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IT: A lesson in What Real Horror is. Terrifying from Beginning to End (Review)

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I’ve been waiting to see It for a long time.  This was my first exposure to It, I hadn’t read the book or seen the Tim Curry miniseries (I know, shame on me) so I really have nothing to compare it to.  Let me tell you – it lives up to the hype.  It is legitimately terrifying in so many different ways.  And it’s not just killer clown monsters, either.  There are psychotic bullies and horrible adults too.  Those kids can’t catch a break.

IT-Comic-Con-posterA group of bullied kids band together when a monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.

pennywise-stephen-kings-it-20006672-1280x0The beauty of It is its particular brand of horror. You got to see the terrible things coming from a long way off, they came on gradually.  I don’t remember any jump scares at all – in fact it was usually the opposite: the Horror would often pause and let you take it all in before continuing.  It specializes in the grotesque, It’s brand of fear stems from our innate ability to recognize things aren’t as they should be.  Uncanny Valley was just the start of it, not only do things look wrong, they move wrong, too fast and twitchy, like a fever dream.  It was unnerving.

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My goodness that was a busy clown.  Most of the movie was taken up by the terrifying things it was doing to those kids. I got the sense that they tried to pack an enormous amount of material into a very tiny time frame.  Although it wasn’t that tiny – 2 hours and 15 minutes should be more than adequate, that’s long for a movie.  I got the feeling that they wanted to squeeze WAY more in, like there was a story for every character, that would have unfolded at a reasonable rate.  While it was carefully paced, so much of the film was either a set-up to horror or the horror itself.  I can’t say as I minded this arrangement but it felt …. hurried. 

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The setting, a small town in the 80s, was done so deftly you hardly notice it. Or I hardly did.  There were characters with mullets.  People listened to cassette tapes.  If you wanted use a phone, you had to ask to use the phone of whatever building you happened to be in.  It was seamless, though. The acting was so good too.  All those kids were amazing, Sophia Lillis, particularly, was heartbreaking.  It really captures what a tough time early adolescence is time even if you’re not being hunted by a supernatural predator.  Speaking of, Bill Skarsgard was amazing as Pennywise, and I definitely was not looking to unseat Tim Curry.

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Of course there were things I didn’t like.  Some moments were pretty cheesy (a moment with hair in the sink comes to mind)  Some characters were cartoonishly evil.  But I’m not going to go into all the tiny details, that would give too much away but most of it stems from the fact that I didn’t know the rules of Pennywise.  What can he do?  What can’t he do?  I’ve noticed this in a few Stephen King works (The Mist comes to mind) where you’re never really given an explanation of what’s going on.  I realize this problem is mostly me, the true horror is in Not Knowing and it it were up to me he’d get a full autopsy a la Blade II.  I know it would destroy the mystery but I want to know more about what Pennywise actually was.   

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So is It worth seeing?  Yes, so much yes.  But of all the movies I’ve seen, don’t take the little ones to this one.  And maybe don’t drink coffee right before.  I’m going to see It again just to see what I missed and I may well read the book.  Of all the new sources of material lately, I think I like this resurgence of Stephen King the best (The Mist, The Dark Tower, now: It).   Anyway, go see it, it’s worth your time.

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