IT: The clown that has your heart overruling your head

Warning, this blog post is utterly spoilerrific. 

Everyone is talking about IT. Reviews have been steamrolling in, praising the film for a successful adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel. What I enjoyed in particular was the fact that it was a horror film with a story. Essentially, it was a coming of age adventure tale that, by chance, featured a child-eating demonic clown.

This is a notable deviation from the old horror film format. We’re used to seeing a scary ghost/monster terrifying a group of unfortunate souls, many of whom are devoured throughout the course of the film. Consequently, it makes it hard for us to get attached to them, seeing as we know that they have, essentially, been created to be killed. I’m not saying that every horror film is like this, I’ve seen many examples with some very well established characters and stories (Netflix’s Hush springs to mind). Having said that, this is a rarity, so it’s interesting to watch the growth in this genre in terms of character and story development.

This is where my problem lies with IT. Our leads are not the usual suspects. They are a group of children, each with an individual and bright personality. With this in mind, my ability to enjoy the film was hampered by the first scene; the infamous moment where little Georgie meets a horrific and bloody end.

My internal conflict lies here, and so, it has become a battle between my heart and my head. Here they are, broken down into two very obvious subheadings.

My Head

In terms of screenwriting, this is why they killed (and showed the death of) little Georgie:

  1. The writers needed to establish rules

We needed to see that the children had nowhere to hide. This was a demon that could appear in a drain, during the day, and even in the presence of an adult, who was standing just feet away.

2. The fear was necessary

In order to believe that children are really in danger in a horror film, we need to see it happen. Pennywise falls victim to the ‘more you see, the less terrifying it becomes’ concept, so the only way to heighten the tension, was to fear losing the children. What makes it worse is the fact you can’t help but grow fond of the Losers Club; each member is loveable in their own way. So, by seeing the death of little Georgie (who might I add, was as cute as a button), we completely understand the horrific consequences of falling into the clutches of Pennywise, and we don’t want our young heroes to suffer the same end.

3. We needed to hate Pennywise

Seems strange I know, but it’s a valid point. If we didn’t see what he did, then we couldn’t hate/fear him as much as we do throughout the film. It’s very quickly established that he summons a child’s worst fear, but the moment you see Pennywise himself, you know the end is nigh. So when the children see him, we get horrible flashbacks to poor little Georgie, and immediately hate seeing that evil clown and his red balloons.

4. We needed to understand Bill’s motivations

Bill’s a good kid. Filled with guilt and missing his brother, yes, but an all round good egg.  He does lead his friends into danger on countless occasions, and had we not seen little Georgie die in the way he did, we would have mistaken his anger for utter stupidity. Instead, we completely understand his motivations, and we root for him right to the end.

My heart 

As a writer, I understand why the writers and director decided to show Georgie die. Nevertheless, it deeply upset me to watch it happen. As a result, it prevented me from fully enjoying the ride, because I was too traumatised by the opening scene. I spent quite a lot of the time feeling anxious, rather than spooked or thrilled, because I really didn’t want to watch another child get killed. The writers did what was necessary, and their choices showed a both skill and experience in screenwriting, but due to my own personal reaction to it, I was incapable of really enjoying the film. Perhaps if I watched it again, I might be more prepared. To be honest, all I wanted to do was chase after that clown armed with a giant rubber shoe and hurling some cream pies. I doubt that feeling will change, even on a second watch.

Pennywise, it’s your turn to be afraid!

Culture Night and Disappear Here

Hi all,

Just a little update on Lady Death! I was delighted to hear that there will be two more screenings coming up this month, so catch them if you can:

Culture Night, Belfast (22 September 2017)

On one of the biggest cultural highlights of the year, Lady Death will be screened at the fantastic BeanBag cinema, at 5:30pm. Come along and join us, it’s going to be a blast!

Disappear Here Film Festival, Ballyliffin (22-24 September 2017)

Lady Death will also be screened at the first ever Disappear Here Film Festival in Ballyliffin, Donegal. Date and time to be confirmed, so keep an eye out on their Facebook page for more updates. It’s a beautiful spot for some movie-watching, so if you’re looking for a fun (and scenic) way to spend your weekend, this is the place to be.

A piece I wrote a lifetime ago. Hope you enjoy!

Celtic Cross

Lots of interconnected

Rings of folly light that glimmers

Just beyond Apollo

Where the Tiny Titians descend

Like Fionnula, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn,

Upon a cross of convoluted lines and swirls.

I was told it was made by faeries

Who danced in celebration upon

Buttercups and daises

At the notion of my presence,

And so they gathered their trinkets from the stars.

With a hammer and a petal they shaped its ridge

Its vertical height and horizontal partner that

Collide in battle

Ares rages like a foul unruly dead.

I was told it was a guardian

The symbol to keep me safe

And so it is a lifeline to depend.

Apollo in its ever glowing tide

And roars its lightened colour to the sand

Three centuries shall pass, around her Aiobh shall cast her light again.

Film Devour

Lady Death is on the go again! This time she’s heading to Film Devour. Many, many thanks to the lovely team at Film Devour for screening our film. I personally can’t wait to see it back in Belfast – back to where it all began.

Deadly details below. Come along (if you dare)…

Film Devour 23

Black Box, Belfast
Wedensday 5th July 2017
Doors 7:00pm
£5 door tax

Skulduggery is back, and everything has changed…

This blog post has been left deliberately vague to avoid spoilers. Saying that, if you haven’t read books 1-9, it might be a bit close to the bone*.

I  would be a big fibber if I said I hadn’t been counting down the days until Skulduggery reached the bookshelves. Anybody who knows me has, I’d say, a fair idea of my love for the skeleton detective and his partner-in-magic, Valkyrie Cain. As a fan, I can get swept away in the world and the characters that inhabit it. As a writer, I can only aspire to one day do the same in my writing.

