When you're a kid, you think that you'll always be... protected

When you’re a kid, you think that you’ll always be… protected

 

 

Over the years, many stories have come and gone with the sole intention of denying audiences a calm and peaceful sleep. Monsters real and unreal have terrorized the minds, bodies, and souls of the innocent. All the while, willing patrons have plunked down hard-earned money to witness the panic and slaughter. It’s as if we want to forget our own fears for a moment, and witness something truly freakish – something far worse than what we face in life.

Now, in 2017, we have a new spectacle adapted from a story by a modern master of terror, panic, and slaughter. We can sit here all we want and discuss its success as an adaptation and a pseudo-remake, but in the end none of that matters. In the end, the willing patrons and their hard-earned only want to know the answer to one question. So let us consider that singular question:

Is IT scary?

IT begins in October, 1988 with the Denbrough brothers. One rainy day, young Georgie wants to go out and play, but his older brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) is too sick. Bill makes Georgie a paper boat and tells him to go have fun alone. When the boat falls into a sewer, Georgie comes face to face with “Pennywise” (Bill Skarsgård), a clown who first offers him his boat back…and then pulls him screaming into the sewer.

The following summer, thoughts of Georgie’s disappearance have burrowed deep into Bill’s thoughts. He is consumed with desires to find his brother – dead or alive. He even manages to talk some of his friends into helping him search the river basins and the town’s sewers. They may not be an imposing group, but flanked by Eddie, Richie, and Stan (hypochondriacs, loudmouths, and weaklings – oh my!), he has the support he needs.

The group is constantly harassed by the town bully, Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton), but then who isn’t? Bowers also seems to have it out for the husky “new kid” Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), but he gets a small reprieve from Beverly (Sophia Lillis)…who’s no stranger to being bullied herself.

In yet another corner of town, Mike (Chosen Jacobs) – an african american boy who is homeschooled, but in grains himself into this “losers club” by helping them beat back Bowers.

The children may have become fast friends, but they really can’t bask in it, since they all seem to be subject to frightening illusions.

Ben sees dead soldiers, Mike sees charred bodies, Bill sees his brother, Beverly sees blood. On and on; visions of the things that terrify them most.

What Ben eventually reveals, is that what they are experiencing ties back to something strange about Derry; how people disappear here far more than any other town in America – and especially so for children.

Determined to face their fears, and get answers to the mysteries that plague their lives, “the losers club” learns everything they can about the source of the terror…the evil that lurks under Derry…and prepare to face their fears once and for all.

 

IT2

 

IT wants us to think long and hard about the nature of fear. It rests itself on the fears children face, and forces us to consider those fears from an adult point of view. It’s a perspective that comes with true vulnerability, and it’s what makes the story work so well.

Consider, for a moment, the life of an 80’s child.

Forgetting completely about an evil presence that can manifest itself as anything, watching the everyday lives of these children is dotted with moments that strike fear into many adults – especially if they have children. The group spends their days peddling around on their bikes to all points within striking distance. They go into forests, into swear drains, along riverbeds – basically wherever their whim takes them.

No adults no where they are, what they’re doing. Sometimes their own friends don’t know where they are. On the surface, this is wildly dangerous, and any adult that thinks bout it for five minutes will realize the possible outcomes.

And yet, as a kid, it’s just the life of being a kid. You peddle, you play, you come home when the street lights come on. You face the inherent danger because…well…you don’t realize just how dangerous it is.

While you’re at it, jump off a quarry cliff into the reservoir below. Y’know, for kicks. Adults would need to psyche themselves up for days to overcome the risk involved jumping off such a high point, but for a kid? Hold my Cherry Coke.

However, interlaced with all of that are fears that leave their impressions – terrors like what Beverly has to endure at the hands of her abusive father. It’s not bad enough that she has to go through the confusion of her changing body (which comes with its own cluster of anxieties), or the bullying of the girls in her class. No, Beverly has to be put in the traumatizing position of being sexually abused by a family member.

This is a scenario that can be debilitating. It can, and often does, change everything about a person’s personality. It’s the scariest of the scary, an act so vile that even amongst those we lock away, it’s considered unforgivable. How in the world is one supposed to face such fear? As an adult, it’s inconceivable…but perhaps, for a child, it can be worked past. Perhaps children have more spine and more bravery than the most courageous adult, and that’s why they can face terrifying scenarios like this, and those detailed above.

This is what IT does best. It makes us, as adults, realize what we came face-to-face with as children. It underlines that we were far braver than we give ourselves credit before, and that through the naiveté of youth or pure dumb luck, we beat back that which would do us harm.

In a way, IT wants us to both gather our children closer and give them space to fight their own fight.

Derry and the demon that lurks underneath it is a puffed-up example, but it’s a fitting stand in for frightening parts of everyday life that can eat us alive if we let them. Bullying, abuse, isolation, trauma, neglect, overprotection…these and so many other things have the ability to take a soul with true potential and snuff them out before their tinder truly catches.

Is IT scary? Hard to say. It all depends on what scares you. Are you terrorized by things jumping out of the dark and threatening to kill you? Then no, not really…but then, so seldom does that happen in life. Are you chilled by thoughts of just how much danger you once faced, and what the children of the world still face despite our overprotective nature? Then yes, IT is terrifying…

…but then, so is life.

 

Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ out of ★ ★ ★ ★
What did you think? Please leave comments with your thoughts and reactions on IT.