September 10, 2017 at 6:48 pm | Posted in 2017 | Leave a comment
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Just yesterday, a friend and I were discussing what makes a good horror movie. We both agree that we don’t expect to get scared. No movie has really scared me since I was a kid, except maybe a documentary about government corruption (“Zero Days” or “Taxi to the Dark Side,” for example). I can’t really be scared by things I don’t believe in, like ghosts and demons and zombies. However, I can be startled and creeped out by a good horror movie. My friend and I both agree that it is more the latter than the former that really makes for a fun experience. Making the audience jump is a bit of a cheap thrill that can be produced easily enough, using every cliche in the genre’s book. But giving a film a genuinely creepy vibe takes some skill. It requires the right combination of plot, character development, acting, location, and camera work. When “It” works, it works best in those moments when it achieves true creepiness. Fortunately, there are quite a few of those moments. Pennywise is a great example of the evil clown trope and he is played well by Bill Skarsgård (yes, of that Skarsgård acting family). He manages some demented, sinister facial expressions that are the epitome of creepy. Unfortunately, he is less effective when he speaks. The voice sounds cartoonish and the dialogue is usually just silly. As is often the case, he is the most terrifying when he is just briefly on screen. The longer we get to see him, the less daunting he becomes, which, given the plot, may be the point. And the plot is an interesting one. Stephen King has been a master at creating characters you care about, something that so many horror films lack. Here he does so by essentially recreating his characters from “Stand by Me.” The story upon which “Stand by Me” was based, “The Body,” was first published in 1982, four years before he published “It,” and he draws heavily from those tropes when developing the coming-of-age story of these adolescents in the late 1980s. They had the same combination of nerds and bullies, sincere and sarcastic, clean-cut and sexually preoccupied that will look so familiar to anyone who has seen “Stand by Me.” So much so, that I felt those portions of the film were retreading old ground. I did not feel drawn into the cute, sweet adolescent dramas that were supposed to give these kids depth. I want character development, just not that particular sort, which felt like it was trying too hard to be a different type of film. I came to see a horror movie and I was happiest when this film was giving me that. When it worked at its best (as in the library basement, the basement in the kid’s home, pretty much any basement, in fact), it was really entertaining. Other times, it was cute and fun and sometimes silly and even a bit boring. Overall, this wasn’t one of the truly great horror films but I would say that it is better than most.


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