I grew up as a girl with a strong affinity for creepy stories and scary movies, particularly true life horror stories. I found the horror genre exhilarating and stimulating. I was the type of kid who was always looking for thrills from a good scare and did everything from watching Nightmare on Elm Street to reading those true life spooky narratives to get them. Luckily enough, I had parents who were busy doing their own thing and weren’t annoyingly concerned with my lifestyle choices. My adolescence was somewhat traumatic. I developed night terrors in my mid teens but still didn’t care and kept up the pattern of scaring myself for the rush. When I was twenty-one, I gave it up altogether and began to wonder if there was something very wrong with this form of stimulation. I began seeing it very differently and came to believe I was using the negativity and darkness in books and movies to mask repressed and unresolved issues within myself. The last full horror movie I watched in its entirety was ‘The Strangers’. However, the hype surrounding the upcoming release of Stephen King’s ‘It’ drew me like flies to honey, and I decided it would be my grand return to the horrifically fun horror genre.
The look of this motion picture is exquisite and aesthetically incomparable to the original. Shot as a television mini-series in 1992, it’s almost unfair to try and compare the two. The budget was far less, the special effects – while shocking in their day – are almost laughable, and the cinematics are, well, for television. Tim Curry’s Pennywise, however, is still as chilling today as it was then.
Stephen King repetitively taps into the themes dealing with childhood trauma and the impact it carries as an adult. Watching the movie, I took Pennywise as the physical manifestation of childhood trauma. I love how this was depicted through his appearance. … savage and grotesque, yet wrapped in whimsical terror. In the book, Pennywise feeds off children’s’ energy because he believes that their fears are easier to manifest in physical form than those of adults. I admire King’s skill, intertwining night terrors and the idea of shape shifters appearing in your sleep, building a fear that feeds off itself – both in the reader and viewer. Pennywise presented himself differently to each child. Since I too was a child who dealt with night terrors, this burden was not foreign to me. The film hitting theatres this we, though, seemed far more real to me. The juxtaposition of psychological trauma, possession, and being haunted by a demonic entity are skillfully layered to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Henry Bowers, the bully, might not have been in the core group. Yet the movie delves into his abusive childhood, which makes him a prime candidate for possession and hearing voices. I find it fascinating that many serial killers claim to hear voices. It’s something I explored in my essay “Djbrils Djinns”, where I discuss my cousin being haunted by spirits. It is my belief that trauma and spirits work in tandem and you cant kill one without the other. Pennywise is a very real force, born from trauma and feeds off of fear. I believe the ultimate lesson, and what I loved most about the movie, is the message that no matter how horrible one’s trauma and fear might be, the belief it can, and will, be conquered is stronger than the deepest fear. This film truly does justice to King’s dark depiction of childhood, childhood fragility, trauma, and how this group’s unity and love for one another made them stronger and conquered their fear. I believe that is what gives this movie great meaning and depth.
In reality, as a child I used horror movies and books as an escape while tapping into the side of me that is rather dark and otherworldly. Looking back, I think it was, and still is, healthy. Watching this movie helped me to better understand my past and myself. How weird. I feel like the horror genre has been sorely lacking in my life and the fun of fear and being scared is part of how I understand the things I experience. This one is a horror fan’s must see and am looking forward to Part 2!