Mid-Week M.E.L.A.: IT has been edited by Suraj Zala.
Horror is not everyone’s cup of tea. But for those who love to watch films that scare the living daylights out of them, IT is the best pick. It is funny and warm and touching and frightening and profane and profound.
A lot of horror movies came out this year, but not every movie was a sell-out. Many failed to give us the heebie-jeebies, and those which performed well were quite conventional, brimming with cliches. Given the huge fan following of Stephen King, and his ability to engage an audience of every age, IT was one of the most awaited horror movies after Annabelle 2. Hugely disappointed by the others, I found IT to be a roller coaster ride through hell.
For a change, IT did not hold back in going all out and established that in the first scene itself. The movie is an astounding mix of humour and horror, already having surpassed the conventional creepiness of fright-fests. Sticking to plain, unanticipated appearances proved to be a simple and effective way to scare people—make them curl up in their seats, drop popcorn tubs, and spill drinks.
King’s writing is propulsive. It always has been. There’s a blue-collar simplicity to it, which perhaps makes it so roguishly attractive. But the movie is different, despite being as devoted to the source material as a King fan at one of his live readings. This is an ensemble smorgasbord of scariness and portmanteau of petrification, throwing everything but the haunted kitchen-sink at the audience in the cause of freaking us out. As the kids experience a multitude of creepy and horrible things, it feels like an anthology of horror encounters.
And so, the movie’s collection of scares could be shuffled and shown in any order without losing their potency. There’s a glossy, Spielbergian sheen to the visuals of Chung-hoon Chung – Director of Photography of choice for genius director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Stoker). Like other properties of the horror genre, like Ju-on: The Grudge and Netflix’s Stranger Things, IT is the real deal. Having essentially created the genre that we now associate with an entire decade – this film is very much a coming-of-age story.
IT covers just the book’s first half, depicting a series of unfortunate events occurring in the small town of Derry, Maine. The premise is simple. Children begin to disappear. A ragtag bunch of frightened neighbourhood kids take it upon themselves to confront the source of all this tragedy: Pennywise. A shape-shifting demon who appears chiefly in the form of a cackling clown. The movie delivers well on this premise, in a way that emphasizes King’s signature style. It’s almost impossible to not be jolted by memories of The Shining or Carrie – the best King adaptations till date.
Ironically though, IT is at its best not when it’s tormenting the kids with fresh evil every 15 minutes, but when it’s laying in the fields with them, gazing lazily at the endlessness of the summer holidays; when it is splashing around in the river, wondering if the only girl in the group can notice them staring; when it is irresponsibly riding on bikes, standing on the pedals to appear taller. Despite how truly frightening Pennywise is – every time he appears on screen, the audience keeps growing visibly uncomfortable. The movie lives and dies with the Losers, their carefully fleshed-out stories, the bullying they endure, and the firm friendship that helps them survive. Unlike most horror films, it is a drama first. And boy, that’s refreshing.
It is often scary: the simple succession of bizarre episodes in this sunny place has something surreal about it. The film interestingly shows non-supernatural violence, as bullying and abuse have become routine in picturesque Derry. A demonic clown is only one thing to worry about. Even with the more supernatural elements, everything here looks like typical scary-movie stuff that we’ve seen before: scary clowns, old houses, and bathrooms.
Releasing IT such that it coincides with the clown’s awakening exactly after twenty-seven years was stupendously brilliant. Andrés Muschietti‘s direction and Bill Skarsgård‘s astounding performance is so inspiring that we can see netizens worldwide impersonating Pennywise. And why not?
It is a terrific set-up to what is going to be a restlessly-anticipated Chapter 2.
It floats. You’ll float too.
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