Tuesday, 3 October 2017

It



Before I get too focused on the EIFF, let’s come back to the clown in the room. We need to talk about it. It, that is. It is a massive blockbuster, one of the biggest horror films ever, singlehandedly making September the biggest September in box office history. It made me scream alright. But not the kind of screaming one associates with watching horror films. It was a scream of despair.

Let me go back to the beginning. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I’m a Stephen King fan. I think he’s a marvellous storyteller and an excellent writer and I’ve read almost every book he has written (and that’s a lot). Contrary to the views of many, I consider It one of King’s lesser works. There were moments of brilliance, especially those that didn’t involve the clown, but the horror part of the story never resonated with me. Nevertheless, I watched the the TV miniseries in 1990. It wasn’t great but at least it was trying to be true to the novel.

Now comes this blockbuster, directed Andy Muschietti and written, in part, by Cary Fukunaga, whom I admire a lot as a writer and director. When the critics weighed in with generally favourable reviews and It became such a sensation at the box office, I felt I had no choice but to see it. I have rarely in my life been more disappointed with a film.

For one thing, It isn’t even It. Nowhere on the posters and ads did I see It advertised as It: Chapter One, which is what the end credits correctly call this film. It: Chapter One tells only half of the story. This half (of the film, not the book) happens to be almost exclusively the story of seven thirteen-year-olds who are haunted by, and then deliberately try to hunt down, the incredibly evil (and incredibly ludicrous) monster called Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgård). The seven actors in question were awesome, especially Sophia Lillis as the only girl in the group; for me, they were the only good thing in the entire film. 

It is otherwise an awful film, with almost no redeeming qualities whatsoever, just a lot of horror clichés, senseless violence and pointless scares that didn’t scare me at all. Somewhere behind the ridiculous and meaningless story of the clown (whose actions are as illogically ludicrous as the actions of the protagonists), there lurks a dark but beautiful story about these seven young teenagers coming of age in a small town in Maine (the fictitious Derry). But even that story is overburdened with violence and revenge. 

Frankly, I can no longer remember most of the details in King’s novel, but I know that the way this film is structured and quite a few details bear no resemblance to the novel. Yet another mistake. 

When I reviewed mother! recently, I made it clear that I wasn’t recommending it to too many readers. But I gave that film **** because I think it’s a work of genius that is simply not going to appeal to too many viewers. I can now reveal that mother! is, from start to finish, a biblical allegory about God and Mother Earth, which is part of why I ‘enjoyed’ it so much. Some people think there’s more to It than just a monster film. Maybe the orange-haired clown represents actual characters in our world, they say, or maybe it is meant to be a metaphor for the monsters all young teenagers face. To the latter theory, I say: “Okay, but then why throw in all those real-life monsters (the parents of the teenagers)? And why convey the message that the only way to confront monsters is to kill them (as gruesomely as possible)? The positive message that these kids need to move beyond fear and work together to overcome their demons instead of fighting alone is lost in the midst of all that violence.

Unlike mother!, It apparently appeals to a great many viewers. I can't understand why. I can understand Harry Potter, dystopian films and superheroes, but I can't understand this, a film I recommend to no one, because it's an almost complete waste of time. I'm giving It only *+, all of that for the performance by the seven protagonists. My mug is down. 

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