The smash success of fall blockbuster It was the last movie I’m going to get to see at the theater for quite some time (so please, please don’t spoil Star Wars for me before it comes to VOD). After a year and a half of sitting at movies with us without complaint, our little angel Gannicus decided to finally trade in his halo and become a monster.
He adorably tried to sing along to Beauty And The Beast, stared in slack-jawed wonder while shrieking “woah!” at Rogue One, and even quietly watched all the action in Logan, but sadly with It we got a dose of terrible toddler syndrome, and the age of getting to sit peacefully in the auditorium to catch a flick are over.
This change in behavior with the onset of age was a surprisingly on-point metaphor for the movie itself, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
So what did I like about it? Pretty much everything, and even some things I didn’t think would work. Normally I’m not a fan of comic relief in movies, but It is surprisingly hilarious with the quips the kids from the Loser’s Club would throw out at each other. These interactions frequently felt like what a group of kids out of earshot of any adults would say or do.
My favorite movie line now is probably “You punched me in the face, made me walk through shitty water, dragged me to a crackhouse, and now I’ve got to kill this fucking clown.”
What didn’t I like? Really only two things: the decidedly un-scary Pennywise (Skarsgard was just a high pitched, whiny dancing clown… not a menacing evil from beyond time and space), and his CGI teeth.
When he was standing still in the sewer the teeth had a killer look, but as soon as they chomped down, the illusion was shattered. CGI gets used heavily in the ending sequence as well, and it just didn’t need to be.
I just can’t stress this enough… if you are making a horror movie, then the only words that should even be in your lexicon should be “practical effects.” If you’re thinking of using a computer to whip up something scary, you’ve already failed.
Here’s the thing though, and this wasn’t apparent right of the bat… It isn’t actually a horror movie. It belongs solidly in the same category as Goonies, Super 8, or Stranger Things, and not in the same category as Baskin or The Void.
No one was more surprised by this fact than me, but trust me, the movie is still completely worth seeing, and actually works better for focusing on the coming-of-age kid adventure aspects than on the killer clown aspects.
It’s been a lot of years since I saw the Tim Curry TV mini-series or read the book, so I can’t recall if its actually more prevalent here or if I’ve just noticed it more now, but this version of the story seems to be making the point that Pennywise was just a metaphor. I don’t actually think there was meant to be a literal monster at all.
“It” was the kid’s transitioning into adulthood while learning to overcome their “demons,” whether it was a rapey dad, an overbearing mom, a brother gone missing who will never be found, the prejudice of a town that doesn’t tolerate your skin color or your parent’s education decisions, and so on.
This really comes into focus in the ending fight scene. Unknowable evil entities from the angles between realities (“Todash Space” in King’s mythos) aren’t defeated by failing to be afraid of them. That’s nonsense. They wouldn’t care in the slightest about how children feel about them, and they wouldn’t utterly fail to kill a small group of children after wiping out large portions of the town in every previous cycle of waking.
It seems more likely that the kids just concocted this idea about bad things happening due to one particular evil entity at specific intervals to handle the sad reality of life. It was their way of coping with the realization that missing children will be forgotten about – literally postered over in one scene of the movie – after enough time passes and another child goes missing.
Another dead giveaway is the blood soaked bathroom scene (which was harrowing, by the way), arriving after they took the time to show Beverly secretly buying tampons earlier in the film. This one really struck a chord with me because we’d recently seen some really unpleasant (and not particularly well done) bloody period “horror” in the abysmal Excision.
Rather than a killer clown trying to scare a little girl, this scene was clearly about Beverly going through puberty and experiencing menstruation for the first time. Her pedo dad, who only saw her for what she could offer him, didn’t see the blood at all, but her close friends immediately recognized the problem.
I’m wondering how much of that was left over from first director Cary Fukunaga’s original vision for the film, which reportedly diverged from the source material and focused on the plight of the kids as they grew up more than on the clown.
Either way, whether you choose to see the movie as a straightforward telling of a monster that wakes up every 27 years or a metaphor for something else, It was a surprisingly strong flick, especially for a King adaptation. Can’t wait to see what’s done with the second one coming in 2019, and hopefully by then little Gannicus will be able to sit still at the movies again!