Wednesday, October 18, 2017

It (2017)

It Chapter One
seen @ AMC Loews Fresh Meadows 7, Fresh Meadows, Queens NY

My childhood fear was dogs, and I had it for a long time. It's perhaps my earliest memory: me, at perhaps two or three, on vacation at my grandma's house in Florida, running away on account of her dog. It was the first time I had ever seen one; don't remember what kind it was. I just know it disagreed with me. I didn't get far - at least I'm fairly sure I didn't - but by the time my parents caught up with me the psychological damage was done.

For many years afterward, I could not be within barking distance of a dog, no matter what size, no matter if it was on a leash or not, no matter how friendly its owner claimed it was: if I saw one on the sidewalk coming toward me, I'd cross the street and continue on the far side. It took a combination of therapy and sheer willpower to overcome that fear. I'm actually starting to like them more. Recently, I was at Lynn's apartment and I played with her therapy dog Mackenzie like it was no big deal.

My childhood, all things considered, wasn't terrible. Sure, there were lots of things I wish I could change, but I had a stable home life with both parents, I did well in school, and I had good friends. Not the kind of material on which horror novels are based, or for that matter, movies.

I would guess the appeal of the Stephen King opus It lies not only with the demonic killer clown Pennywise terrorizing little kids; scary as he is, the real world threats within the story are almost as bad, if not more so. Watching this new film version, originally done as a TV mini-series, I realized Pennywise is little different from his cinematic forebears: Jason, Freddy, Michael, Jigsaw, etc. It's the contrast between him and characters like the sadistic bully, the sexually abusive father, the over-protective mother, that elevates this material, however slightly.

I remember the TV version, of course - no one who saw it the first time could forget it - but this cinematic remake has to have a CGI-enhanced showdown at the end like so many SF/fantasy/horror movies these days. I suppose it was inevitable. Still, the film was okay overall. I liked how Derry felt like a real place, with a history, specific locations, and an environment all its own. It was a smart idea to make this a duology: one film set in the past, one in the present. I'll probably come back for the second half.

King, it seems, is more popular than ever now. I've read little of his work because so much of it gets scooped up by Hollywood that I suppose I've never felt the need. The one King book I own is, oddly enough, one of the few that hasn't been adapted: Rose Madder. Mousy wife flees crazy abusive husband; he pursues. She acquires a certain painting... and things get weird. Jim Sheridan was attached to a film version back in 2011, but nothing has happened since.

I've seen it written that part of King's skill is in finding the creepy out of the mundane. Based on what I've read of him, I agree. He's also not afraid to make his villains truly evil - not just his supernatural ones, but his real-world ones too; It is the perfect example. 

I can't say whether he's coasting on his reputation or if he's still got it at this point in his career. Regardless, King has earned his reputation for sure, and as someone who's struggling with one novel, to see him crank out books as consistently as he does is intimidating, to say the least. I hope I can achieve a fraction of his success.

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