Just last week I saw the new movie IT in theaters. (No, this is not an abbreviation for “I.T.” or anything tech-related. This is a movie based on a book–I think–which I believe was written by some obscure novelist you’ve probably never heard of.) Now, I don’t typically watch “scary movies,” but I was invited by my boyfriend to go on this double-date with his brother and my best friend, so of course I was immediately inclined to go, no matter what we were seeing.
I guess the first thing to say about scary movies is that “scary movie” is a typical over-simplification. There are thrillers, psychological thrillers, suspense movies, horror, supernatural movies, and scary movies that aren’t conventionally scary but are scary that they exist, like every ABC Family original movie.
And I don’t watch any of those kinds of movies. I give reasons like, “I’m not interested by the supernatural” and “I don’t like purposely subjecting myself to scary situations” and “Real life is scary enough” (which is truer now than ever before). In all honesty, I really haven’t given the genre enough attention or fair consideration; I’m just not intrigued.
It’s not that I scare easily, either. I’m pretty stoic when I watch scary movies, and the creepy things that transpire in scary movies are usually gruesome and unsettling but don’t affect me too much. I’m level-headed and so the images don’t legitimately haunt me or bleed into my daily life. (It’s the movies that depict murderers or robbers or kidnappers that actually frighten me the most–because that shit could actually happen. And while it’s subsided with age, I do have quite enough anxiety about predators in this world to not feel a need to fuel the darker facets of my imagination.)
So I saw the new IT movie, having not seen the original nor having read the book. And having absolutely no prior knowledge about the plot.
And I kind of enjoyed it. It wasn’t even necessarily scary, unless you’re deathly afraid of clowns and jump-scares. To which I would either recommend not being, or not seeing the movie.
The thing about scary movies is that they’re so predictable. I don’t even watch them and yet I know the formula. They’re usually titled something about location, like, “The Cabin Across the Street,” or “The Place Where I Really Shouldn’t Go but Do,” or “The One Really Creepy House Down Main Street, Take a Left, Pass Two Traffic Lights, and it’s on the Left–If You’ve Hit Circle K You’ve Gone Too Far.” It’s either that or generic noun that they put in “Chiller” font, like “The Lamp,” or “The Movement,” or “The Bumblebee.” Sometimes they get creative and do the same thing using a common phrase, like, “If You Say So,” or “Talk to You Later,” or “Press 1 For English.” (I’m not kidding, you need to Google “scary movies” and scroll through the titles and see exactly what I mean.)
They all start off like a romantic comedy or a teen movie– a shot of a residential neighborhood in broad daylight, or a couple of students laughing at their lockers, or a bunch of gal pals making dinner and drinking wine. Inevitably something undisclosed and spooky happens to one of them, the title page shows up, and then it cuts to the main story, where the characters from the opening scene are either reported dead, missing, or share their traumatic story with the actual main characters of the movie. They are probably all white.
Throughout the movie, there are several times when the music gets suspenseful, or the weather turns stormy and dark, or the power goes out, or noises are heard, which is all like a giant flashing neon light, “SOMETHING SCARY IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN.” Movies try to get clever with it and pull a fast one on you sometimes, like Mary will approach a door, tiptoeing, gingerly approaching what she knows she shouldn’t, and kick open bathroom door fully expecting the monster or creature or her ex-boyfriend to be inside of it, screwing around and being generally undesired in her house, and the camera will pan to an empty, standard bathroom. The music cuts and–whew. Turns out it was nothing after all. A relief to Mary. Then the poor bitch goes back to her room and the music amps way loud just as it pans to the room, where Cameron–the dumb bastard–has murdered her pet fish violently and his head swings from his neck by one vein or something generally horrifying–oh no! blood stains on his Nike tennis shoes! a ‘Donald Trump rescinds the Constitution’ headlined newspaper strewn about the floor! Mary’s Fenty Beauty lipstick wasted on writing “Who Do You Know?–In HELL?” upon the wall!–and then it shows Mary’s grotesque facial response, her shock, her hurt, and she does something pointless like try to run away, and Cameron stands there for a moment to give her a head-start, and then chases after her in this very jerky, flashing movement reminiscent of stop-motion videos on 200x speed, and Mary gets covered in his blood and the blood of her fish but just barely gets away, but so does Cameron–and he’ll be back. To do the exact same thing three or four more times before the end of the movie and before Mary either Sherlock-Holmeses that shit or MacGyvers some way to be done with the mess. Next time it will probably show her in a dark room investigating–YET AGAIN–something she should be avoiding and not confronting, because any intelligible human activates the “flight” instinct when shit way more threatening than their skinny ass is roaming around out of sight (but then again, if Mary was smart, she would have sold her house in scene one and then there wouldn’t be a horror movie to film; the horror movie instead would be “the horrors of finding an apartment in the city with adequate parking and affordable pricing”) and then he slowly and blur-ily materializes over her shoulder and she exhibits the face of someone not about to be die, which makes us so much more scared because she doesn’t know she should definitely be bracing herself for his creepy attack… But first he has to loom eerily. It’s a part of his process.
And after all that, at the end of the movie, despite all resolution provided, there is usually a final scene where the movie hints at the non-finality of Mary’s efforts to truly kill Cameron, where the wind blows upon the grass and there lies Cameron’s haunted lanyard still lying in her yard, or the stuffed animal on her bed convulses slightly at the very last second of the movie, or maybe she gets a whiff of his awful beer breath or something so that we know they could make a sequel if they really wanted to–and perhaps that is the true horror of the movie.
In any case, even though I saw every jump-scare in IT coming a mile away, and even though what was supposed to be disturbing about it didn’t even phase my stomach, I did thoroughly enjoy my time watching it. This may be because I was happily devouring popcorn and somewhat cuddling with Bryson and definitely because my best friend (who, by the way, is scared of clowns) was heckling the entire movie under her breath in order to keep herself cool, but I did like it. I particularly liked the characters in it, though– typical of a literary-inclined student, I suppose, but I was mostly paying attention to the dynamics of the band of kiddos and how intrigued I am by these movies from the ’80’s and ’90’s that so often feature groups of kids getting up to stuff.
And at the end, Bryson challenged me to write a scary story. Well, not so much a challenge as an idea, but I take every idea as a challenge and so, you’re on. Watch me rethink the horror genre and Mary Shelley the shit out of whatever story I come up with.
*an empty blog post mysteriously posts even though I did not queue it*