Will 'It' float too?
George Plank | Staff Writer
September has given way to October, and with it certain changes begin. The embers from the last summer barbeque finally die out, the nights have a new chill in the breeze and there is a desire to find something truly eerie. This time of year, we see a rise in the number of horror and thriller movies coming to our local cinemas. “It” is the first real horror blockbuster of the year, so if the film is any indication of the seasonal experience what is the current state of horror films?
“It” is based on the Stephen King book of the same name. The book has been previously adapted into a TV miniseries in 1990. Both the book and the miniseries are divided into two parts; a group of children taking on a killer clown, and their return as adults to once again face their fears. The 2017 movie, on the other hand, chooses to focus on the childhood half of the story. A group of social outcasts comes together as friends to stand up to their bullies, forget about their issues for a while and occasionally fight a killer clown.
In an effort to update the film to the present day the film is set during the ‘80s rather than the pseudo-’50s or ‘60s setting of the original, as such the overall tone of the film is more “Stranger Things” than “Stand by Me.” The “Stranger Things” parallel is even more defined with the inclusion of cast member Finn Wolfhard who plays Richie in the film.
There is an abundance of ‘80s nostalgia throughout the film, from posters in characters’ bedrooms to marquees advertising the latest “Nightmare on Elm Street” film. This allows the film to do three very important things. It can keep with the timelines suggested by the book, it allows many of the viewers to connect it with their own childhoods and it still creates a nostalgic setting that seems like simpler times relative to the present.
Unlike “It’s” 1990 predecessor, the new film has a hard R rating. So, instead of cutting to black right before a particularly gruesome scene the new film can show you every frame of every second as a clown tears a young boy’s arm off with his teeth. As the expression goes, show don’t tell, and this movie is not afraid to show you everything. It doubles down on the blood gore and overall eeriness of the situation.
With modern film effects, the supernatural aspect of Pennywise can be put on full display. Pennywise appears to the children in a manner befitting their greatest fears, and, for the moviegoer, that means that they are treated to a barrage of unsettling images; from a bathroom covered in blood to an infected leper.
The undisputed star of the film and the most anticipated performance is that of Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. His vocal performance is enough on its own to unsettle anyone, but his body language is also deeply unnerving. He has a slight slouch but still towers over everyone. While another actor might have been lost in all the makeup required for the role, Skarsgård shines through layers of cream makeup and prosthetics. When people think of the role, they usually associate Pennywise with the actor Tim Curry, but Skarsgård delivers on one thing that Curry never did; we actually see Pennywise the Dancing Clown dance, and with its off-rhythm motions and unwavering consistency it is just as unnerving as any other part of his performance.
The clown was frightening, but in true Stephen King fashion, even the adults left a feeling of uneasiness with the kids and the audience.
The movie was expertly marketed from the moment it was announced. There were interactive exhibits at comic conventions, a well-house walkthrough experience in California and there were strategically placed balloons tied to sewage grates in high traffic areas. For once it seemed like there was a scary movie that even non-horror fans agreed they would have to see.
With a sequel planned that will explore the supernatural aspect of Pennywise, and will revisit the main characters as children, there is no end in sight for this movie franchise. If “It” is any indication for the future of blockbuster horror films, the future looks dark in the best possible way.