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Belittling Horror Excessively: IT02:23 PM -- Sun October 1, 2017

Hey everybody! It's my favorite time of year! I get to spend this month watching a horror movie every day, and then discussing it in overwhelming, excruciating detail with my wife! Nothing could be more awesome. Well actually, we do limit ourselves for time, to avoid creating an unreadable novel of discussion. It would be more awesome to actually keep rambling and be able to cover every single little thing about every movie. But here in the real world, here is what we are able to discuss about each movie in forty-five minutes. Enjoy!

Oh, and as always, we will spoil all of these movies extensively during our reviews, so you should watch it first. In addition, we aren’t going to explain what we’re talking about, so that’s another reason you should probably watch it first. And then join the discussion in the comments below!

Okay, one last note: the last line of every review tells you what the movie for the next day is going to be. So if you don’t want to be spoiled on this movie, but do want to know what the next movie is so you can watch it first, read the last line!

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

It (2017)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A group of bullied kids band together when a shapeshifting demon, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.”
IMDB Rating: 8.1/10
Metacritic Rating: 70/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 86% critics, 89% audience
Solee: 4/5
Mikey: 5/5
We watched this in the theater.

Mikey: It’s 2017, and here we are again at my favorite time of year! It’s time to review movies!! YAY!

Solee: Yay! We spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to come up with a clever plan for this year’s reviews, and here we are … back to the basics. A Google Docs convo from two different rooms in the same house.

Mikey: I really wanted to do a podcast, but… yeah. Hard things are hard. Let’s start this month off with a bang by watching a brand new movie in the theater!!

Solee: DONE! We actually left the house to see IT on the first day it was available here. What were you expecting?

Mikey: First showing of the first day! Not for the review though, but because we are both big fans of the book and Stephen King. We got to “enjoy” the movie version of The Dark Tower a month or two earlier, and now IT has come for us.

Solee: [spoiler alert: DT was NOT good. *sadface*]

Mikey: I had higher expectations of this one. Just from the previews it looked pretty good. But how could they possibly take a 1200+ page novel and crush it into a 2 hour movie? There are a ton of characters, who do a ton of things (a big chunk of the book involves all the other townsfolk, not just the main kids). So I expected something like Dark Tower, but better - the ideas and images of the book, in an Easy Reader format.

Solee: IT is one of my favorite King books. I’ve read it at least 5 times. I did not have high hopes for the movie because the trailers made it look like it was going to be a straight up horror flick. The magic behind the book (and most of King’s work, if you ask me) is that he gets way into people’s heads. You get to know each character, even side characters, on a very intimate level. That’s just not possible in a movie format. And yet … I was extremely pleased with the movie.

Mikey: Yes, actually I should say the trailers made me expect it was a “clown as Freddy Krueger” movie (whereas in the book, the clown is not so central - It can appear in any form and just uses the clown a bunch of times), which we sorta did get, but it was much more true to the book than I expected. I was happy!

Solee: I was relieved when I realized, about half-way through, that they weren’t going to try to do the whole book. This was very clearly a movie with a sequel set-up. Which actually fits the book quite well, if you unshuffle all the past and present scenes.

Mikey: I got scared at the point you got relieved! I thought they were going to do only the kid half, sure, but I thought that was it. Just ignore half the point of the book. The sequel-bait made it better.

Solee: The REAL horror would have been if this movie didn’t do well enough and they scrapped the second half!

Mikey: I’m really glad that’s not the case. I’m burned by The Dark Tower.

Solee: And just about every other adaptation of Stephen King books!

Mikey: I guess I’m glad Dark Tower didn’t do well and spawn more sequel garbage, but we still need the 8 season TV series for it…

Solee: Yes, please. But this review is about IT. What did you think of the casting?

Mikey: That was really great actually… One thing about this movie is that it’s pretty much the Stranger Things movie. So similar all around. I guess 80’s nostalgia is all the rage today (especially since if they were being true to the book, it would’ve been in the 50’s). So just like Stranger Things, these actors (one of which is from Stranger Things) really made you feel the “nerds growing up in the 80’s” vibe that just makes it very real and moving.

Solee: Interesting rabbit trail … King wrote the book in ‘86. He was born in ‘47, so the 50s were his coming of age period. Those of us who read the book in the 80s are now about the same age he was when he wrote about his coming of age. So it makes perfect sense that all us 40ish folks are waxing nostalgic about the 80s. Apparently your 40s is when that happens.

Mikey: That just makes me question my accomplishments. Kind of like when you see 18 year old superstars, only not so bad since I’m just now at the age where I haven’t written IT. P.S. IT was the first book I remember reading. It obviously wasn’t the first book I read (imagine THAT) but I read it much younger than I should have, maybe at 12 or 13. I found it on my parents’ bookshelf and just chewed through 1200 pages in a couple weeks, and then started grabbing every Stephen King book I could find. It is very formative to me! I still say it’s my favorite book, but it’s been like 10 years since I read it (for the second or third time, obviously…).

Solee: King’s “Eyes of the Dragon” was the first horror book I remember reading, also at about age 12. I did the same as you; once I finished that, I devoured everything of his I could get my hands on.

Mikey: Definitely my favorite writer, by miles! So rabbit trails aside, this was a movie. Was it a scary movie?

Solee: I’m going to say yes. I thought Skarsgaard did a lovely job of being creepy and there were lots of subtle things throughout the movie that really ramped up the tension. For example: the folks who were about to be eaten up would have a moment when their eyes looked like the clown’s eyes. The director didn’t make a big deal out of it, but it happened often enough for me to think it was very intentional.

