Movie Review – IT (2017)

 

 

Think of any horror story you have ever read. Got one? Good. Was there a jump scare in it? No, there wasn’t. By definition, any horror story you *read* cannot have a ‘jump scare’ in it, no matter how cleverly the author is crafting their words. The best you can do is ‘Suddenly…’ followed by a description of the scare you are trying for.

Suddenly the picture fell off the wall. Suddenly nobody made tea.

Suddenly, the latest movie adaptation of IT has hit the cinemas and is a mixed bag of old tricks.

I first read IT in 1986, at the age of fifteen. I had always had an interest in horror, ever since reading The Omen when I was 10 years old (and spending the rest of the summer grooming my friends heads, wondering if I’d find 666 on any of their scalps). Although I did find IT a little slow to begin with (the book is nearly 1,200 pages after all), with a whole chapter given to the backstory of each of the seven members of The Losers Club in the first hundred or so pages of the book, I persevered and slowly but surely was drawn into the world of Derry, Maine. Since 1986 I have read the book at least twice more, that I can recall, much to the consternation of Tolkien incidentally, who never understood why anyone would read a book more than once. Quite ironic considering he wrote a book that everyone that I know of has read it at least three times or more.

But I digress. I’m good at that.

So when I discovered that a new movie version of IT was to be released this year, a vague trembling, quivering feeling came over me, not unlike the sort of feeling I once had when waking up, after a hard night’s drinking, on top of the Arc de Triomf. Anyway, being the sort of movie fan that gets influenced by reviews, I was aware that IT was garnering very good reviews indeed so, when an opportunity arose to finally watch it, I settled into the movie seat (at the VUE in Paignton no less) to watch IT on the big screen.

Firstly a thing about spoilers and this is the complicated bit. Anything I say in this review is only a spoiler if you have *not* read the book. Because if you watch the film without reading the book then you’re not really going to have any meaningful grasp of the plot elements they removed. Agreed? Then carry on.

I shall continue like Rob Fleming in High Fidelity, with a list. I’m a bloke and I like my lists.

1. They have changed the timeline in the movie. In the book The Losers Club (which is the name the seven children give themselves, who encounter and battle IT) takes place in the 1950s. In the movie the kids story (which is the whole of the first movie – the second movie will take up the story when they are adults) takes place in the 1980s.
Here’s why I think this is a mistake. The 50s was the golden age of horror B movies, such as Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Blob, It Came From Outer Space, Attack Of The Giant Leeches, and many many more. This is significant as IT preys on the fears of the members of The Losers Club and transforms (or manipulates their dreams) into creatures from those movies – that’s why Eddie sees Dracula or Mike gets chased by a Werewolf or Patrick is killed by giant flying leeches.
The 50s had relevance.
By changing the timeframe to the 1980s, yet keeping true to the monsters the kids encounter, the story loses much of its impact. In the 1980s we had far fewer ‘classical’ monster movies and more Gothic horror (such as the Hellraiser films or From Beyond – movies with clear Lovecraftian influences rather Bram Stoker or Mary Shelley).
So changing the timeframe was a no-no as far as I was concerned, especially regarding the other crucial point that IT only awakens every 27 years to spend roughly 8 or 9 months ‘feeding’ before going to sleep again. So the revelation regarding IT’s previous waking times during the American gold rush, for example, becomes skewed and a little confusing now that they have brought the children’s segment of the story into the 80s.

2. In the book, each chapter jumps from the 1950s, to 1980s, to 1950s etc. This makes for some beautiful and engaging transitions regarding memory, where, for example, Beverly as a forty something woman is walking along a road and hears a school bell, and begins the thought ‘school is…’ and then you turn the page and it’s a new chapter and we have the twelve-year-old Beverly finishing the thought with …’out!’ And then we follow her point of view in that particular chapter. Not the best example but please believe me that this was a wonderful, warm and engaging technique in the book and worked very well. I missed that in the movie.

3. Okay, this one could be a genuine spoiler and it’s also the cause of my greatest disappointment. It’s also going to be difficult to explain and you may think I’m on drugs (I’m not, just whisky).
So, in the film, the climatic scene between The Losers Club and IT is basically a physical punch up.
That’s it. A fist fight. I was sorely disappointed with this.
In the book… oh fuck it. Here goes. This is gonna be a long ‘un.
In the book, it is clear that there is some strange external force that is intervening and giving the kids a mystical power from time to time. That power is more to do with their own belief in ‘magic’. For example, Richie Tozier, known for his impersonations, particularly an ‘Irish cop’ voice, uses this voice against IT during one occasion, but for that single moment the voice that comes out of Eddie is like an amalgamation of all the cop voices ever heard, coming out of his mouth with a burning intensity which buys him some time as IT is chasing him. Or another example is with Eddie, who is asthmatic and uses an inhaler, and during another one to one encounter with IT, in desperation he turns and squeezes his inhaler at IT, and again, something comes out of the inhaler that shouldn’t have been there, a vapour that contains the essence of ‘good’, causing IT to falter and buying Eddie some time. Again, for people who have already seen the film, this will mean nothing as you won’t even have the barest hint that any scenes like this were omitted. For those who have read the book, you will fully understand the dramatic and strangely touching moments that these scenes (and the other similar scenes featuring the other five Losers) had upon you.

