I saw IT (Warner Bros., 9.8) last night, and I’m sorry but it’s shit. Did I just say that? Would it sound less damning if I called it an IT sandwich?
What I mean is that the movie I saw at Loews Lincoln Square felt like shit to me — professionally polished but with a sensibility that felt coarse and calculating to a fare-thee-well. It’s basically a low-rent scare-a-thon for the none-too-brights… tediously familiar (small Maine town, Stephen King porridge, pre-teen pallies doing the Stand By Me thing) and strictly aimed at those who need a “holy shit!” or “oh, Jesus, that was gross!” moment every five or six minutes.
Sorry, dude, but I have aesthetic standards. IT radiates pro-level assurance from a character, dialogue and general compositional standpoint, but the spooky/scary moments (most of which involve Bill Skarsgård‘s demonic clown, i.e., “Pennywise”) are used too often, and are too in-your-face.
As scary flicks go I prefer subtle chills and tingles (the kind that producer Val Lewton provided in the ’40s, and which 21st Century audiences encountered in Andy Muschietti‘s Mama, Robert Eggers‘ The Witch and Jennifer Kent‘s The Babadook) rather than torrents of blood gushing out of a bathroom sink.
I recognize that most American moviegoers love the blood-torrents approach, and that mine is a minority view. Nonetheless there’s no question that (a) I have better taste in scary cinema, and (b) that most American horror fans are popcorn-munching boobs.
IT is expected to make at least $60 million this weekend and possibly earn three times that overall. This tells you a lot about the taste levels of your average American moviegoer.
I was cautiously optimistic before last night’s showing because of Muschietti’s direction. I was expecting or at least hoping that he might duplicate some of those subtle, fleeting, spine-chill moments that he and producer Guillermo del Toro brought to Mama. No such luck.
Muschietti’s thinking seems to have been “if I play it too adult and classy, the fans of Walmart-level horror films will tune out. I have to keep goosing them, over and over…one shock moment every few minutes. If the dumbshits don’t tell their friends that it’s their kind of horror film, IT will go belly-up and I may have a bit of difficulty scoring my next highly-paid gig.”
I’m presuming that Muschietti was leaned on by three IT producers with flagrantly non–Val Lewtonish instincts — Roy Lee (The Grudge, The Ring), Don Lin (Gangster Squad, Lego Movie, Lego Batman Movie) and Seth Grahame-Smith (author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter). In my mind these guys are demonic — the devil incarnate.