Pop Culture Column #673

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Pop Culture Column #673

So now that ‘It’ has smashed box office records and dragged in a massive amount of money after its first week, it seems fairly safe to say… actually, what is safe to say about It? Most of the reviews (including mine) have hovered around the “good, not great” level, which suggests
a film that’s most likely over-performed (think Jurassic World, another film that did vastly better than expected at the box office) for reasons that aren’t exactly hard to nail down.

For one thing, it’s not like there’s been a whole lot of choice at the box office of late: when the biggest film around is The Hitman’s Bodyguard, you know people are just waiting for a halfway decent film to throw their cash at. Canny advertising definitely played a part too: the trailers for It actually looked scary, which isn’t something you can say about every horror
movie out there, and when it comes to something creepy to stick in your trailer to get people talking you really can’t go past “evil clown”.

But what really made It the film for right now is the way it managed to tap into two of the bigger trends in entertainment during a time when it feels like things are going to hell: horror and nostalgia. Horror has always been somewhere at the movies this century, whether it’s the Saw series or the Paranormal Activity series, or even the various spin-offs from The Conjuring, and in recent years there’s been a series of indie horror films working beyond the more typical mainstream jump scares – It Follows, Don’t Breathe, and this year’s previous massive horror hit, Get Out.

Meanwhile, nostalgia – especially ’80s nostalgia – is coming back in style, and what’s more ’80s than Stephen King? Well, lots of things, especially as Big as Steve is, still writing books and getting movies made today, but with It the nostalgia is coming from multiple directions: the novel was a huge hit upon release in 1986, and the early ’90s TV mini-series scared a fair few kids too. Then they decided to update this film version to an ’80s setting (the book is split over two time periods, 27 years apart: by moving the kids half forward to the ’80s, they can do the adult sequel in the present day), adding yet another layer of nostalgia to it all.

Basically, it was a perfect storm of current movie trends, backed up with great promotion (the guy cutting my hair last week said he wouldn’t be seeing it because it looked too scary, which is probably not the result they were aiming for) and released it after weeks of nothing decent at the movies, so the pent-up demand for anything was at its peak. All of which suggests that the sequel, which the studio gave the go-ahead to roughly ten seconds after they saw the box office numbers, may not do anywhere near as well when it arrives in a couple of years time. But who knows what people will want to watch at the movies by then? A movie set in the present day where a bunch of 40 year olds are wandering around a sewer might just be a pretty good reflection of the way we’re all feeling.

By Anthony Morris