4. The above is what makes IT wary of them and that causes IT to suspect that the Turtle is still alive.
Okay, the Turtle. None of this is even vaguely hinted at or visualised in the movie’s final climatic battle with IT but in the book, the following happens.

The Losers Club encounter IT deep within the sewer system of Derry and then invoke the ‘Ritual Of Chud’ where their minds ‘clamp’ onto the mind of IT and their spiritual bodies get thrown into the ‘Deadlights’ which is the macro universe – the world between worlds. As they fly through the Deadlights they encounter a Turtle, a huge turtle as big as ten football pitches, and they soar gently over him. They sense the Turtle is omnipotent and the Turtle wakes and just tells them, in a kind and loving way, that they are doing the right thing, and then goes to sleep again. They also sense it was the Turtle that gave them powers earlier in the story (Richie’s ‘voice’, Eddies inhaler etc).
The Turtle appears to represent some incredible power of ‘good’. It’s written in a very enigmatic way and the backstory regarding the Turtle and the origins of IT (save that IT crashed on Earth millions of years ago) is never explained, nor should it be. Some things are best left to the reader’s imagination. But the way it was written in the book was beautiful and the Turtles importance is apparent (the Turtles voice is heard sporadically throughout the whole novel, as the symbol of some higher being of ‘good’, though of course they don’t realise it is a ‘turtle’ until the end of their first encounter with IT).
Yeah I know, the above all sounds like a mind fuck, but I would urge you to read the novel.
So the fact that in the movie the final scene is just a fist fight left me feeling cheated. Would an audience who have never read the book enjoy it? Clearly they do, going by the latest box office receipts and reviews spread across the internet. To me, however, the movie has completely dispensed with the ethereal and slightly spiritual aspects that keeps drawing me back to the book.

5. Okay, some good points. I did think the children acted their guts out. Only one was 16 when the film was made. The others were 15 or younger (and all of them did look the 12 years old they were supposed to be). Sophia Lillis, as Beverley Marsh, gave a particularly fine performance, considering the difficult sub-plot of her character. Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozer was also excellent, giving a fun and engaging performance. There were scenes that touched me, scenes where the seven kids would be on their bicycles, cycling beneath the hot summer sun along the streets of the town, laughing and carefree. Because you see that was the real message and power of the book – it’s depiction of the strength of friendship in childhood and the power that can have. Stephen King was particularly good at writing about childhood as The Body (filmed as Stand By Me) was also exceptional regarding that. So yes, in IT, there were some beautifully realised scenes focusing on the simple pleasures found in childhood friendship.

‘I never had friends later in life like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?’ – Stephen King, The Body.

After all that, will I go and watch part 2 when it’s eventually released? Of course I will! I’m intrigued as to how they will deal with the adult part of the story (and the actors cast in those parts).

The thing about IT which makes it unique is the fact that it’s children who overcome the monster. There have been children’s horror books featuring children and aimed at children of course, but as far as I know Stephen King’s IT was the first time that children had a major and significant part to play in a horror novel that was written and aimed at adults. That makes it unique and remains the biggest appeal for me.

 

If you have watched the film but not read the book, please leave a comment and your review below as I would be very interested to hear from you.

Marcus and his 21st Birthday Bash – Part Two

Milk

My Sainsbury’s online order was delivered this afternoon. Due to me not checking my current stock levels, I now have 47 x 1 litre cartons of milk. If anyone would like to help relieve me of milk, please meet me at The Red Lion pub in Avebury this evening at 8pm. I’ll be wearing a raincoat, fedora and sunglasses. Under my right arm will be a newspaper. We can make the swap in the pub car park and after that, I never want to see you again.

Anyway, sorry for that digression. Here, now, is part two of the account of Marcus’s 21st birthday celebrations.

Theo - The Riddler

He began, of course, with a riddle.
“My first is in Weather but never in bed
My second’s not blue but always in red.
My third is in tea, but never in coffee.
My fourth is dessert – tart or banoffee.
My fifth is a dialetical analysis of a priori conjecturing, that postulates a transgression.
My sixth is a blancmange…”

A pause.

“I need to rethink this,” he said.

