Clowns are scary. Chances are if you’re in a room full of people and everybody names one thing they’re afraid of, clowns are going to get mentioned. Stephen King, the master of fear, monopolized on this in his well-known book “It,” which now boasts two movie adaptations. Premiering this past Friday, the newest “It” movie succeeded in blending age-old plot lines together with classically scary scenes to create an otherworldly two hours in which the audience is just as invested in the fate of the demonic clown as the characters on screen.
One of the greatest things about “It” was the nostalgia provided by both setting and subplot. Beautiful scenes of rocks, rivers and trees met with brick buildings, suburban houses and floral-patterned dresses approached the ‘80s with a modern airbrush. Filling this setting with a gang of losers who ride their bikes all over town (made all the more ironic that Finn Wolfhard, best known for playing Mike in “Stranger Things,” is a member), a squad of bullies with ‘80s hair-dos, a boy-meets-girl crush and a game of “whose parents suck the most” harkens back to the good old days of films like “Stand By Me,” another King-inspired creation.
If this was all that made the movie, audiences might leave the theater with a sad but sweet sense of “Why don’t kids ride their bikes anymore?” but the meat of the plot answers that question pretty clearly. Maybe parents would still let their kids roam around town with nothing more than a bike and a fanny pack if it wasn’t for all the murderous clowns rumored to be hiding in the sewers and all the other horrors that can be imagined. It’s all about the fear factor.
The scariest scenes in the movie are set one after another in such a way that, just as one character escapes a horror, another character is thrown into the face of a different one. The audience may get a brief respite in between scary sequences, but otherwise, it’s non-stop. The audience gets a pretty good sense early on of where the line is drawn: who is in real danger and who is going to survive their ordeal. Despite feeling pretty confident about who’s screwed and who may get to reach the endgame (where the line can be erased and redrawn), the monsters and the gore and the suspense still keep the audience reaching out for a friend or a bag of popcorn to squeeze. Plus, the beautiful cast of unique and obnoxious, yet lovable characters, intensifies any fear because the audience truly cares about their fate.
Ultimately, the true horror of the movie doesn’t come from the clown or the creepy disfigured painted woman. Rather, it comes from the people. The people who neglect their families. The people who threaten one another again and again. The people who do disgusting, depraved things and the people who kill without blinking. We escape monsters when we walk out of the theater. We don’t ever escape other people. Whether you fear people you know or people on the other side of the Atlantic, the movie’s most successful scare reminds us all that there is something for us to fear and that something is real.
Alex Houdeshell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.