It – Horror Structure: Solved

Thoughts On: It (2017)

A seemingly immortal evil, one that often manifests as a clown, rises from a 27 year slumber to feast on the flesh of children.

It is everything that I hoped it would be and more. Whilst it is not perfect, it’s damn good. To get the negatives out of the way, the performances – and almost every moment of this film is centred on children – are, surprisingly, great, though, there are one or two shaky moments. We find a similar paradigm with the direction and special effects; the majority of it works very well, and there are even a few clever moments of direction, but a few CG shots were iffy and Dutch angles are overused. The biggest fault of this movie for me personally was the pacing. Whilst this is certainly on the longer side for a horror, coming in at about 2 hours and 15 mins, everything felt rushed. With maybe 10 or 15 minutes added to the run-time, it would have been nice to have seen scenes given the chance to breathe. This is particularly relevant to the opening 30 minutes or so. There are one or two instances in this film of juxtaposition à la Soviet Montage (for example sheep being guided through pens colliding with the image of children coming out of class). However, It does not move at a pace fast enough, or with smart enough editing, to maintain this. This makes the pacing jittery rather than rapid.

Beyond this, It is a brilliant movie. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart-warming, often genuinely disturbing, the positives of this movie overshadow any faults. By bringing out the subtext that we can assume King embedded into his novel, this script produces a story that is not just about facing fears (and each individual has their own conflicts), but confronting silence. In such, the image of the clown within It is, in many ways, a reflection of the fact that this narrative is set during the summer break – which, as we’re told many times over, is supposed to be a time in which kids have fun. However, this summer holiday is not going to be fun, just like the various meetings with clowns won’t be. The clown as a self-contradictory symbol of horror, something that is supposed to represent fun, but often connotes the opposite, is then used to explore the weight that can be put upon children who, though they should be experiencing the best years of their lives, are going through hell – and this is where kids confronting their own fears comes in. However, the true horror and emotive force that supports this idea comes with themes of neglect.

The adults in this movie are, very much so, useless. The only other thing that they can prove to be is a hindrance of vary degrees of malevolence. What makes the adults such a pervasive conflict in this narrative is their unwillingness, or inability, to engage their children and, with them, confront the harsh realities of the world. The horror and commentary in this film then stems from the hero’s adventure that a group of children must go on alone because adults are not willing to assist them along the way. And it is the adults’ neglect and choice to ignore the issues that this town face (which concern a wide spectrum of faulted parenting choices) that force a conflict to grow in the area across multiple generations until, about every 27 years, the screaming, crying crescendo hits its zenith with the decimation of children who silently go missing. It is then a movie about the excavation and courageous confrontation of the plethora of problems that can exist in a community; a confrontation of what is, ultimately, truth and reality – which in turns makes It a bittersweet tragedy depicting children righting the wrongs of their elders.

What I loved most about It was something that we discussed with Annabelle: Creation – and, to pat myself on the back, I even mention It with the hope that it would reverse the faults of this movie. Annabelle: Creation was a smart movie, one that was well-constructed, for the most part. However, it is structured so that it builds up to an anti-climax, a loud sound or a threat that very quickly subsides. Whilst there are loud noises and a few jump scares within, It has its characters – and us with them – stare horror in the face with eyes that refuse to look away. With this approach, there are genuinely horrific moments in this movie in which the scares just build and build and build and build. And the only way in which the horror goes away is for someone to react sensibly or get snatched away, which adds true stakes and weight to the physical threats in this narrative. For this, I have to say that It is, structurally, one of the best horror movies I have ever seen. I could moan for paragraphs and paragraphs on end about how horror movies need to transcend structural cliches, but now I can shut my mouth and merely ask why more horror films like It can’t be made.

All in all, It is a fantastic film, one that I highly recommend, and also one of the most notable horror films I’ve seen in years.



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