Mikey: You told me that after the movie and it was too late for me to check. I’ll have to see next time. The woes of seeing a movie in a theater! I thought it was kind of in the middle for scares… it wasn’t super creepy (had some adventure/fantasy/action elements), but it did have its share of scary moments. I think the giant Pennywise in the garage was the most shocking moment for me.

Solee: Hmm. I’m not sure I have a stand-out moment, but I remember jumping several times. I’m a big fan of the psychological horror, though, and IT has that in spades. The monster takes on the form of each person’s fear and these kids had plenty of crap to draw from in their lives.

Mikey: Yeah, I think Bev’s story was the most powerful. That could’ve been a movie of its own, just caught in that family life and tormented by a malevolent spirit. But we’ve seen those movies before, so I’m glad this one was different!

Solee: Was it THAT different though?

Mikey: Well, I mean it was about all the kids, and their quest to defeat It. That’s a lot different from “boo hoo, my life is horrible, the ghost is harassing me, AND I’M DEAD NOW.” which is all ghost movies.

Solee: I see. I’m wondering just how “unique” IT is. When I think about it … there are plenty of coming of age movies. And plenty of your-fear-manifested movies. Maybe not so many of the two combined? It doesn’t feel super original to me, but maybe that’s because 1) it’s a go-to story for King, and 2) I’ve read this exact story soooo often.

Mikey: I think it’s a unique movie. The combination, plus it’s just very rare that “horror” has any kind of quest, or any victory for our heroes, or really heroes for that matter (let’s just cheer for their deaths!). And it does impact the horror of it, it’s just not as scary when you know you have heroes in there. They’re sure to win in the end, and their very strength in facing the threat ruins the horror - it’s not scary if they’re not scared. Which brings me to my issues with the ending. That make sense though? It has real horror, mixed with real action/fantasy/adventure.

Solee: Quick comment on that … it’s a fine line to walk in horror storytelling, I think. If you make the characters relatable and strong, the audience isn’t truly afraid of their death (although that sets up some pretty devastating storylines, ie: Hoban Washburne) and if you make them expendable enough for people to wonder whether they will live or die, they tend to have less depth. I think this razor-wire is why so many horror movies are just terrible.

Mikey: Yeah, this movie leaned more on the side of making you care about characters, and I think that’s the better path, since you know, stories are about characters. I think most horror movies have that introduction phase at the beginning and you’re just rolling your eyes through it, going “when can we kill these people already?”

Solee: Indeed. Turns out there’s an art to writing good stories. Who knew?

Mikey: Stephen King! So I found an issue both times the characters confront Pennywise, and I think it’s a result of condensing a huge book. In the big book, there’s this dread built up over weeks of events and a very real fear to the confrontation, we know it’s dangerous because each of them has been personally attacked multiple times along the way. In the movie, each kid kind of gets one little jump-scare from Pennywise to let them see the threat, and then they face him. So then the actual fight seems weak… it also has to do with the very concept: because It feeds on fear, the only way they beat it is by overcoming their fear and being tougher than It. So in the end, it comes down to them beating a clown with a lead pipe. It’s… really appropriate, and a good concept, but it doesn’t work well in the movie. It’s just kids murdering a poor man.

Solee: YES! That scene disturbed me and I just now realized the logistics behind why. Because if they aren’t afraid of It, if they stop believing in its supernatural power, then they essentially believe it’s just a regular guy. A regular guy they can take turns attacking. I know that’s not the story … but that’s how it came across on screen and it was disconcerting.

Mikey: That’s a good point, just a dude. It reminds me of a negative review I saw on IMDB - the reviewer thought it was crazy how all the adults in the town were evil, and the bullies were so extremely horrible. He thought that on top of the kid-eating monster, that was absurd, but he didn’t know that all that was part of the kid-eating monster. I’m not sure if the movie failed to impart that, or if he just didn’t get it, because I read the book, so I understood it anyway.

Solee: I don’t think that was addressed well in the movie.

Mikey: I really liked how that came off in the movie, though I think it could’ve used some on-the-nose explication (the balloon in the backseat of the car was a clue…). Just seeing these people get really creepy smiles and be really inappropriate. I liked that angle, though it probably needed more clarity.

Solee: So, after all that, how would you rate this new version of IT?

Mikey: As a fan of the book (it’s my favorite!), and how well this interpreted it, about as well as you could in 2 hours, I don’t know if I can go lower than 5/5. I want to, because it’s not perfect, but we grade on a curve in October. This was surprisingly great.

Solee: I’m going to give it a 4/5. Which is surprising because I tend to rate higher than you. I did really enjoy this movie. But I don’t think the “horror” is what I enjoyed about it. It’s just a great movie. Compared to other horror movies, though … I know I’m going to see ones I like more for that specific element. Does that seem unfair? Sorry, Mr. King.

Mikey: Now I feel dumb for fiving it! Actually during the movie, I kept finding myself having to re-adjust my expectations, because it really is a mix of genres. I kept trying to force myself to just look at it as a story, context-free, and whether I enjoyed the storytelling or not. And trying not to judge it on the book. This was a hard movie to properly rate!

Solee: Yes. I think it’s fairly clear from this discussion that we failed to consider it “context-free”. I’m okay with that. Even though I only gave it a 4 for the purposes of BHE, I would go see it again and I am glad I saw it in the theater. So that says something.

Mikey: One more note from me! What I really appreciated about this movie was Stephen King coming to life - it was all about the characters. I can always go for more movies like that. That’s what Firefly is too. Doesn’t matter it’s space cowboys, or evil clowns, what matters is how fun the people are.

Solee: Agreed. So how fun are the people in our next movie??

Mikey: I’ll tell you tomorrow after we’ve seen Altar (2016)!
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