From the release of It’s first record smashing trailer, to its second week at the box office, people just can’t get enough of Pennywise, the dancing clown. It currently sits at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8/10 on IMDB. The sequel was quickly announced (with you at the helm), and fans are already drumming up their fancasts for the eventual adult versions of the Losers Club.
So how did you do it? Which clown god did you sell your soul to in order to find a diamond in the horror genre rough? Did you obsessively hit refresh on YouTube over 37 Million times to rack up the trailer view count? Or did you somehow plan and execute the obscene clown sighting trend of 2016, like some marketing prodigy?
The reason I ask is because after viewing It, I’m a bit confused by all the hubbub.
I’m not saying It was bad. Not at all. In fact, you accomplished another feat by getting me to park my ass in a movie theatre for a horror movie. I usually avoid the genre, because it absolutely terrifies me. But all the hype that It generated was enough to get me to succumb to peer pressure.
But after my viewing, I couldn’t help but wonder, is that it for It? The reason I say this, and I’m sure you’re keenly aware, It is a by-the-book, conventional horror movie. It follows the standard horror movie format; something creepy terrorizes a group of unsuspecting individuals, a lot of spooky stuff goes down, a legend is uncovered that details what is happening and why, and eventually, the main character(s) confront the ghost/demon/murderer in a climactic battle that usually takes place in a horribly lit room. And of course, the jump scares. Who could forget the jump scares?
Once the rose-coloured glasses come off, It really isn’t that much different than any ol’ horror film. It’s in the same playing field as The Conjuring, Insidious, or Mama, the 2013 film which you also directed. In fact, I would go as far as to say it’s less terrifying than any of the films I just mentioned.
It ventures dangerously close to comedy with Bill Skarsgard’s over-the-top performance of Pennywise. Couple that with the adorable -- and surprisingly vulgar -- banter between the kids of the Losers Club, It comes off more as a coming-of-age tale with some horror elements, rather than the other way around. Perhaps that teetering balance between horror and comedy is the secret to your success. Because where It fails at being a flat-out horror movie, it flourishes in all other aspects.
One of the biggest complaints about the horror genre from many moviegoers is that outside of the jumps scares, the plot is always a basic attempt at stringing a narrative together and the characters have zero appeal aside from how loud they can scream. In It’s case, the chemistry between the child stars is so captivating, it elevates the film.
You created a steady stream of exhilaration for the audience by never letting up on the adrenaline. We, the viewers, were constantly at a heightened state through either fear or laughter -- and then just when we thought we were comfortable, you added a surprise element of empathy by incorporating something twisted enough to punch us right in the gut, like having to watch one of the young characters grapple with her own domestic horror.
It seems that for a horror movie to be truly successful, critically and financially, it shouldn’t just focus on the emotion of fear but rather, the full spectrum of emotions. It’s a similar approach that Get Out used earlier this year and we all know how well that was received.
I hope you float (pun intended) on the wave of success that is coming your way thanks to It. You really did create a very enjoyable movie-going experience. While It could’ve definitely been scarier, you chose to be clever in your delivery and focused the movie on the characters and plot, effectively building something more memorable and worthy of its hype.