It was The Riddler. And yet…I knew it wasn’t. I knew that lurking beneath that plush green suit with the strange hierogrlyphics was a certain Theo Wethered.
Theo Wethered.
I am sure that name conjures just as many images and scintillating tales of wonder and delight as it does with me. Many a time I have regaled an interested thong with stories of Theo’s derring-do. Tonight was no exception as –
Hang on a minute.
Yes, yes, I see that.
That should read ‘throng’.
Anyway, as I was saying. Theo has inspired many people throughout is brief time on Earth and so, in homage, I have put together a video in which I feel perfectly reflects this.

I circled around some more, raising my glass occasionally and smiling. Alcohol is a funny thing. You can go for minutes without taking a sip and then, the next time you do, it feels like the first sip all over again. I gazed at the milling people, just…milling. In my alcohol-fuelled detached state of reality, I wondered if any of them were actually millers. I wondered if millers would mill together, at a party, or just huddle together swapping stories of wheat.
And then –
“Ahoy there!” came a voice I recognised.
Orlando

It was Orlando, dressed as a miller.
“Hi Orlando!”
This was my stock greeting for people I liked. People I didn’t like were subjected to “Sorry but I’m closed today.”
“Are you enjoying yourself Riaz?”
I found this question a bit personal. In fact, it was downright audacious. We had only met a handful of times previously and yet, here he was attempting to understand my psyche, to probe my ego, to reveal the tempestuous fires that burned within my heart.
“Yes,” I said, playing it safe.
“Ahoy! Jim lad!” he said playfully.
My name wasn’t Jim, I wasn’t a lad and I had never been to Hanoi. Apart from that he had everything else right.
We talked for a while. Outside, flashes of light intermittently lit up the dark study. The wind howled against the window, and the sound of gunfire could be heard in the distance. Tomorrow I would visit Horsell common once more to try and discover more about the Martians, but for now most of London was asleep, and the real terror was yet to begin.
War Of The Worlds

The night wore on. My ageing decrepit body constantly argued with my young fertile mind, pleading with it to be taken to a place of safety, such as a bed. At the completely unsociable hour of 11pm I stepped out of the tent and slowly walked back to my flat.
Very slowly, as it happened, as there was nothing to light my way, save for a glimmering beacon of hope.
But I found my flat, kissed Joni goodnight, and fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning I was advised to meet everyone back at the tent for breakfast, so at 10am I moseyed on down to the bottom of the field again. I had drunk a fair bit the night before and had trouble coordinating my many complex and trustworthy simian appendages. I reached the tent and an orderly queue had formed in front of an orderly table that had a selection of breakfast goodies on it, arranged in order. I chose scrambled eggs in a bun, with some bacon and a large paper cup filled with hot steaming coffee.

Morning Breakfast

I sat there, contemplating my existence as I chewed slowly on strips of crispy bacon. The party had been a success, I felt. Marcus’s father, Adam, had given a rousing and very witty speech at the close of the night. There was much dancing, fun and laughter. All in all a fantastic night and I’d like to thank everyone who made it possible.

Okay, I have a bit of space left now, so here’s some classified ads.

LOST & FOUND

Found – one needle. It was in a field near my home, right in the middle of a haystack.
To claim, ring 01633-999888111.

FOR SALE

LIBRARY CARD – Only done two hundred books. This year’s registration. One previous owner. Will be accepted at most Libraries in Wiltshire.  £30 o.n.o. Contact Mr R. Ealie-Phunee on 01799-977611

JOBS

Cladistic taxidermist wanted to accompany time-travelling proletarian salesman.

Marcus and his 21st Birthday Bash – Part One

The tent goes up

Late last week I noticed a pavilion being erected in the field outside the barn that I rent. It irked me, because I was planning to pitch a tent in the very exact spot the next day, along with a shrubbery, but now a pavilion was being erected. As I stood watching I felt a strange stirring in my loin. Can one become aroused by a pavilion? As pavilions go, this one was as seductive as Ally Sheedy when she eats a crisp sandwich in The Breakfast Club.

The Breakfast Club - a fantastic teen movie and wonderful 'coming of age' film from 1985. One of my favourite films ever and if I can give it a gratuitous plug in a blog, then I will.

The Breakfast Club – a fantastic teen movie and wonderful ‘coming of age’ film from 1985. One of my favourite films ever and if I can give it a gratuitous plug in a blog, then I will.

It turned out that the pavilion was actually for the 21st birthday of Marcus Wethered. I had got to know Marcus a little by this time (see my previous blog ‘Man Of Steel – Not a Movie Review’) so was honoured to receive an invite from my illustrious and gloriously kind landlady, Diana™

I enjoy parties but have always had trouble mingling. ‘To mingle’ as the great philosopher Socrates oncee said “Is to subjugate the masses and produce a corporeal dystopian reality.’

