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