Skip to main content

Spoiler Heavy Review of IT (2017)

My fandom of Stephen King and his adaptions is complicated by the sheer volume of his work. King has written some of my favorite books of all time (Pet Semetary and The Stand) and others I can barely believe I read five pages through.

However, no matter what I or anyone might say, King is an unescapable fixture in the world of 20th century and 21st century literature. Most of the people I've ever met have read at least one of his books and I generally find it's a good sign if a person has read a bunch of them.

"IT," in particular, occupies a special place in my mind. It was one of the first adult books I read as a kid - way back in the summer of sixth grade at summer camp. I didn't understand all of it on a conscious level but experienced it on a deeper, emotional level. The story of a gang of 'losers,' desperately trying to survive in the face of indifferent adults, hostile bullies, and a monstrous clown made a great deal of sense to me. As in, I didn't so much read this as 'horror,' but slight hyperbole.

I watched the miniseries and was left feeling something I was to experience repeatedly with King's adaptions: they didn't quite get it. The parts that felt closest to the books didn't work as well, and the parts that worked best - Tim Curry's gleefully hammy take on Pennywise  -were different from the book.

It is undeniable that great movies have been made from King's works and some of them were actually quite close to the source material. However, in general, the folksy, profane and at times lurid style King uses in describing the day-to-day existence of people tends not to translate well to the screen.

This current adaption falls into the mid-realm of adaptions. The parts that work take the best of a very long book, boil it down into a convincing coming-of-age story and mix enough spooky bits to more-or-less evoke the atmosphere and tone of the original novels. In particular I like the final lair of Pennywise which, although different from how it's described in the book, is nevertheless unearthly enough to suggest King's macroverse.

As a whole, I don't have any complaints with the concept of Pennywise or Bill Skarsgard's take on the character. Instead of going cruel and campy, Skarsgard conjures something feral and somewhat pathetic - like a tiger that goes man-eater because in its advance age that's the easiest prey available. One of the better decisions here is to not fully reveal what 'IT' is but only suggest the truth in the final confrontation. It left me interested to see what this creative team does with the macroverse version of the creature.

What tugs me away from unreservedly loving this film has to with very specific choices made in the story which, while defensible in the service of getting the basic lines of the story told, nevertheless subtract from my personal enjoyment of the work. First off, Mike's story is particularly stream-lined in this version. As the only person of color in the movie who has more than a couple of lines, this is a particularly unfortunate decision. If you're already updating this work to 1989, why not either flesh out Mike's role a bit or switch a few of the other characters away from the usual cis white male pantheon?

This movie also leans hard on the jump scares. Now, this is one of those complaints that always seems like a short-hand for larger complaints about a horror movie. "Oh, I didn't like that one because of all the jump-scares." But the fact remains, horror is more than simply the limbic jolt one gets from a monster charging the screen. Horror dwells in the foreknowledge of unpleasant fates. The scare at the end of a death scene should be the resolution, not the climax.

Also, why does Beverly need to get rescued at the end? I know why but in the same year that gave us Wonder Woman, my patience for endamseling the only strong female character in a story is near nil. Just as a mental exercise, wouldn't it be more interesting if the two skeptical characters - Richie or Stan - got nabbed? I'm not sure this sub-plot was necessary to begin with but why not mix up things up a bit?
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Writing Horror

I'm wary offering advice to other writers. 

First of all I've got the whole imposter syndrome thing and whatever advice I give feels like a good way of revealing how little I know about anything. Second, what I've learned mostly relates to solving problems in my own writing. What advice does a dog have to offer to a duck on how to swim? 
However, for Arisia 2018, I'll be participating on a panel of doing just that - giving advice to aspiring horror writers about writing horror.

So, what truths can I impart?

Some advice feels absolutely true, if a bit self-evident.

You must read. If you're trying to write horror then you must read horror. Not just one novel. Not just one author. You should make a sincere effort to read everything by everyone. The more recent the better. The classics are always going to be there, but if you want a sense of where your stories could fit, you need to see what is being published out there.

You must write. I do not think you have to write …

Reading Response to "A Good Man is Hard to Find."

Reader Response to “A Good Man is Hard to Find” Morgan Crooks I once heard Flannery O’Connor’s work introduced as a project to describe a world denied God’s grace. This critic of O’Connor’s work meant the Christian idea that a person’s misdeeds, mistakes, and sins could be sponged away by the power of Jesus’ sacrifice at Crucifixion. The setting of her stories often seem to be monstrous distortions of the real world. These are stories where con men steal prosthetic limbs, hired labor abandons mute brides in rest stops, and bizarre, often disastrous advice is imparted.  O’Connor herself said of this reputation for writing ‘grotesque’ stories that ‘anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.’ This is both a witty observation and a piece of advice while reading O’Connor’s work. These are stories about pain and lies and ugliness. The brutality that happens to characters …

We Have Always Lived in Haunted Houses

As my final pre-Arisia post, I'd like to tackle ghosts. Metaphorically, of course, because ghosts are intangible and also don't exist. 

I don't believe in ghosts. Not the sort of ghosts, anyway, that float around decaying old mansions or scare impressionable media personalities. Physics, at least the way I've grown up understanding it, precludes the existence of energy that cannot be detected reliably. Put another way, physicist Brian Cox stated that if ghosts existed the Large Hadron Collider would have almost certainly found one by now.

So, when I say I'm a fan of ghost stories and tales of haunted houses, am I being hypocritical? Possibly, but I also think one can appreciate ghosts and haunted houses in a different way. Even though they might not exist in a 'peer-reviewed' and 'experimentally replicable' fashion, phantoms absolutely exist as a potent symbol of the past.

When we talk about ghosts what we're really talking about is that annoying…