Which probably explains why he hasn’t got a Facebook fan page.

Even so, I am drawn to parties. The socialising, the networking, the drinking, the flicking peanuts into the plant pots, the dignified vomiting. I am not a huge party-goer mind you. I remember the first adult party I went to was when I was 17 years old. It was at my sister’s, in honour of her surviving a cesarean section. It was full of people a lot older than me – surgeons and foreign diplomats. I can’t quite remember the guest list, but it was on pink paper with a floral border.

So next – what should I wear? I picked up an interesting Dickensian shirt from a charity shop in Devizes the other week. Should I wear that?

IMG_0464

Nah. Maybe not. I found a pair of jeans and a red fabric shirt I had bought in a Nepalese shop in Newport some months ago, and walked down to the pavilion.

I had been watching the cars pull into the farm for the last hour or so and there were already a fair number of people there. I felt nervous. I was a lot older than them. These were all healthy, vibrant twenty-somethings at university. I was only 16.
Mentally.
42 physically but let’s not dwell on that.

I reached the glorified excuse of a tent and peered cautiously inside. I knew no-one. Coincidentally, no-one knew me either. Also, everyone was in fancy dress. I saw Superman, Hannibal Lector, Spiderman. I even saw Catwoman arm in arm with a Roman Legionary.

Batgirl and a Roman Legionaire

And then, thank goodness, I spotted Marcus.

On the far right, Marcus Wethered. I never did find out why he was holding an axe...

On the far right, Marcus Wethered. I never did find out why he was holding an axe…

“Marcus!” I said. “I guess I am gatecrashing.”
“Not at all,” he said. “Let me introduce you to some people.”
And he did. If only I was a suave and as debonair as him when I was 21. He exuded confidence like a sieve from Asda. I could barely say hello to the girl behind the counter in my local library without turning bright red when I was 21.
But in all seriousness, Marcus, Orlando and Theo had always been polite, pleasant and friendly towards me and I was grateful for that. However, they had an older brother and that is who I was introduced to next. Although they introduced him as ‘Tog’ which confused my tiny brain. Diana had told me she had four sons, naming Tarquin as her eldest. How was I to know their pet name for him was ‘Tog’?
I shook his hand.
“I’m Riaz,” I said. “I didn’t realise they had another brother. They never mentioned you.”
“They didn’t? The bastards!” he said.
I felt a bit awkward.
“Maybe I just forgot.”
“No,” he seethed. “They probably just didn’t mention me.”
Suddenly, in the tiny recesses of the thing that I call a brain, two synapses that had previously hitherto been enemies, suddenly became friends.
“Oh hang on a minute. Tog…are you Tarquin?”
“I am,” he said. And order in the universe was regained once again.
We chatted for a while and he introduced me to another of his friends, George. George introduced himself as a sort of dogsbody within the world of investment banking. Now investment bankers were the butt of many a Monty Python sketch and as he talked to me, I couldn’t help but smiling inanely. I think he picked up on my inaneness and general inaneability, but was too polite to mention it.
“And what do you do?” asked George.
“Well my day job is a support worker in a mental health rehab unit. But really, I am a writer.
“Oh yes,” said George.
“I’ve written a memoir. It’s called My Life With Kate Bush. It’s about me, growing up in a welsh town in the nineteen seventies and eighties.”
“A memoir?” said George. “Is it all true?”
“It’s not completely true,” I conceded. “I have embellished parts of it of course, purely for reasons of entertainment. And the conversations I had thirty years ago are, well, approximations of the truth.”
George nodded. “It’s a writer’s prerogative.”
“I mean, if I write up an account of this party, most of the conversations that I will put down on paper will be embellished. Do you realise I was once married to Sandra Bullock?”
George nodded and began to rise slowly into the air. “Anything to entertain the reader, I guess,” he said, and then exploded.

The food was free. The drink was free. And I took advantage of that – what author wouldn’t? I drank a few cocktails of something or another – I’m not quite sure what they were. As a direct result, my confidence suddenly knew no bounds and I went up to a girl dressed as Caligula’s best friend and began chatting with her.
“Hey!” I said. A bit of an opening gambit but its worked for me in the past.
“Hello,” she said and we began chatting.
“I am studying history and politics,” she said.
“Ah. They compliment each other,” I said knowingly. “History and politics. The two last bastions of the empire, aloof and yet not alone. Have you ever heard of Mark Knopfler?”
I realised that my confidence had now began to work against me and I was beginning to sound like John Noakes.
There was a pause. Possibly an uncomfortable one as her eyes started roaming around the room.
“Nice talking to you,” she said, “but I am just going to get a drink.”

And then I saw him.
Theo Wethered - The Riddler
It was The Riddler. Arch Nemesis of Batman.

This could be interesting…

TO BE CONTINUED…