By Kelvin Boyd
“You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.” – Dale Carnegie.
Remember when it was fun to go to the movies? Odds are most moviegoers did not have fun during the summer of 2017 as the summer box office hit its lowest point in 20 years. Many films, such as “The Dark Tower”, “King Arthur”, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” and especially “Baywatch”, failed to deliver bank or fan satisfaction. However, fun and box office gold has come back to the movie theaters compliments of a child-munching clown known as Pennywise, performed with sinister delight by Bill Skarsgaard.
Stephen King’s “IT” killed more than adolescents on the big screen by earning an estimated $120 million over the weekend. Pennywise can buy a lot of balloons with that kind of money.
The New Line Cinemas/Warner Bros. film was shown at over 4,000 screen locations, ripping apart several records such as the biggest opening for an R-rated horror movie, largest opening for a horror film of any MPAA rating, biggest September opening, and the largest fall opening.
Why are the masses lining up in droves to watch a clown butcher children? Remember the earlier mention of fun? Horror movies are supposed to be fun by the implementation of fear, and “IT’ nails it by utilizing fear to the ninth degree. Children are extremely susceptible to fear; their imaginations are on fire and their dreams have not yet been dampened by life in the adult world. The seven protagonists of “IT”(known collectively as The Losers Club) all have something to be afraid of. They are chased by their fears and forced to confront them. The audience is along for the ride, knowing a monster hellbent on slashing children is just around the bend. The fear is felt by viewers, and the excitement spills over into anticipation and anxiety.
Director Andy Muschietti brilliantly maintains the pace of a movie that has several characters. The killing-clown busters are Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), and Stan (Wyatt Oleff). Normally a multitude of central players would slow a movie down, yet each member of The Losers has his/her own story weaved seamlessly into the main plot without confusion. Muschietti deserves a beautiful red balloon for that alone.
The child/teen actors are astonishing, with Lillis standing out the most. If she can continue to obtain great roles, Lillis will be a major star in just a few years. Her character, Beverly, has a horrendous life at home and lives in despair. She has also hit puberty, bringing more problems into her life. Through her friendship with The Losers, Beverly evolves from being a victim to transforming into a fighter. Her courage is siphoned to the others in the group, inspiring them to stand their ground and face their fears. Beverly is also empowered by being the only girl in The Losers. All of the boys revere her as if she is a deity to be worshiped. Now that is ‘girl power’!
Friendship is another key element of the film. This sounds cheesy, but “IT” shows the merit of friendship far better than most feel-good family movies. The friendship is so strong that the group forges a blood-bond oath. Didn’t anybody think to opt for the less painful pinky-swear promise? Free tip: Show a friend you really care by giving them a red balloon.
Isolation is something that great horror movies like “The Shining” and “The Descent” excelled at, and “IT” has also mastered the concept. Children and teens can feel like they are all alone in the world because they think the adults just don’t care and/or understand. The adults in “IT’ really don’t understand or care, and refuse to see the horrors taking place in the town of Derry. The adults do not notice(or pretend not to notice) the murders and missing person cases that go through the roof every 27 years. The kids are truly isolated with their fears and the crazed clown trying to destroy them.
The faint of heart need to skip “IT’. All of the jump scares found in a haunted house are on the screen, such as dark rooms, tight corridors, creepy dolls, glowing red eyes, whispering spirits, and otherworldly baddies with sharp teeth. The eerie soundtrack is also a nice touch. CGI is used but other practical effects are also put into play. Most of the scares take place in the sewers or in a small “Dark House”. Yes, that is the title of a book by King and Peter Straub. Watch “IT” and read “Dark House” and you will make the connection.
“IT” succeeds as a horror film on every level. The movie deals with fears shaped in nightmares, while also exposing the fears associated with growing up. The mix works well and gives audiences more than enough to be afraid of.
So grab a soda, some popcorn, and a raincoat (the blood splatters akin to watermelons at a Gallagher show) and enjoy a wonderfully frightful evening at the movies with your old pal Pennywise The Dancing Clown, or stay at home where it is safe. Whatever ‘floats’ your boat.
“IT” receives five balloons out of five.