It or not to It #film review

We have a rule about films. No 18 certificates unless there’s a really compelling reason. Which is a little limiting but workable. So when the Textiliste is invited to a girl’s night out at Spinach, a newish veggie restaurant opposite the East Dulwich Picture House and the film adaptation of the classic Stephen King horror novel ‘It’ is on at the same time, well, why not, eh?

The thing about horror, much like violence and sex on screen is that, these days, we are inured to so much. What once made me squirm and quail merely seems, well, cartoonish. So a weirdly smiling clown (oh, yes, loads of spoilers coming btw), a hinged mouth with lines of triangular teeth like some highly evolved shark, shooting tendrils coming out of a sink, blood gushing hither and yon. It’s all a bit meah. It’s the unreality of it. Real horror sits in the present, in our reality, in child abuse and sex assault and grooming and domestic violence. Who believes in a supernatural element taking the shape of our fears being defeated by a bunch of loser kids in bikes? The token girl, Beverly, has a creepy father who clearly has distorted intentions towards her. Now that is sickening, that is horror.

If you strip out the spectrum of scares that the film contains, it’s a Disney-esque romp with our misbegotten downtrodden heroes struggling against the evil, against the town bullies and, mostly, against themselves. There are some knowing one liners given to a couple of the kids but the script writers were in a bind here; one the one hand they could play some of this for laughs, like the Scary Movie franchise, but the jokes would fall flat if they came out of 13 year olds’ mouths. So we are asked to take these kids at face value, believe they could turn from jumping at their own shadows and their terrifying parents and elders and form a tight little battalion that wouldn’t seem amiss in Kelly’s Heroes or any Army-Buddy movie.

And we don’t. We know they’ll live even when they seem sure to snuff it; we know the hardwired yellow belly of the group will turn out to be the bravest of all. And it’s trite and simplistic and inevitably it leaves you thinking the book was fine for its time but now, not so much.

But let’s take the positives; I had the chance to sample the smoked mackerel salad before-hand and it was really rather excellent and almost made up for the fact their freezer had exploded earlier in the day and there was no ice cream. Almost.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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40 Responses to It or not to It #film review

  1. AJ.Dixon says:

    I think you have a point about what we expect from horrors these days. With a legion of “classic” horror movies available to us at any time all of the tropes have been done to death and we’re hardened to them. Shame that the film wasn’t on par with the mackerel salad, I had high hopes for this adaptation.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for saving me the $$ and time, that I can now spend on some yummy chow!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re so right…the real life horror trumps all !!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. We went to see It last night and our conclusion was that is was just not subtle enough to be “horror”. Every time, just every time, there was something unsettling, the clown popped up and failed to make us jump. Beverley’s father, as you say, was a much more disturbing aspect in the story.
    However, like you, we had dinner beforehand (our new little cinema also has a restaurant) and it was lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s a strange but true fact that Christopher Lee vampire movies can scare me witless, but I can sit through hordes of innocents being hoisted on barbed wire tendrils and transpierced with metal poles, or dismembered and eaten by zombies, without batting an eyelid. I might occasionally ask of a particularly wild-looking zombie with blood dripping from her fangs, who is that? But you know, who really cares? You’re right, clowns per se are not frightening. Blood and guts pouring merrily isn’t real, and the true horror is what goes on inside people’s heads.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ritu says:

    It didn’t appeal to me at all!

    Like

  7. I don’t do horror. Or clowns – I find their mere existence horrid enough! And 45 still in the WH is also enough horror for all of us isn’t he?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ali Isaac says:

    Hmmm… Well, cartoonish it may be, but you still wouldn’t catch me going to see a scary movie. But I agree with you that the real horror lies in what is going on in the real world all around us.
    When I visited Fore on Sunday, I borrowed the key from a local lady and went up the hill to visit the Nugent family mausoleum. By myself. Didn’t think anything of it. When I took the key back, she asked me if I was afraid. I was really surprised. It had never entered my head to be afraid. I thought about that all the way home, and came to a very similar conclusion to yours. Its not the dead we should fear, but the living.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      Yes and put that thought together with a fertile imagination and the local shopping centre suddenly seems terrifying, and that is without being dragged into Claire’s Accessories by a 12 year old – that truleye is the epitome of terror

      Like

  9. barbtaub says:

    Clowns. So the thing is—I don’t do horror. And even if by some weird twist I did, I could NEVER do clown horror. The mere thought is worse than the Bates motel shower. Worse than anything involving a chainsaw. Worse than voting Republican. And you faced it without benefit of ice cream? (Mackerel so doesn’t count.) You’re the bravest person I know.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Erika Kind says:

    I had never watched that movie anyway (only because I cannot stand clowns and also because of the topic that something that is supposed to make us happy turns into something terrifying) but after your post, I am proved that I do not even watch it accidentally!

    Like

  11. trifflepudling says:

    Clowns are grotesque, which is really unsettling in my book. People watch this stuff to take their minds off real horrors, maybe. I’ve never understood it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I agree with you about horror.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. ellenbest24 says:

    I went as a treat for a good friend, she loves horror so we went together.
    Like you the horror for me were the abusers the bullies and the neglect. The clown was excellent until the over filed teeth, the hinged jaw stupidly arrived. What a waste of £22 as I paid for us both.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I am curious about this movie because, like you say, it was good for its time. It was. Pennywise created much coulrophobia. Though, honestly, I’m not sure it needed help. Clowns are freaky, scary…painted on “happy” features hiding…what? WHAT?! *shudders* It is an overdone trope but one that taps into a lot of fear. As far as the film, it seems they missed the mark with this one and I completely agree the girl’s father (and real-life monsters) are much more frightening.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I saw it (It) a couple of weeks ago, more out of curiosity than anything. I didn’t think it was badly made, but I kept wondering why the “horror” was so in your face. Much better to leave so much of it to our imaginations. Oh,and I kept wondering when they were going to deal with the “present day” stuff. Shame about the answer to that one really… As you’ve indicated above, a great book (though it’s nearly 30 years since I read it), but perhaps it was never meant to be translated to the screen.

    Liked by 1 person

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