Sunday, September 10, 2017

CURRENT REELS: ANDY MUSCHIETTI'S "IT"

This is the most terrifying fun I've had at the movies in recent years. Paradoxically, I never considered horror a genre that required the theatrical experience of a dimmed auditorium, a massive screen, and the most nuanced Dolby surround sound. But, really, great horror is best experienced in exactly this format, as the new reimagining of Stephen King's IT proved with two screenings this weekend. I am one of many who knows of the book yet still haven't read it. I am vaguely familiar with the miniseries from 1990, but not enough to have vested interest in whether or not this version performs better, or who fares as the creepiest Pennywise the Dancing Clown, Tim Curry or Bill Scarsgard.

Yes, this film will draw inevitable comparisons to Netflix darling Stranger Things (2016-), even sharing a child actor, with parallels of young misfits and outsiders who uncover a town's dark, dirty secret, soon banding together to save one of their own whilst also ridding their hometown of demonic menace. IT, however, is firmly planted on the horror spectrum, having stripped its science fiction elements from the novel (and happens to be all the better for it). Almost every scene in the film has a sense of urgency and impending peril, using the often comedic coming of age banter between friends as a breather for the audience from one ghastly Pennywise setup to the next. Not all of them work well, some manifestations of the kids' fears are truly unsettling, gross, and morbid, others are less so, but every frame with Pennywise is doused in mouthwatering fright.

There is something to be said for cinematic horror and how we consume it. Many go to the movies to turn their brains off and relax. We laugh through comedies and get our adrenaline fix with action blockbusters. We curtail our fears of global doom with superhero franchises. The horror genre serves to exorcise something within ourselves as well. Scary movies are essentially the experience of terror without mortal danger or consequence. At the end of the day, none of it is real, and after being throughly put through the ringer in the darkest corners of our imagination, we can walk out of that dark room with a sense of safety and go on with our lives. What makes IT so special, timely, and spine-chilling, is that "it" transcends the cineplex. Regrettably, we are living in a climate of political and social chaos where anything goes. "It" is all around us, in the news, papers, twitter feeds, status updates, and conversations. It may not go by the name of Pennywise, but its favorite shape is still that of an orange haired, evil clown. 

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