Monday, September 25, 2017

It Came From The Cineplex: IT

It's finally here! At long, long last, a reason to actually go back to the cineplex! It's the most inexplicably anticipated Stephen King movie of the year! Get ready for The Dark Tower IT!

IT was written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman, and directed by Andy Muschietti.

Palmer previously wrote... well, nothing much, other than a couple of short films. This appears to be his first theatrical screenplay. Fukunaga is a writer, director and producer, who previously wrote Sin Nombre, Chinatown Film Project and Beasts Of No Nation, none of which I've ever heard of. Dauberman previously wrote Annabelle, Within, Wolves At The Door and Annabelle: Creation.

Muschietti has just one theatrical credit to his name
— the bland and mediocre horror film Mama. Somehow he managed to rise above his limited resume and made a decent film.

The film's based on the 1986 novel by Stephen King, and is the second attempt at adapting it to the screen. ABC aired a very mediocre TV miniseries version of IT back in 1990.

So how's the new IT? Did someone finally make a good Stephen King movie? Happily, the answer's yes. It's a decent adaptation, and actually contains a few genuine scares. It's definitely much, much better than the dreadful The Dark Tower, King's other movie adaptation that's currently stinking up a few cineplexes across the country. IT is also a rarity in the cineplex these days— unlike most modern watered-down PG-13 horror films, It's actually rated R! For that alone it deserves high praise. When's the last time we saw an honest-to-goodness R-rated horror movie?

That said, I'm puzzled by the huge amount of hype surrounding this movie. The internet's been buzzing about it for over a year and tickets went on sale months before the premiere. I honestly don't get it. As a story, I would call IT OK at best. It's mildly scary and has its share of iconic moments, but it's not THAT great. So why's there so much interest in this property? 

The only explanation I can think of is that the people who can't wait to see the new film have never read the overlong, throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks book, or are too young to remember the lame, scare-free TV miniseries.

The plotline of the novel takes place in two separate time periods (the 1950s and the 1980s), as it follows the characters as children and adults. The book's not strictly divided into two distinct eras though— instead the past and present are intertwined, as the adults recall their childhood adventures fighting Pennywise The Dancing Clown. 

The TV miniseries sort of follows this structure for the most part, as Part 1 introduces us to the characters as adults first, who then flash back to their childhoods for most of the runtime. Part 2 mostly features the adults, with just a few scenes of the kids. It also moved the "present" to 1990, the year the miniseries aired.

This new version of IT splits the story right down the middle, giving us just the kid half. At no point do we ever see any of the characters as adults. Presumably they're saving them for the inevitable sequel. 

Eh, I dunno. I can see that plan backfiring on them. This first film introduces us to a cast of likable and endearing child actors. Now in the sequel the audience will have to get used to an entirely NEW set of actors. It could be a nasty jolt to the moviegoing public when they realize those kids they liked so much in the first film aren't gonna be in Part 2 (or will show up, but have very limited screen time).

To be honest I've always thought the kid part of the story is MUCH stronger than the adult half. I think that's because it's a lot easier to accept a gang of kids being terrorized by a demonic clown. When it's a group of grown-ass adults hunting down a killer clown, it just seems kind of... silly. I really wish they'd just stop with this film and forget about the adult half altogether. I know that's never gonna happen though, especially after the success of this first part.

Frankly it's a wonder the movie turned out as well as it did, considering was in development hell for seven years, going through numerous scripts and two different directors along the way.

Cary Fukunaga wrote the first screenplay, which was definitely a mixed bag. For some reason, his script inexplicably changed the names of many of the characters. In his version, Bill Denbrough became Will, Henry Bowers became Travis and the character of "Belch" was changed to "Snatch." Why Fukunaga insisted on these perplexing and arbitrary changes, I have no idea.

His script retained many of the novel's more controversial and batsh*t insane scenes, such as Henry Bowers having sex with a sheep and ejaculating on a birthday cake, along with Beverly's father attempting to rape her. Yeah, you read right. Welcome to Stephen King's seamy, disturbing world. The studio wasn't exactly crazy about Fukunaga's script, as it would have likely earned the film the dreaded NC-17 rating, a sure-fire box office killer.

When the studio asked Fukunaga to cut out the more provocative scenes from his script, he refused and dropped out of the project. That's when Andy Muschietti stepped in. Muschietti loved the basic structure of Fukunaga's script, but changed a few elements to make it more faithful to the novel (and thankfully restored the original names of the characters). The final version was touched up a bit by Gary Dauberman, who eliminated the cosmic scenes from the book (which would have required extensive CGI work) to bring the project in on budget.

When the first trailer for IT dropped, it supposedly enraged hundreds of the nation's professional clowns. They claimed that by depicting clowns as evil and scary, it was costing them hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in business (!). To that I say a rousing, "Who cares?" Nobody likes clowns, it's an antiquated and obsolete art form that's way past its expiration date  and the sooner it dies out altogether the better!

So far IT is a massive hit, grossing an amazing $266 million against its paltry $35 million budget! It's made another $212 million overseas, for a worldwide total of $478 million! This is all the more impressive when you consider it's rated R, meaning a good chunk of the audience is theoretically barred from seeing it (but are no doubt doing so anyway).


The Plot:
The movie begins in Derry, Maine (of course) in October, 1988. Fourteen year old Bill Denbrough (the sensitive, stuttering one) makes a paper sailboat (because that's something kids still did in the 80s, right?) for his seven year old brother Georgie. Bill's sick in bed, so he tells Georgie to go outside in the rain and play with the boat by himself. For some reason, Georgie sets the boat in the street, and the heavy downpour carries it quickly away.

Georgie runs after the boat, but it moves so fast he can't keep up with it. It sails into a gutter and down into the sewer, which greatly upsets Georgie, since there's no way he could ever get another paper boat. As he stares down into the dark, damp gutter, suddenly a terrifying white face with glowing yellow eyes comes into view.
Instead of running for his life like any normal person would do, Georgie stays and talks to the hideous, unsettling demon, which identifies itself as 
Pennywise The Dancing Clown (played by Bill Skarsgard).

Pennywise offers Georgie a balloon, uttering his catchphrase, "We all float down here." Georgie politely refuses the offer. Pennywise then holds up the paper boat, and Georgie reaches into the drain for it. Pennywise grabs Georgie, bites off his right arm and drags him down into the sewer.

Cut to June 1989. It's the last day of school, and Bill and his friends Richie Tozier (the smart aleck), Eddie Kaspbrak (the jittery hypochondriac) and Stanley Uris (the responsible Jew) discuss their plans for the summer. They're terrorized by psychotic (and how!) punk Henry Bowers and his gang of hoodlums, but are saved by a security guard. This is why anyone who tells you "school is the best time of your life" should be punched repeatedly in the dick.

Meanwhile, another student named Beverly Marsh is bullied by several mean girls, who arbitrarily label her a slut. Beverly runs into Ben Hanscom, the overweight "new kid" who secretly has a crush on her.

All over Derry various kids start going missing, causing the city to initiate a curfew. Feeling guilty for Georgie's death, Bill becomes obsessed with finding his body. He builds an elaborate model of Derry's sewer system, believing Georgie may have washed through the tunnels and into a nearby marsh called the Barrens. This enrages Bill's father, who tells him Georgie's gone forever and to stop trying to find him.

On the other side of town, Mike Hanlon (the black homeschooled kid) makes a delivery to a local butcher shop. Mike lives with his grandfather after his parents died in a fire. As he approaches the shop's alley door, he sees a vision of Pennywise in a flaming slaughterhouse, beckoning to him. Suddenly he's almost run over by Henry, who roars down the alley in his car.

The other kids begin seeing Pennywise too. Ben goes to the library and reads up on Derry's inexplicably gory and unsettling history. While leafing through a book, he's lured into the basement by a floating balloon. Once there, he encounters the staggering corpse of a headless boy (who was decapitated in a factory explosion decades earlier). Suddenly the boy turns into Pennywise, and Ben escapes just in time.

In his father's temple, Stan studies for his upcoming bar mitzvah. While reading he looks up at a creepy painting of a woman with a distorted face. When he glances at it again, the painting is empty and the woman leaps out of the shadows at him before he escapes just in time.

Bill tells his friends about the Barrens, and convinces them to help him search there for Georgie's body. They enter a large sewer tunnel, where they find the sneaker of Betty Ripsom, a young girl who recently disappeared. 

Meanwhile, Henry and his gang capture Ben and straight up torture him. Henry even carves a large letter "H" into Ben's ample belly (Jesus Christ!). Ben manages to get away and takes off running into the woods. Patrick Hockstetter, one of Henry's thugs, wanders into the sewer looking for Ben. He bumps into Pennywise, who kills him because he's not a main character.

Ben runs into Bill and the others, who take him back into town to deal with his wounds. They go to the pharmacy, where they meet Beverly. She helps them steal first aid supplies and tends to Ben's injury, becoming friends with the boys in the process.

On his way home, Eddie passes a comically spooky-looking haunted house on Neibolt Street. He's attacked by Pennywise, who takes the form of a rotting leper— Eddie's greatest fear. He manages to escape just in time. In his home, Bill's lured down into his basement by Georgie, who of course turns out to be a disguised Pennywise. Suddenly Georgie starts screeching "We all float down here. YOU'LL FLOAT TOO!" Bill escapes just in time. Beverly hears children's voices coming from her bathroom sink. Suddenly several MILLION gallons of blood erupts from the drain, coating her and the entire room. She screams and her father enters, asking what the hell's going on. He's oblivious to the blood, and Beverly realizes adults can't see Pennywise and his antics.

The kids, who now call themselves "The Losers Club," meet in the woods and discuss their visions. They realize they're all being terrorized by the same evil being, which can appear as an evil clown or manifest itself as their worst fears. Suddenly they see Mike Hanlon being chased by Henry Bowers and what's left of his gang. They protect Mike, and drive off Henry and his thugs by pelting them with rocks.

The Losers meet in Bill's garage, where he tells them he thinks Pennywise is using the town's sewers to move around unseen (even though adults can't see him, so why bother?). Suddenly they're attacked by Pennywise when he leaps out of a slide projected on the wall (?). The kids theorize that Pennywise is scaring them because he actually feeds on their fear. Ben, the history buff, realizes that the evil clown appears in Derry and starts eating kids every twenty seven years. Using a map of Derry and Ben's knowledge of the town's history they deduce Pennywise is hiding in a well deep under the haunted house on Neibolt Street.

The Losers enter the Neibolt House, looking for the titular "IT." Pennywise appears as various creatures to try and separate the kids so he can pick them off more easily. Eddie falls through a floor, breaking his arm. Pennywise slowly heads for him, but the others arrive and Beverly stabs the evil clown through the head with a fence post. Pennywise leaps down the well in the basement, as the Losers escape just in time. They take Eddie back to his house, where his overprotective mother shrieks and tells them to stay away from her delicate son. Bill wants to finish off Pennywise, but the other kids believe it's too dangerous and refuse to help, causing the group to bicker and ultimately splinter.

Later Beverly's skeevy father tries to rape her but she hits him in the head with a toilet tank lid (possibly killing him?). Pennywise then appears and abducts her, taking her down to the sewers. Beverly tells Pennywise she's not afraid of him, so he opens his mouth impossibly wide, revealing the "deadlights" inside (don't ask). This puts her into a trance.

Bill finds out Beverly's been captured, and reunites the group to mount a rescue. Meanwhile, Pennywise talks the increasingly unhinged Henry into murdering his abusive father, and sends him to kill the Losers.

The kids arrive at the Neibolt House, and use a rope to lower themselves into a tunnel in the side of the bottomless well. Before Mike can enter the well, Henry suddenly appears and attacks him. The two struggle for a bit, and Mike throws Henry down the well, where he falls far below to his death (wink wink). Mike climbs down to the tunnel with the others.

After wandering the tunnels for a bit the kids finally find Pennywise's lair. It's a huge cavern containing a  giant column made of his previous victims, some of whom are indeed "floating down here." The boys see Beverly floating near the column, and pull her down to the ground. They try to wake her, but can't rouse her from her clown-induced trance. Ben plants a big kiss on her and she instantly wakes up. That was easy!

Pennywise appears to Bill as Georgie AGAIN, luring him away from the others and capturing him. Pennywise then tells the others he'll let them leave if they give him Bill. The Losers unanimously decide they no longer fear Pennywise and begin beating the crap out of him with boards and pipes. Weakened by the kids' lack of fear, Pennywise is seriously wounded and slithers back down into an even DEEPER well in the sewers. The dead bodies floating around the column float back down to Earth. Bill finds Georgie's yellow rain slicker and realizes his brother is gone forever.

A month later, Beverly tells the Losers she had a vision of them starring in a sequel, fighting Pennywise again twenty seven years in the future. The kids all participate in a blood oath (Whew! Is that all?) and swear to return to Derry to battle Pennywise if he returns. They wander off one by one, with only Bill and Beverly remaining. Bill kisses her and the credits roll.

• The beginning of the film, in which Georgie sails his paper boat down the street and sees Pennywise poking his head out of the gutter, is a near perfect recreation of the same scene in the TV miniseries. The staging, pacing and dialogue in both versions is almost identical, with just a couple of minor variations.

Heck, even the camera angles of Georgie talking to the evil clown are virtually the same! I don't know if this was done intentionally as an homage to the miniseries, or if there are only so many ways you can film a kid talking to a clown in a gutter.

• I recently rewatched the 1990 IT miniseries in preparation for this review, and was shocked by how terrible it was. It's cheap looking, totally scare-free and consistently bad in almost every conceivable aspect.

The main problem is the fact that it aired on ABC, meaning it had to conform to early 90s network TV standards. This resulted in a dull, sluggish and bland "horror" film which was sanitized for the audience's protection.

The acting was also a mixed bag. The kids weren't too awfully bad, as most of them (including Seth Green and the late Jonathan Brandis) turned in decent and believable performances. But the adults— yikes! They were all horrible! This is likely due to the fact that most of them were well known comedic actors who'd previously starred in various sitcoms. There was John Ritter from Three's Company, Harry Anderson from Night Court, Tim Reid from WKRP In Cincinnati and Richard Masur from One Day At A Time. You could probably count Dennis Christopher too, since Breaking Away was a sort of a humorous coming of age film.

This is one of the miniseries' many missteps, as these sitcom stars were all painfully out of their element and had no earthly idea how to carry a serious horror film.

• One more thing about the TV miniseries before I stop bashing it and get on with the new film. Ever since it aired, people have been praising actor Tim Curry for his spooky portrayal of Pennywise. I don't get this, as frankly I thought he was awful.

OK, maybe I should clarify that. There's nothing wrong with Curry per se, as he turns in a wonderful performance as always. It's just that his Pennywise wasn't the least bit scary. This is no doubt due to the censors, who likely hamstrung him at every turn. All he did was materialize before every commercial break, point at the camera and spout terrible one liners. Sadly he came off as downright goofy rather than scary. 

Actually TV Pennywise reminded me of bit of late stage Freddy Krueger. When Freddie first appeared in A Nightmare On Elm Street, he was legitimately terrifying. By the time A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors rolled around, all attempts at being scary had been forgotten, as he constantly spewed groan-worthy puns ala the Crypt Keeper.

As an example of TV Pennywise's lameness: at one point Bill has a vision of seven freshly-dug graves, one for each member of the Losers. Pennywise pops up and points (of course) at one of the graves, telling Bill, "There's room for one more!" Oooooh, scary!

TV Pennywise also turned into a goddamned Rottweiler at one point and killed a psych ward guard. I'm assuming this was supposed to be frightening, but unfortunately it came off as unintentionally hilarious.

The closest TV Pennywise ever came to being even mildly spooky was when he'd occasionally wear a pair of pointy fake teeth he bought at Party City.

• Thankfully the new IT gives us a Pennywise that's much more frightening. This new version looks creepy, unsettling and disturbing. The old Pennywise wore a bright, clean suit that looked like it just came from the cleaners. Movie Pennywise has a costume that's dirty, mildewed and moldy. He looks... unwholesome, for lack of a better word, which in this case is a good thing.

This is also a much more physical Pennywise, one that actually lunges toward the Losers instead of just pointing at them. Of course he never actually catches any of them, since they all need to survive the movie to become adults, but still...

• In several scenes, the filmmakers use a "stabilization effect" on Pennywise, meaning the background moves around while his face stays rock-still in the center of the screen. I can't quite pinpoint why, but it's a disturbing and unsettling effect that makes the audience uneasy. Kudos to whoever came up with this idea.

• In many of his scenes, Pennywise's left eye is gazing in a subtly different direction from his right one. No CGI or special contact lenses were used for this disquieting effect, as one of actor Bill Skarsgard's many talents is the ability to look in two directions at once.

• When New Line first announced that actor Bill Skarsgard was cast as the new Pennywise, the internet of course sprang into action, instantly denouncing the choice. Luckily Skarsgard did an amazing job, giving us a truly memorable new version of the evil clown.

Supposedly Tilda Swinton and Richard Armitage (aka Thorin Oakenshield from The Hobbit films) were in the running to play Pennywise. Thank the movie gods neither of those terrible casting choices happened.

• Oddly enough, the Duffer Brothers desperately wanted to direct IT, but were rejected by New Line because they were relative unknowns (and Andy Muschietti wasn't?). Fortunately for us, the Duffers went on to write and direct 2016's TV miniseries Stranger Things, which is a love letter to 1980s horror and scifi movies, and contains many a reference and homage to the works of Stephen King.

In fact, even though IT was written in 1986, I have no doubt that some audiences will watch the new film and whine, "Hey, this is just a big ripoff of Stranger Things!"

Adding to the confusion is the fact that child actor Finn Wolfhard (which may be one of the greatest names of all time) played Mike Wheeler in Stranger Things, and also plays Richie Tozier in IT. To cloud things even further, Stranger Things takes place firmly in the 1980s. For some inexplicable reason, Andy Muschietti needlessly moved the setting of IT from the 1950s to the 1980s as well.

• In the TV movie, Mike Hanlon is the one who's obsessed with Derry's history and is constantly reading about it. For some reason the movie makes the boneheaded decision to graft this trait onto Ben. This leaves Mike with literally nothing to do during the film, other than stand around motionless in the background. He barely even has any lines! I honestly can't think of any good reason for this change, and I'm sure it's just gonna end up pissing off a lot of people.

• Ugh, another week, another god awful, butt-ugly movie poster. What the hell happened to the art of film advertising? A poster's supposed to pique your curiosity and make you want to rush out to see the movie. All this poster does is piss me off. Someone somewhere actually got paid to create this drab, dreary and ill-conceived design.

For some reason, the number 27 figures prominently in IT, both on and off the screen. In the book, Pennywise returns to Derry every twenty seven years to feed on the town's kids. Jonathan Brandis, who played Bill in the TV miniseries, died at the much too young age of twenty seven. The new film was released exactly twenty seven years after the miniseries. And the new IT was released one month after Bill Skarsgard's twenty seventh birthday. Ooooh, spooky!

• Although I enjoyed IT as a whole, I have to admit it got a bit repetitious after a while. Pennywise menaces all seven members of the Losers club individually, and the film insists on showing us every single one of these incidents. 

Each encounter plays out exactly the same— one of the kids finds themselves alone, they see a vision of Pennywise, he lunges at them and they escape in the nick of time. Lather, rinse, repeat. 

These scenes become tedious after a while because we know that no matter what Pennywise does, he can't actually kill any of the Losers, since they all have to survive to become adults and appear in Part 2. Note that for some reason, Pennywise doesn't seem to have any trouble killing off any of the film's minor characters.

• At one point Beverly's alone in her house, and hears the eerie whispers of Pennywise's victims issuing from her bathroom sink. As she leans down to hear what they'r saying, a geyser of blood unexpectedly spurts from the drain, splattering her in the face. 

In the TV miniseries, it looks like maybe a gallon of blood sprays out of the drain, which seems like a reasonable amount. In the new film, several thousand gallons pour from it, covering Beverly's entire body and coating every square inch of her bathroom! It's such an over-the-top amount of blood that it becomes unintentionally hilarious rather than scary.

To make things worse, the other Losers come by Beverly's house, see the bloody bathroom, and offer to help clean it up. Jesus Christ! How the hell did they accomplish that? It would take ten days and several truckloads of cleaning supplies to mop up a mess that size! Yet they somehow do it in just a few hours, before Bev's abusive asshole of a dad comes home from work.

• Eddie Kaspbrak has an encounter with Pennywise at the old Neibolt House. It's a comically cliched Hollywood haunted mansion, that looks like the Munsters and Addams Family houses met and produced an offspring. It even comes with a hilariously gnarled tree in the front yard that looks like it was sculpted by an effects team rather than twisted by the elements.

• Inside the Neibolt House, Richie enters a room filled with creepy clown dolls. One of these dolls looks very much like the TV miniseries version of Pennywise, right down to the bright red hair and colorful costume.

• Pennywise attacks the kids inside the Neibolt House, and if you look closely you can see sharp claws tearing through the ends of his gloves, as he seemingly begins morphing into a werewolf (unfortunately we never get a full-on transformation).

This is likely a book & miniseries reference. See, Pennywise feeds on his victims' fears, so to that end he often appears as the thing that scares them most. In the book and the miniseries, Richie's terrified of werewolves after seeing one in a horror movie. Pennywise senses this and transforms into the main character from I Was A Teenage Werewolf in order to scare Richie.

• The film's set in the summer of 1989, and occasionally we see the Losers ride their bikes past the local Derry movie theater. Over the months the movies advertised on the marquee are Batman (in June), Lethal Weapon 2 (in July) and A Nightmare On Elm Street 5 (in August).

In case you're wondering, all three films really did come out in 1989, and in the months indicated! Well done, guys!

• So what happened to Beverly's dad? At one point he tries to molest her, and she clocks him but good by breaking the lid from the toilet tank over his head. He goes down like a load of bricks, and we see an alarming amount of blood pour out of his head and onto the tile floor.

And that's the last we ever see or hear of him! Did she really just kill her dad? Based on the aftermath, I can't see any way that she didn't. If she did do him in, she doesn't seem very choked up about it for the rest of the film. Sure, he was a physically abusive asshole, but does that really justify his murder? 

If her dad really is dead, what happens next to Bev? Will she live in her home by herself? What about the authorities? We're told that Pennywise used his powers to make the adults of Derry apathetic, so he could go about killing off kids without any pesky legal entanglements. But would they really look the other way in a murder case?

And what does this say about Beverly's character? She's ostensibly one of the heroes of the piece, but she just killed her dad in cold blood. Is the audience just supposed to ignore that? Apparently Bill's OK with it, as the movie ends with he and Bev smooching.

• When Pennywise abducts Beverly, his mouth opens impossibly wide, revealing row after row of terrifying teeth, like some kind of pasty-faced lamprey. Beverly sees three bright lights deep inside Pennywise's throat and is instantly hypnotized.

These glowing balls are called "deadlights." They're part of the novel, and were very briefly mentioned in the miniseries. It's not really clear just what the deadlights are, as sometimes Pennywise says they're where he's from (?) and other times he states they're his true form. Supposedly anyone who sees the deadlights instantly goes crazy. So... why doesn't this happen to Beverly? Other than because she's a main character who can't be harmed yet?

