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.