*Spoiler Alert* Director Andy Muschietti’s recently cinematized horror flick It, (based on Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel), depicts a group of kids endeavoring to destroy a shapeshifting demon clown. The problem? The film chokes on its own theme.
Before I go further in this movie review, I think it is important to mention that I left the theater shortly before the movie had ended. When I left early, I was not trying to be terribly puritanical or straight-laced when it came to viewing gratuity or horror. On the contrary, my desire to avoid moral pretension in the whole situation made me reluctant to leave. I left because the film was had no moral to the story.
No matter the genre, the themes and morals portrayed in a film are the critical components of the work of art; however, as I will soon explain, the film’s attempt at a theme was pitiful. By itself, this, shall we say, “themelessness,” leaves most movies simply in a “waste of time” category, but this movie coupled themelessness with pointlessly grotesque and grisly images and subjects. Horror movies by their very nature demand this vicious display of evil — but my complaint is not with that. It is with a pointless display of evil; evil for evil’s sake. The film’s combination of pointlessness and evil is where I find fault.
The film begins with a scary scene followed by another scary scene — and about ten scary scenes later, It concludes with another scary scene. No shock there. The kids have, as most people do, their own demons to face — but the kids in It additionally face an actual apparition of one: the clown.
The first half of the movie slowly saunters along and plays with relatively pointless subplots as each kid in the group of friends is visited by the clown individually. This allows for It, the clown, to exercise his creative talents by tailoring his visits (via shapeshifting) to each specific child, and consequently, exploiting their greatest fears. Once each kid is thoroughly frightened, (about two-thirds of the way through the film), they realize that they are not alone: they have all been visited and scared to death by the same demon clown, or one of his shapes. It is then that the movie’s weak themes start cobbling together.
The kids bravely decide to attack the clown directly as a group. However, this poses many problems for our protagonists because they’re all scared out of their pants. They come up with various solutions to this problem of fear, repeat them tirelessly, and voila! The movie has picked its central theme: “There is nothing to be scared of.”
Let me first point out that unless you believe in Christ, this theme is simply not true. More importantly, the movie has just choked on its own theme. It is a horror movie, and so by design it is supposed to strike fear into the hearts of the viewers. This movie is intended to disturb us, yet It tells viewers not to be scared? That is hypocritical and ironic.
Telling the viewer they should not be scared while relentlessly trying to scare them can be likened to telling someone to stand up while you are purposely holding them down. The director is either scaring just to scare or teaching a moral. He cannot have it both ways. Because the film’s moral flops, viewers are left with one conclusion: Andy Muschietti is scaring just to scare. He is showing evil for evil’s sake.
Perhaps I was naive to attend a horror movie expecting some edifying themes. Instead I should have been prepared for pointless gratuity. To be fair, my only experience with horror films prior to It was with Get Out, directed by Jordan Peele — but that movie portrays important themes regarding race relations in America. Watching a movie just for the thrill of it is unwise. It is desensitizing, and is really perverse in a way. Why seek out evil for fun? What will I gain from a purposeless showing of incest, rape, death, blood, racism, bullying, amputation, and murder? (Each of these was depicted in It.) If we must show evil, we should use that sick showing to warn or wisen. It should not be pointless.