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Angelina’s ‘80s Archive: It (2017)

TW: Includes references to violence
I hope you had a fantastic Halloween! Though the holiday may be over, I wanted to squeeze in one last scary movie to close out the month before we get into the general fall season. (Will I finally check When Harry Met Sally off my list this November?? Stay tuned to find out). I’m slightly bending my own rules this week with a movie that takes place in 1989 and is based on a book written in 1986, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve taken that liberty! Here’s the Bitchin’ Bio on It. 

Release Date: September 8, 2017

Synopsis: Several months after the disappearance of Bill Denbrough’s (Jaeden Martell) little brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), Bill refuses to believe he is dead. When Bill and his friends, Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), and Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), team up with new kid Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), and Beverly (Sophia Lillis), this “Losers Club” begins to be stalked by Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) — a monstrous “clown” who can morph into their deepest fears. As they come to learn more about Derry’s unusually high number of child disappearances and the town’s sinister, repetitive history, the kids are faced with the choice between giving up and fighting back.

How I Watched It: HBO Max

Degrees of Kevin Bacon: I was having a little bit of trouble with this one, so I looked to an outside source. For once, I used the website “The Oracle of Bacon” to figure out how far separated Kevin Bacon is from this film. Oddly, every single actor I looked up from the movie has two degrees of separation from Bacon, so I am going to go with two. 

Come For: Wonderful performances by the young actors, including Finn Wolfhard, who has basically made a career out of nostalgic-horror-coming-of-age media — as specific (and just made up by me) as that sounds. My personal favorite has got to be the neurotic Eddie, as played by Jack Dylan Grazer.

Stay For: The parts of the movie that seem like summer adventure, which feel the most genuine to me. 

Had I Seen it? Yes. 

Do I Like It? More as a coming-of-age story than as horror. Yes, the opening scene is frightening, and it is still shocking that the filmmakers were willing to make such a bold choice as to show [spoiler if you haven’t seen it and have managed to stay off the internet the past four years!] a child’s arm being ripped off, screaming for his brother as he tries to crawl from the sewer he is dragged into, and his blood spreading vividly in a puddle on the street as it is raining, only for any evidence he was outside to almost immediately wash down the drain. 

The only other parts of the movie that scare me are Bev’s interactions with her abusive father and scenes with Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton), i.e. when he carves into Ben’s stomach. The actions of twisted, dangerous people who could exist in the real world are much more disturbing than the film’s total over-reliance on disappointing CGI jump scares. I would not want to see any more of the types of scenes that did scare me because that kind of fear definitely takes away from the fun of a scary movie experience. Still, the CGI scenes end, most often, with any of Pennywise’s forms violently shaking as he gets closer to the camera. It becomes incredibly boring. What I would’ve loved to see would have been well done practical effects, which probably could’ve made this movie one that I’d watch over and over again. 

There are more significant issues with the film than its FX direction. In this adaptation, Mike, who is It’s one Black main character, is basically stripped of the traits he exhibits in the book. In Stephen King’s novel, Mike studies the town at the library and educates the Losers about Pennywise and the 27-year cycle he takes. His knowledge is essential to the group. Here, though, Ben is the amateur Derry historian. I don’t understand why the filmmakers would completely change characterizations in this way, especially when they still make Mike the librarian in the movie’s second part. It is also incredibly irritating and problematic that Bev is turned into the stereotypical damsel in distress toward the film’s end, in a trance until one of the boys kisses her while she is unconscious. This trope should not still be happening today. 

Still, when all the kids are joking around with each other, their energy is electric. It sounds weird, but when they clean up a bloody bathroom together to The Cure’s “Six Different Ways,” I can’t help but smile. It is far from perfect, but it has its merits — and as much as I love Bill Hader as adult Richie with all my heart, this movie is definitely better than It: Chapter 2 (2019). I’ve watched it a few times, and I know that I’ll be in the mood to watch it again.

There’s something about a mix of comedy-tinged coming-of-age and horror that is the perfect combination for me. Thanks for reading and have a great week! 

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Angelina is a senior at BU, studying English in the College of Arts and Sciences, with a focus on Shakespeare. She is from Somerville, MA. In addition to writing for HCBU, Angelina is the Director of BU On Broadway Off Broadway and has been involved with theater through BU Shakespeare Society, Wandering Minds, and Stage Troupe. Outside of school, she enjoys dancing, music, baking, and movie marathons. Her pop culture heart lives in the 1980's.
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