Humor columnist Dave Barry once wrote a piece in which he described going to see a scary movie with Stephen King (with whom he played in a band called the Rock Bottom Remainders) and their spouses. Barry was anxious because, according to him, he tends to clutch the person sitting next to him during particularly frightening parts, but as it turned out, he didn’t have to worry about embarrassment because King was doing the same to his wife Tabitha.
Even horror fiction writers, it seems, are human. I myself did not clutch my neighbor as I watched the remake of “It,” (novel: Stephen King; movie: Andy Muschietti), but that might have been because I went alone, plus it’s hard to grab anyone when you’re in a Barcalounger-like extended seat. But it was still scary. From now on, I solemnly vow to avoid all bathroom sinks, sewers, untethered balloons and ramshackle abandoned houses at the edge of town. That should do it.
“It” begins when Jaeden Liebeher informs his adorable little brother (Jackson Robert Scott) that he can’t join him in sailing a paper boat in the pouring rain because he’s “dying.” I half-expected Jackson to reply that Jason wasn’t dying – he just couldn’t think of anything good to do, but it’s not that kind of movie. Anyway, soon Jackson meets a clown (Bill Skarsgard) and disappears without a trace. Fast forward to the end of the school year, when Jaeden, the only one who believes his brother is still alive, gathers his friends together to try and solve the mystery. The group eventually grows to the size of seven, including Sophia Lillis (the only girl, bad reputation, creepy dad); Chosen Jacobs (black, orphaned in fire); Wyatt Oleff (neurotic, Jewish); Jack Dylan Grazier (hypochondriac, creepy mom); Finn Wolfhard (mouth permanently in overdrive); and Jeremy Ray Taylor (portly new kid, unrequited crush on Sophia). Each kid has their own angst to deal with, and if that’s not enough, there’s bully Nicholas Hamilton, whose dad is the town cop and who also falls under Bill’s spell.
Derry, Maine where they live, is a town where kids go missing with some regularly, but the adults are oddly blasé and do little but post “Lost” notices. (Derry is also a town whose residents must have the world’s lowest collective electricity bill since no one ever turns on their lights.) But when Jeremy confides in the group that there seems to be a pattern to the years when the town children disappear, they realize that the creepy experiences they have solo have a shared supernatural cause. This leads to lots of scary encounters in abandoned houses and sewers, featuring Bill popping out at the gang when they least expect it. When the seven “losers” realize that they’re stronger together – strong enough to defeat Bill, that’s when things turn around. “It” features special effects that weren’t possible when the original movie came out, but it’s the bond between the kids that elevates the film and makes it worth seeing. If you’re not clown-phobic, that is.