(Now, before I begin, I am fully aware that this is a children’s book. I am also fully aware that I’m all grown up. In my defence, the back of the book does say “11+”, so add a couple of pluses and I’m there… )

The tenth instalment was aptly called Resurrection. Of course, the title is a major plot-point of the book, and it’s also quite a clever choice given Derek Landy’s temporary hiatus from writing anything to do with the Skulduggery universe. Now, I do think book nine ended the series perfectly. Ending the first series (first being an important word here) with the word “magic” beautifully mirrored book one, when young Valkyrie first began her adventures. Throughout this series, she drastically changed as a person though, given her ever growing strength and also, the devastating consequences that came with it.

For this instalment, Derek Landy made it clear that this was an entirely new series, so I was curious to see if it would feel like a separate entity from its predecessors. He most certainly achieved this; this new book suddenly feels more aware, more sophisticated, and most certainly, like our young hero Valkyrie, more grown up.

Overall, it has a much darker atmosphere. Valkyrie is not the girl she once was, Skulduggery is not the same skeleton, and their relationship has changed as a result. The characters, while feeling familiar, are not the same, and you’re left feeling as if something’s just not quite right. This may sound like a negative point, but it’s actually a testament to Landy’s writing skills. Remember, this series is meant to be different. Landy challenged himself to reinvent an already established world, and he was successful.

This leads me to my previous blog post, “Go Read a Children’s Book!”, where I discussed what is considered appropriate for children’s literature. This is a book that does exactly what I think should be done for children; not hold back. There can, at times, be a misconceived notion that certain topics are a bit of a taboo in children’s literature. In general, there is an impression that the world is a bit too scary, or too confusing for children to really digest.

That’s not the case though; children are plucky, intelligent souls, and this is something Landy recognised. In this new book, he had “grown up” themes of murder (most foul) and politics (most fouler), as well as matters of mental health, sexual diversity,gender fluidity and religion. With this in mind, what I really enjoyed about this particular book, was that Landy just wrote about these concepts and that was that. There was no needless explanations, no spoon feeding of ideas – from the first page he thrust his readers into a new, yet familiar world of magic and adventure, led by wonderfully colourful characters. He did this knowing that his young fans would would understand and accept them.

“The world is bigger than you know, and scarier than you might imagine. The only currency worth anything is being true to yourself, and the only goal worth seeking is finding out who you truly are.”  ― Derek Landy, Skulduggery Pleasant

I particularly appreciated this in terms of respecting people’s individuality and diversity.  Through his books, and Resurrection in particular, Derek Landy advocates a kinder world, through an amazing, multifaceted universe that children adore. Writing can be a very influential tool, and by encouraging a non-judgemental outlook on life, means that our children, and our future, will be the better for it.

*Bone – intentional, obviously.

Write to Refuge

I was very lucky to be asked to write a short story for Oxfam’s Write to Refuge last year. I have decided to post it up on my blog to advertise the upcoming event in Carnegie Library,  15 June at 7pm. There will be a reception with live readings as well as a photography exhibition that inspired each creative response.

I am very proud of this short story. Oxfam’s Write to Refuge is such an amazing cause that highlights the refugee crisis in a very creative and inspiring way. Had I not have taken part I would not be as aware and informed of the crisis as I am now. If you can make it down to this event I would highly recommend it. Read the story by clicking here!

Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival

I was absolutely delighted to find out that Lady Death had made the official selection for the first  annual Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival in the beautiful town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. So, if you happen to be in that picturesque part of the world, then come along! It’ll be screened on Friday, June 9th at 2pm at the beautiful Mauch Chunk Opera House. Also, for more info on the festival, check out there website.

(I’m aware I used the word “beautiful” a lot in this blog post… but seriously, google the festival and the town, then you’ll understand. You’ll understand…)

Writing Showcase

My Newry writing group have a showcase coming up in June. I think it’s important that, with the end of every big writing year, everyone gets the opportunity to show off their work. It gives us, as a group, the opportunity to come together to celebrate their achievements, as well as offer a taster of what’s to come.

If you find yourself in the Newry area, then come to Bellini’s on Saturday 3 June. There is this vast misconception that writing is a very isolated career (or hobby, whatever category you happen to fall into), but that belief is so far from the truth. We’re a very social bunch. Any excuse for a party, really.

Lady Death Screenings

Lady Death was screened at the Belfast Film Festival. Thanks so much to all who came along! We had a blast. For me, it was great to see it on the big screen for the first time. Months of late nights, constant emails (the occasional curveball) and endless cups of tea have paid off.

NEXT SCREENING: Lady Death will be next screened at Glór, Co. Clare on the 25th of April. If you happen to be hanging around the West of Ireland, please go and check it out. I, Daniel Blake is on directly after, so it’s definitely value for money! To book ticks visit the Glór website. 

Go read a children’s book!

A monster calls blog postI recently went to see A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Being one of my favourite novels, I was incredibly excited to see this adaptation on screen. I wasn’t disappointed; this film was brilliantly written, directed and produced, with some fabulous performances that brought the characters to life. I was eager to read the reviews after I had seen it (I’m aware it’s been released for some time, but I do lock myself in a work-bubble), and I was surprised to see that some reviewers were unsure of who the film was aimed at, with some even saying it wasn’t a film for children. I can understand parents’ concern; the subject matter of a child coming to terms with his mother’s terminal illness is most certainly not one to be taken lightly. Also, the Monster is a scary beast, who at times, approaches Conor in a quasi-King Kong, crazy-eyed, and generally terrifying way.

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