• There's a lot of bizarre cosmic hooey in the novel, because Stephen King was hopped up on booze and cocaine back in the 1980s when he wrote IT. Now before you say, "Bob, how dare you spread gossip like that," King himself fully admits it. In fact he's stated in interviews that he doesn't remember writing a single word of his 1981 novel Cujo (which I have no trouble believing). Fortunately he's managed to clean himself up in recent years.

I'm not gonna go into the weirdo space stuff in much detail, because it comes out of left field, it completely clashes with the relatively grounded tone of the rest of the novel and it's just plain stupid. Basically, Bill psychically travels to the Macroverse, which is some sort of parallel dimension (cocaine). There he meets an ancient super-intelligent turtle named Maturin, who apparently created the entire universe (more cocaine). Maturin tells Bill that Pennywise is some sort of formless evil entity, and gives him tips on how to defeat It (mountains of coke).

The movie wisely decides to jettison all that claptrap, although it's possible it may crop up in the inevitable sequel.

There are actually a couple of references to Maturin in the movie. When the Losers are all splashing around in their swimming hole, one of them says he spotted a turtle underwater. Later on Bill enters Georgie's room and picks up a turtle built out of Lego (!).

• And now we come to the part of the review I know you've all been waiting for— a discussion about the most controversial and downright perverted chapter of the entire  IT novel. Yep, I'm gonna talk about the infamous Tween Gangbang Scene.

In the novel, the Losers hunt down Pennywise in the sewers below Derry and amazingly manage to defeat him (or at least send him packing for a while). Afterwards they find they can't remember how to get out of the maze-like sewer tunnels, and are hopelessly lost.

The kids start to panic, but never fear— Beverly comes to the rescue! Amazingly, she tells the guys that the only way to restore their memories and find their way out of the tunnels is for her to have sex with each and every one of them (!). King then gives us an entire chapter detailing Beverly's blow-by-blow (so to speak!) description of their coupling. She even describes what each of their penises feel like, noting that Ben's is the biggest (!!!).

Yep, you read all that correctly. Stephen King actually wrote a goddamned gang bang scene involving eleven year olds.

Jesus Jetskiing Christ! I know King was coked out of his mind when he wrote the scene, but what about his publishing company? Were there no editors working there? Was he so successful and powerful at that point that no one had the guts to stand up and say, "Stephen baby, we love the new book, but could you maybe tone down the kid-on-kid molesting a bit?" 

King's desperately attempted to justify this scene many times over the years, with predictably cringe-worthy results. In an interview, King said:
I wasn’t really thinking of the sexual aspect of it. The book dealt with childhood and adulthood— 1958 and Grown Ups. The grown ups don’t remember their childhood. None of us remember what we did as children—  we think we do, but we don’t remember it as it really happened. Intuitively, the Losers knew they had to be together again. The sexual act connected childhood and adulthood. It’s another version of the glass tunnel that connects the children’s library and the adult library. Times have changed since I wrote that scene and there is now more sensitivity to those issues.
Nice try, Steve. You still wrote a scene about eleven years olds f*cking.

I've also seen fans of the book desperately bend over backwards as they try to defend the scene, saying it was a metaphorical "sacrificing of a virgin," which was the only way to defeat Pennywise. Again, good effort, guys, but I ain't buying it. It's still sick and demented.

Fortunately for everyone concerned, both the TV miniseries and this new film completely jettison this seamy subplot, and rightly so. In the film, the Losers find their way out of the sewer with no trouble, then slice open their hands and swear a blood oath to return to Derry if Pennywise ever comes back. Phew!

IT is one of the better Stephen King adaptations I've seen in a long time, and actually contains a few genuine scares. It's not perfect, but it gets more right than wrong, and is light years better than the woeful TV miniseries, giving us a legitimately terrifying Pennywise. Amazingly it's rated R, which is a rarity in these days of watered down PG-13 "horror" films. I give it a good solid B.

1 comment:

  1. I was actually just randomly browsing pics of the newer "It" movies and came across this and it's fucking hilarious. I love Stephen King but the way you called him out on the eleven year old gang bang was fucking gold. Surprised no one ever commented on this.


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