It’s finally arriving. By which I literally mean It, the long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King‘s novel. Something about the release has captured the public’s attention, going beyond the author’s name and petrifying pedigree. Advance word and box office forecasts are so good they’re bad. Why is this…?
For starters the striking image of Pennywise the clown (played by Bill Skarsgård) is both surreal and sinister. Placing the colourful character in the setting of a dank sewer creates an unnerving contrast but we also see the child-slaughtering entertainer coming out of home movies and popping up on kids’ TV.
This eye-catching approach highlights something important about the horror genre: the way it uses both filmmakers’ and audiences’ wildest and deepest imaginings to great effect. A million films exist where blood and guts spray the camera, putting it all onscreen and leaving the watcher’s mind untaxed. I would argue the productions which get in your head are the best kind of horror movie.
Take The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for example. Many believe it to be one of the most savage chronicles of human destruction ever made, yet the amount of actual violence you see is fairly minimal. The late director Tobe Hooper relied mainly on sound effects and atmosphere to place you in the story’s horrendous scenario.
The recent Under The Shadow also demonstrated the most frightening things can be those you don’t see. Monsters certainly exist but they are used sparingly. Director Babak Anvari‘s emphasis throughout is on encroaching dread and paranoia, set against the powerful backdrop of brutal real world conflict.
Repulsion takes the simmering tension of a woman (Catherine Deneuve) in psychological freefall and combines it with some alarmingly dark and visceral imagery. Left alone in her personal space, the central character swiftly disintegrates. Soon the bodies of visitors are piling up and hands are coming out of the walls. Overseeing this overt depiction of a troubled mind was Roman Polanski. It’s a film where florid imagination melds with stark reality.
Horror took an imaginative flight of fright-filled fancy with Wes Craven‘s A Nightmare On Elm Street. The writer/director was onto a winner with the introduction of Freddy Krueger, a malevolent spirit capable of invading your dreams as you slept. This paved the way for some nerve-jangling situations, notably a young Johnny Depp being pulled down through his mattress in a fountain of blood.
Though a raft of straight-to-the-supermarket titles indicate the horror genre is oversaturated and stale, hopefully Stephen King‘s It can give the marketplace a much-needed kick in the ghoulies, making it float again!
It is out on Friday. Watch a trailer below: