Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Stephen King's IT (1990)

Get a cup of coffee and get comfortable, because this is going to be a long one—truly an unnecessarily long post for an unnecessarily long film.

I recently told my friend Allen that I had just watched Stephen King’s IT (1990) and his immediate response was, “And it wasn’t as good as you wanted it to be, right?” Indignant, I replied, “NO, IT IS GREAT AND YOU SIR ARE INCORRECT FOR SAYING OTHERWISE.” Truthfully, he was right—it is not as good as I wanted it to be, but I always come back to it because it holds a special place in my little black heart.

My mom was really into Hitchcock when I was growing up, so I was exposed to horror from a young age. I have a very distinct memory of watching the episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour that told the tale of "The Monkey’s Paw" while eating spaghetti and being so afraid that I started to imagine that the spaghetti was intestines and I THREW UP. I think I was probably about ten years old when I came across the novelization of IT in the local library. My parents were largely hands-off at this point and were definitely not aware that I was in my room, filling my tender child brain with scenes of graphic violence and also, some weird sexy scenes. A few years later, I found a VHS copy of the movie at one of those Blockbuster Video store sales and took it home with me.

It scared the living shit out of me.

IT was also the catalyst that really threw me wholeheartedly into horror. I went back to the Blockbuster sale a few days later and bought VHS copies of Halloween, Friday the 13th and Night of the Living Dead. Impeccable taste, right? Also, if I was terrified at IT, imagine me in a basement watching Night of the Living Dead and being so afraid to go upstairs that I had to hold my cat Gizmo in front of me so that any zombies would get him instead of me (sorry buddy).

IT was the first horror movie I had ‘discovered’ on my own and it felt really important and special to me. As an adult, it took me two nights to watch it because WHY is it 192 minutes long? I need to sleep, you know? Approximately 30% of the movie is flashbacks, and you know it’s a flashback because it is just a replay of a scene you watched an hour ago. Did they think we wouldn’t remember? Also, whose idea was it to do THREE musical montages set to the Curtis Mayfield song “It’s Alright”? Three of these, in three hours? C’mon fuckin guys.

There are a lot of other things wrong with this film. Beverly as an adult is such an incredibly terrible character that I honestly wish she had been murdered by the clown (although I think I just remembered that in the book, as a child, she has sex with all the other members of the Losers’ Club while they are down in the sewers. Come on, Bevvie.) Henry Bowers is definitely not threatening enough. In fact, the entire second half of the movie (which was originally aired on network TV as a two-part miniseries) really kind of sucks.

But there are also a lot of things right with IT: Clowns are indisputably scary.Tim Curry is a god among men; I will hear no arguments to the contrary. The first half of the movie is still pretty damn frightening.  The balloon of blood coming out of Bev’s bathroom sink makes for a super good scene (although the line “we’re all the dead kids!” coming from inside the drain is probably the worst-written and most laughable in the entire movie.)

Overall, the acting outside of adult Bev and adult Eddie is actually pretty good. The child actors are particularly good: Seth Green is adorable, and let us please not forget our fallen brother, Jonathan Brandis.

True and mostly unrelated story: my first job out of college was a temp gig doing data entry. When I arrived on the first day, I found that I’d be working with another temp who was about my age, a really fashionable girl named Liz who convinced  me to switch from Camel Lights to Parliament Lights and also to brush my hair before I left the house. The temp that had worked on the project before us had apparently been really inept, and it had taken her weeks to do what we could do in a few hours. However, we worried incessantly about the job ending because neither of us had anything else lined up, so we used the low expectations of our employer to our advantage and spent literally days on the internet doing nothing. In our infinite clicking into the internet in a pre-social media world, we got really into reading Jonathan Brandis suicide memorial pages together and we are still great friends to this day. I credit JB with this victory. Thank you, sweet prince.

I guess now that I’ve made Jonathan Brandis into a cartoon angel, there’s really nothing more for me to say. THEY ALL FLOAT DOWN HERE.