I am not a horror movie fan. I’m not particularly fond of having an experience where I am repeatedly scared and subjected to gore, blood, and violence. I’m a girl that loves She’s the Man. That being said, I loved It.
For those who haven’t heard, It is the new hot horror movie, an adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel of the same name. After seeing trailers and promotions and even visiting the Neibolt house in Hollywood, I was curious enough to buy a ticket to this movie. I came prepared, knowing that I was about to be scared right out of my pants.
And I was.
But what I didn’t expect was a movie that was actually good. My experiences with the horror genre are films that freak you out and make you double check every dark corner of your room for monsters. Maybe that’s what some people like, but other than instilling bone-chilling fear in me, horror movies don’t make me think. But It did.
**Mild spoilers ahead, so go watch it and then keep on reading.**
Near the beginning of the film, we’re exposed to each of the kids’ fears. They’re all revealed in typical horror fashion, with scary sound cues that my butt is programmed to clench at and a sinister lighting shift. It’s definitely scary. And I know, there are some out there who like more nuanced scares like those in It Follows that come out of nowhere, with no sound cues at all. But for me, these scenes were bone-chilling enough. Each monster had a unique way of showing up; in the case of Ben it was a long, tense sequence involving Easter eggs and a headless monster approaching slowly and then suddenly scuttling towards him. In Eddie’s, our introduction to his monster was just a gross hand and a cut to the leper’s terrifying deformed face. These monsters were scary. I was clutching my knees and pressing myself so far into my theater chair I could feel month-old popcorn crumbs.
As the film went on, Pennywise and the monsters started popping up more often. Now, some critics are saying that this made the film less frightening. But I disagree. These monsters didn’t just scare you and disappear, they lingered on screen. Take the scene where Eddie, Billy, and Richie go into the Neibolt house for the first time. Eddie falls through the floor and is clutching his broken arm as Pennywise advances on him. At this point, this is the most we’ve seen of Pennywise in one scene. He doesn’t just appear, scare us to death, and then disappear. He dominates the screen, and when Billy and Richie burst through the door, he doesn’t disappear into a dark corner. He’s still there. The kids are screaming their heads off, and it’s terrifying, but he is still there. Even if you wanted to ignore him, this creepy clown is on screen for so long that you have to face him, instead of ignoring him, which is exactly what the kids have to do. The Loser's Club refuses to ignore what's happening (unlike the rest of the town), and force themselves to face the terror of It. As an audience, we're forced to do the same.
Just before they enter the house and everyone tries to convince Billy not to go in (and probably face certain death), he gives a heart-wrenching speech about how it is harder to enter his own house without Georgie than to face Pennywise. We start to see Pennywise as the kids do— and as an audience, face their fears alongside them.
Then, when the Loser’s Club is in the sewer and they’re all taking turns attacking Pennywise, they are literally attacking their fears. Eddie has a triumphant moment where he attacks the leper, and at this point, we’ve seen enough of all the monsters that their initial fear factor has worn off and we can actually look at them. I could stare at the weirdly deformed woman with the long face, because I wasn’t afraid of it anymore.
And that. was. the. whole. point.
It isn’t a movie that’s intended to scare you right out of your pants and make you wish you’d brought extra underwear, although it has some great scare moments. This movie is about facing your fears. And it masterfully brings the audience along for the ride and tactfully gets us to experience the kids’ growth. I loved It because I didn’t leave the theater shaking, but full of hope— because your fears won't just disappear. You have to face them.