at ease.
The previews ran; the music started, and the movie began.
It started out exactly like the original. It wasn’t the frame for frame rip off that X-Men: First Class was, but it was pretty much in lock step until the USS Georgie hit the water.
That’s when this movie did a thing that broke from the original at the expense of a lot of fear. It traded in goure for tension and suspense. I’ve seen the Saw films. I’ve seen action movies and anime. They aren’t scary; they’re gory. What I can tell you is the scene from the modern version could never come close to the nightmares I had when I was a kid. By showing the action, the director gave the viewer an out. It actually provided closure in a sort of way. Hitchcock was the greatest at this. DON’T show the viewer what’s going on. Let him be uncomfortable. Let his own hyperactive imagination to the scaring for you.
Which brings me to another point a friend of mine mentioned, which I happen to agree with: I think viewers SHOULDN’T compare Skarsgard’s interpretation to Curry’s. That’s unfair to either. I’m not going to talk about the acting, I’m going to talk about the other aspect of why this modern version didn’t haunt me like the original.
Skarsgard’s persona is clearly terrifying. He absolutely sent chills down my spine every time I saw him, but that’s what was wrong with it. The most frightening things I think (and I promise a lot of those fears come from the original mini-series) are the usually mundane things in creepy situations. The obviously evil all the time appearance wasn’t nearly as haunting as the seemingly normal Pennywise Curry portrayed. Again, both actors did a wonderful job (in my opinion) playing the part, but twisted normalcy is more frightening to me than outright creepy from the get go.
These two things are what separated one from the other for me. The original would still give me nightmares for days. This one didn’t because it showed more and never really gave viewers that sense of betrayal. When we feel safe, and then have that safety ripped from us, fear is more powerful.
Before you decide not to bother seeing the movie, I should tell you it was a good movie. I’ll admit that it’s more blunt on certain sub plots that are honestly huge turn-offs for me. But it does some things right.
One thing I’ll say is the side characters felt more real to me. Well…I guess it’s MORE accurate to say characters I didn’t care at all for in the original were more fleshed out in this one. The original miniseries left some of the characters pretty flat. This movie gave them all more sympathy.
The lighting and shooting of this movie were great. The relationship between the characters felt more real.
In short, “IT” was a solid movie if you’re a fan of horror. Yes, I think the original was better because it had a bigger impact. But, I was also about 10 at the time. If you’re willing to wait as long as Billy had to get a second crack at Pennywise, then we can ask those who were watching it tonight how they slept the next 27 years.
What this experience did for me on a more-cathartic level was help me move past some of those childhood fears. (No, if a clown knocks on my door, I’m getting my shotgun, but I might warn him before shooting…I might.) I suppose the only thing left to do would be to watch the original, and see how may of those childhood issues come back, but
I’m not sure I need to do that. What I wanted to do was prove that no movie should control a person’s fear. While I’m still uncomfortable around actual clowns (I worked at McDonalds for a number of years, and I’m happy to say Ronald never showed…I would have gotten fired.), I came out of that movie feeling like I’d done what I went to do. I saw the movie, and didn’t feel the need to stay up all night. Now, I haven’t gone to sleep, so who knows what my amazing imagination is going to produce (I am a writer after all, and when I DO dream, they’re usually vivid). As it stand though, I feel good. I feel a bit relieved.
People should never live in fear. They shouldn’t let fear dictate what they do, and this was another opportunity to deny fear any power over me. For those who were just curious as to how the movies lined up, I hope this was useful to you as well.
Thanks for reading,
5 thoughts on “Facing Fears: A Different Sort of Review for the Movie “IT””
I haven’t seen the film myself, but I know that I would certainly freak out if I clown wandered into my screening of it! Nice review.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you,! I’m just glad for those photo ops. Took a little of the creepiness out of it for me.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Clown in IT… no words.
You’re braver than me. I never was able to watch the whole mini series. Just snippets. And that was enough to scare the crap out of me for a lifetime. Can’t imagine if I saw the whole thing.
I’ve heard it said King destroyed clowns for a whole generation with that book and mini series.
LikeLiked by 1 person
He certainly destroyed them for me.
While I haven’t seen the film yet I have heard that they took advantage of the R rating, and I think you’re right that Hitchcock really had the right idea with the “less is more” attitude towards horror. I think, particularly when it comes to horror, it often works out better if the narrative is forced to work within a lower rating. There was so much uncertainty about what “IT” did to/with people, as well as what “IT” really was in the original. From what I’ve seen of the more recent one, trailers/clips, I do like the cadence/style of speech that Skarsgard employs, but it doesn’t surprise me that the violence undercuts the tension.
I’m currently working on a horror book review for October, and I’m struck by how most of the chapters end almost too early, and that uncertainty about “how the scene ends” is another strong way to subtly create tension. Uncertainty and the desire for closure are a big part of good horror, the “we don’t get to know” component.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
LikeLiked by 1 person